Restaurant of the Week: Smashburger

smash1

Smashburger, 13855 City Center Drive (the Shoppes at Chino Hills), Chino Hills

Chino Hills gets interesting restaurants these days. In this case, the city got the Smashburger chain’s first Inland Empire location — yes, even before Victoria Gardens. I met a local friend there for lunch to try it out.

I’d heard of Smashburger, which is based in Colorado and operates in 32 states, but I hadn’t had a chance to eat at one. It’s one of the wave of better-burger restaurants. They use fresh, not frozen Angus, egg buns and fresh produce. You can get fries with rosemary, olive oil and garlic. And their shakes are made with Haagen-Dazs.

The one at the Shoppes is in a walkway across from Panera and a few yards from Dripp. It’s bigger inside than it looks. The menu has eight burgers, with create-your-own options (including six kinds of cheese), plus chicken sandwiches and salads. It’s unusual to find a Cobb salad at a place like this, but they have one. They also have a black bean vegetarian sandwich and veggie frites, which appear to be carrots and string beans served in a basket like fries.

I had the classic Smashburger ($5.39, below) with Smash fries (the ones with rosemary, olive oil and garlic, $2.29) and a Butterfinger shake ($4.59).

It was a very good burger, very close to the two I’ve had on the East Coast at Shake Shack; it was heartening, in a weird way, to know I can find their local equivalent. The fries didn’t do much for me and I left half of them. Good shake. (Trivia note: I’m a sucker for Butterfingers in ice cream, such as at Foster’s Freeze.) Did I want it as a malt? Sure. How about with whipped cream? What the heck. No extra charge for either. And you get the old-school metal cup with a little extra shake left.

My friend had the buffalo and blue cheese burger with sweet potato fries (next photo). He liked both and was especially taken by the fries. At least someone at our table finished his fries.

You order at the counter and they bring the food to your table. They also check on you and take your trays, at least when it’s only moderately busy, like when we were there. I liked it.

smash3

smash4

smash5

smash6

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Reading Log: June 2015

booksjune3

Books acquired: “Open City,” Teju Cole; “The Imperfectionists,” Tom Rachman; “A Pail of Air,” Fritz Leiber; “Slogging Toward the Millennium,” Bill McClellan; “A Walker in the City,” Alfred Kazin; “Eat Mexico,” Lesley Tellez.

Books read: “The Best of Fritz Leiber,” Fritz Leiber; “The Other Glass Teat,” Harlan Ellison; “The Point Man,” Steve Englehart.

June was not a shining month for me, book-wise, in a couple of ways: It was a rare month in which I bought more books than I read (I really try to avoid that), and I read only three books, not the usual four or more.

On the other hand, those three total nearly 1,100 pages, and two of them have languished unread since the early 1980s, so this wasn’t such a bad month. And to have bought only five books on a vacation in which I visited four bookstores demonstrates remarkable restraint, at least in my eyes. The sixth book is by a friend and was a must-buy.

Overall, then, it wasn’t such a bad month. The books weren’t bad either. I want to single out the Leiber collection, which based on the store stamp came from Ventura’s Book Rack, I would say about five or six years ago, although it may really have been bought at Ralph’s Comic Corner in the same city. I hadn’t read anything by Leiber, a respected fantasy writer, but I’m glad I read this. Most of the stories are distinctive and a few were remarkable, such as “The Man Who Never Grew Young.” It’s one of those pieces of writing where when you realize what he’s doing your mouth falls open. I bought another out-of-print Leiber collection on vacation just to have one around.

Ellison’s book is the second of two that collect his LA Free Press columns on TV from the late ’60s and early ’70s; as before, his essays are more about youth culture, politics and the times than about TV. But this does serialize a script he wrote for “The Young Lawyers,” as well as present two blistering, over-the-top columns after the episode was filmed and aired in a manner not to his liking. The copy I read is from the ’70s, purchased in the past decade, but I have an ’80s edition that I got when it was published, making “The Other Glass Teat” one of the older unread books on my shelves.

I got 150 pages into a 450-page third book that there was no way I was going to finish in June. Rather than finish only two books this month, I set that aside (look for it next month) to read the 350-page, but breezier, novel by Englehart, a well-known Marvel Comics scripter of the 1970s. I bought it used a couple of years after its 1981 publication but never felt compelled to read it. It’s about a San Francisco disc jockey who gets embroiled in mystical doings, which Englehart ends up explaining at more detailed length that was probably good for his plot. “The Point Man” is still commonly found in used bookstores, and he’s since written one or two sequels.

We’re halfway through 2015 and I’ve managed to stick, more or less, to my reading plan for the year. I’ve read 35 books, but as 17 of those were read in one month (March), and with some large books ahead of me, I’m not going to get much past 50 this year. My next six months are likely to involve more old science fiction, with a smattering of fiction and nonfiction (my annual Jack Smith book still lies ahead). How was your month, and are you reading what you hoped to be reading?

Next month: That book I started in June (assuming I finish it), and more.

booksjune4

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Oldest surviving restaurants in LA

goldenspur

The Los Angeles Beat blog compiled an amazing list of LA and environs’ oldest surviving restaurants, organized by year of opening. Oldest: Santa Clarita’s Saugus Cafe, 1905. A number of Inland Valley restaurants are on the list, including Sycamore Inn (1939), Vince’s Spaghetti (1946), Magic Lamp (1955), La Paloma (1966) and more, even if they can be hard to spot in scrolling.

Oldest restaurant out our way: 1918’s Golden Spur in Glendora. (Photo from the KoHoSo site.)

See the list here, and congratulations to Nikki Kreuzer for the labor of love in putting it together, and in adding to it based on reader comments.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Remembering Don’s Hobby Hut

mustang1

Above, the vacant lot where Mustang Books used to stand.

