The new Proud Bird

Have you ever been to the Proud Bird, the aviation-themed restaurant near LAX? Even if you have, you may not recognize the space after a renovation this summer.

The 1967 restaurant was, in LA Weekly’s words, “a dark, crowded, wood-paneled relic” — but beloved. Now it’s a “food bazaar,” with several food stations from rotating operators, plus a permanent stand for Bludso’s, a barbecue joint whose Compton location has closed (but which still has one in Mid-City; it gets my vote for best barbecue in LA).

I had never been to the old version of the Bird but recently combined a stop there with my visit to LAX’s Lost and Found to retrieve my keys. It was a good twofer. Now, in some respects Proud Bird was a letdown, as I was picturing something livelier like Grand Central Market. Still, a plate of ribs, brisket and greens from Bludso’s salved that disappointment.

And the aviation memorabilia, and replica P-40 Flying Tiger suspended from the ceiling, were fun to see. Some vintage planes are on display in front and out back, and through the expanse of windows one can watch planes coming in for a landing on the parallel runways 25 and 25R.

The lunchtime crowd on a weekday seemed to be mostly made up of people who work nearby, plus a few travelers. I saw a family with a son wearing a shirt from Austin’s famed Franklin Barbecue. Proud Bird didn’t strike me as worth a special trip from our parts. But it’s worth a visit if you’re near LAX with some time to kill, especially if you like planes.

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Taft’s tush

Have you seen the Taft Chair at Riverside’s Mission Inn?

When President William Howard Taft visited the baroque hotel in 1909, a special chair was built to support his 350-pound frame. This followed an infamous incident in which the 27th president got stuck in a bathtub and it took five men to haul him out. Taft is said to have initially declined the chair but was persuaded to use it, which he did under the proviso that he not be photographed in it.

It’s there in the Inn’s lobby, where anyone can take a load off — but probably not as big a load off as Taft could — and unlike Taft will welcome being photographed doing so.

A few paces away is the grandly named Presidential Lounge and portraits of the 10 presidents who’ve visited the inn.

In other excellent trivia notes, Richard and Pat Nixon were married in what is now the Presidential Lounge and Ronald and Nancy Reagan honeymooned at the inn.

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Column: Alta Loma High alums recall school, town of the 1960s

Alta Loma High School opened in 1963, with its initial three grade levels graduating in ’65, ’66 and ’67. When the organizer of the joint 50th reunion contacted us about coverage, the topic seemed like it might make for a good nostalgia column. What was Alta Loma like before the growth boom? I talk to some alums, one of them the mayor, and write about it in Sunday’s column.

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Restaurant of the Week: Jack’s Urban Eats

Jack’s Urban Eats, 7811 Monet Ave. (in Victoria Gardens), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily

Victoria Gardens earlier this year gained a Jack’s Urban Eats, a self-described “urban cafeteria” with an emphasis on seasonal vegetables. It currently has 14 locations, all in California and most around Sacramento. The closest to us is Fresno.

At the mall, it’s just south of King’s Fish House along the street that got a hip makeover a year or so ago, with design-conscious pavers, benches and lights, and which has gradually focused its stores and restaurants to match the feel. I checked out the restaurant recently at lunchtime with friends.

There’s a faux brick exterior, a high ceiling with exposed duct work, tables and booths and a few outdoor tables. You take a menu and line up to order, then move down the line to pay and collect your food at the end.

They have salads, which you can build to order, sandwiches such as tri-tip, chicken, reuben, cheese steak and club, plates such as tri-tip (a specialty), chicken or turkey, and beer and wine.

I got the steak salad ($11.75), with tri-tip, mixed greens, cranberries and bleu cheese. I liked it.

Someone else was set on one item but impulsively ordered a summer special item, the Hawaiian chicken sandwich ($9.50). I would describe it, but I forgot to ask what was on it. Odds are good that pineapple and teriyaki were involved. He said: “Delicious. I want to come back and try one of their regular menu items.” His wife has had their banh mi and loved that.

Our second friend, a vegan on a repeat visit, ordered the grilled portabella sandwich ($9.75), with a mushroom, sprouts, tomato and grilled onion on a ciabatta roll, holding the provolone. “Second time I’ve had it. Still good,” she said. So noted.

Our only complaint was that at the height of the lunch rush, the restaurant was noisy with not just conversation but music. As people cleared out, talking became more comfortable. You’re too urban, Jack!

I kept thinking of Tender Greens, a similar but better cafeteria chain that hasn’t ventured east of Pasadena. Probably we’re not yet worthy. Nothing wrong with Jack’s, though.

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Detour from what?

Reader Mary Jo Kunkel submits the above photo, looking north from the corner of Archibald and Highland avenues in Rancho Cucamonga, and wonders what the detour sign is all about.

She doesn’t know what the detour was or why the face-down sign said the sidewalk is closed, although she wonders if the So Cal Gas leak in the area earlier this year was involved. “These have been on this corner for months and months,” Kunkel writes. “I’m hoping you will post this picture … so someone will come by and pick them up. Obviously no one is paying any attention to them but me.”

I happened to drive past Monday on my way to an appointment and the signs were still in the same position.

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Our stack

Transitioning from the 15 south to the 10 west recently, I was stuck for a spell due to traffic. That provided an opportunity to admire the web of overhead lanes and ramps. The view is to the southwest. Does this interchange have a name, or nickname? There’s a sort of beauty about it, just as there is for the 10/57.

I’m reminded of a Road Runner/Coyote cartoon in which they chase each other around a similar stack of freeway, unoccupied because it hasn’t yet opened, each ending up on a different elevation, repeatedly.

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