In January I posted about the demolition of Mustang Books, a long-standing dirty book emporium on Upland’s Central Avenue. But that wasn’t the first business in that building. Michael Guerin, who was the subject of a 2012 post about the Grove Theatre Pal Club of his youth, emailed me about more innocent shop of the 1960s. Take it away, Michael:

“Every time I pass the site of the former adult bookstore on the west side of Central just south of Foothill I am reminded of an earlier hobby shop that occupied the building.

“It was the 1960s and the concrete block building at the front of that lot was owned by a man named Don Domes and operated under the name Don’s Hobby Hut.

“This was at the time the only decent place to buy model cars and airplanes, early remote control aircraft and other hobby stuff.

“Don was a trendsetter in that he even had discontinued Revell or Monagram plastic model kits up on the high shelf available for some exorbitant price for those that were real aficionados.

“That place may have kept me alive in my elementary school years even into early teens.

“I don’t know that anyone’s mentioned it and it certainly doesn’t show any Google searches but I thought I would reminisce about it anyway in case it comes up in other conversations about local history.

“I think it closed down in the late ’70s or early ’80s and later as we all know it became a hobby shop of a different sort before being closed down and later bulldozed.”

Thanks, Michael. Now, if someone ever Googles “Don’s Hobby Hut Upland,” they’ll get one useful result.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Upland

uplandnyc1

Upland, 345 Park Ave. South (at 26th), New York City; open daily for lunch and dinner, with brunch on Sundays.

This will be a little different: a Restaurant of the Week post about a different part of the country. But under the circumstances, it works, as Inland Valley types are flocking to NYC’s Upland. Heck, more locals may find this post of practical value than some of my writeups on obscure noodle shops in Chino Hills.

Rather than create a “Restaurants: New York City” or “Restaurants: Anywhere But Here” category, I’ve simply slotted this in “Restaurants: Upland.” If it’s in the name, it counts, right?

First off, Upland is the subject of my June 24 column, which can be read here. In brief, Upland is the brainchild of an Upland-born chef, Justin Smillie, who makes his living in Manhattan. It opened in October 2014 after weeks of anticipation and has received a warm welcome from customers and many reviewers. I read about it in the New Yorker, a national publication.

(The magazine referred to Smillie’s home region as California’s “badlands.” Is that what we are? “That wasn’t very fair,” Smillie told me good-humoredly when I brought it up. “They probably haven’t even been there.” Later I noticed that the restaurant’s interior designers used the same phrase in an interview.)

Anyway, Upland is hot, a phrase probably never before applied to anything other than the city’s summertime temperatures. As my Brooklyn friend Matt, who hails from the City of Gracious Living, put it to me: “I don’t remember ever needing a reservation at a restaurant in Upland.”

I got in for lunch with a couple of days’ notice during my recent New York vacation. I met my friend Lesley from Queens, who is originally from Rancho Cucamonga. There are a lot of Inland Valley expatriates.

For us locals, there’s a weird thrill to walking up to the restaurant, which is on 26th no matter what the address says, and finding the name “Upland” on the awnings and vertical sign. Good spot for a Daily Bulletin on Vacation photo.

The menu at Upland changes monthly. Here’s what is being served in June for lunch.

uplandnyc8

The entryway has jars of lemons, a nod to the real Upland.

uplandnyc2

It was the tail end of the lunch hour when we arrived. The dining room has a lot of copper, green and oak, with a high ceiling, very pleasant, as well as a bar with four sides of seating, apparently popular with the after-work crowd. We ordered hamachi tartare ($18) as an appetizer and two entrees: mussels ($18) and sausage and kale pizza ($19), plus for dessert, a rhubarb and almond tart ($10).

The cooking has been described as California-Italian, with a lot of seasonal dishes and ingredients plus excellent pastas and pizzas, which are more Neapolitan than New York. We were very satisfied with our meal, and the service was cheerful and chatty.

uplandnyc5

uplandnyc4

uplandnyc6

Near the end, I had to identify myself because I had an appointment with Smillie, a communication that, as I feared, resulted in having the meal comped. Oh well, it was vacation. As in the previous time or two that’s happened at restaurants, I’m disclosing that fact here.

The decor includes drawings of California produce (grapes, figs, lemons, artichokes) on the walls near the ceiling and a lot of green, which Smillie said reminds him of Etiwanda besides being his favorite color.

uplandnyc3

It seems like there’s probably always one or more dishes with lemon, and June’s menu boasted the Upland Cheeseburger (“grass fed beef, american cheese, peppadew peppers + avocado”), of which Smillie told me: “I wanted to riff on the Double Double.” At $20, it might be double — double! — the cost of the most expensive burger in our Upland, but that says more about us than it does about the restaurant.

If you go, you might get to meet Smillie (pictured at bottom). And you can always ask for server Julia Tetrow, mentioned in my column as being from Redlands.

uplandnyc7

uplandnyc9

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Chronicles of None-ia: Library needs children’s DVDs

pomlib

A new piece of furniture in the Pomona Public Library children’s room looked unnecessary when I visited Thursday; from the entrance, the way the unit was turned, it was completely bare. On the side pictured, there’s one DVD, and three more on another side. And that was it.

Of the 70 child-friendly DVDs in the system, all but four were checked out. Neat, eh? Clearly there’s demand. Another 90 are waiting for a staffer to enter them into the catalog and otherwise prep them for checkout.

The library didn’t have any child-friendly DVDs until last year. That’s when the library partnered with the Inland Valley Humane Society to get some, and it’s looking for more. Donations of “gently used” DVDs and Blu-rays suitable for children and teens are accepted gratefully at the library, 625 S. Garey Ave. Tell ’em the David Allen Blog sent you.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email