About David Allen

A journalist for more than 30 years, David Allen has been chronicling the Inland Valley for the Daily Bulletin since 1997 and blogging since 2007. He is the author of two books of columns: "Pomona A to Z" and "Getting Started." E-mail David here.

Restaurant of the Week: Golden Corral

Golden Corral, 1640 E. 4th St. (at Baker), Ontario (also at 2037 Rancho Valley Drive, Pomona); open 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

(It’s schedules like the above, by the way, that make me regret my policy of typing out restaurants’ business hours.)

Buffets’ heyday might seem to have come and gone, with the late, and lame, HomeTown Buffet driving the final limp celery stalk into any remaining interest. But along comes Golden Corral, the North Carolina-based chain that has made a big entry into California.

I was only mildly curious about Golden Corral. I’m not a buffet guy. But a week ago, three members of our newsroom, which was practically the entire newsroom, were all going to the Ontario location for lunch and invited me to join them. Why not? I knew I’d never go on my own.

When you enter, you get your tray and your self-serve drink before you pay, which probably cuts down on cheating from those who would claim they would only get a water while later secretly filling up on soda, and plenty of it. Lunch is $13, with drinks extra. I actually did get water. A server stopped by our table a couple of times to offer refills, since you can’t get them yourself, so be prepared to tip a dollar or two.

There’s oceans of seating, and a weekday lunch does not seem to be the busy time. I’ll bet weekends are a different story. There are five areas for food: Greenhouse (salads and fruit), Smokehouse (Southern/BBQ), Hacienda (Mexican), Grillhouse (chicken and fish) and Brass Bell Bakery (dessert).

One colleague went all-Southern (see above), which she called a Southern potluck: fried catfish, hush puppies, popcorn shrimp, fried okra, mashed potatoes with sausage gravy, fried chicken, “Bourbon St. chicken,” pot roast and a roll. She liked it and singled out the popcorn shrimp for being more shrimp than batter.

My first plate, above, was, to go clockwise from left, toasted ravioli, pulled pork, fried shrimp, hush puppy, fried fish, Bourbon St. chicken, collard greens and rice. Not bad.

Another colleague had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn and green beans. Taking after the “Southern potluck” diner, he declared: “My course is Sunday afternoon at Aunt Bea’s house.”

He said his strategy is to try to get seven courses, but not seven plates, represented. The fourth in our group said he looks at buffets as a competition: “Oh, David got the clam chowder. I need to get that.”

It’s hard to photograph a buffet, especially when you’re 1) trying to be subtle about it and 2) not trying that hard to begin with. But here’s one view.

The dessert area included a chocolate fountain, soft serve ice cream, hand-scooped ice cream (which the staff serves), cookies and brownies. I had a chocolate pudding, which was pretty good.

Overall, my friends were satisfied. The competitor did his best to keep up and, sated, spent the afternoon struggling to stay awake. Golden Corral is all right for what it is. As a non-buffet guy, it’s hard for me to imagine going back. It wasn’t that good. But it’s definitely of better quality than HomeTown. If you’re a buffet guy or gal, you might like it.

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Column: A week after Pittsburgh, faiths and voices unite

An interfaith service at a synagogue in Pomona a week after the Pittsburgh murders drew several hundred people, including yours truly. I went out of curiosity as a member of the community but also brought a notebook. The service was really interesting, and even though a few days have gone by, I decided to write it up for Wednesday’s column anyway. Hey, it beats yet another election story, right?

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Reading Log: October 2018

Books acquired: “Ritchie Valens: The First Latino Rocker,” Beverly Mendheim; “Our Towns,” James and Deborah Fallows

Books read: “The Doom That Came to Sarnath and Other Stories,” H.P. Lovecraft; “Echo Round His Bones,” Thomas M. Disch; “Banking on Beauty,” Adam Arenson; “O Pioneers!” Willa Cather

Did we all remember to turn back our clocks, or were we too busy reading? Anyway, welcome to another Reading Log, where the frost is on the pumpkin, or it would be if it weren’t 84 degrees outside.

Personally, I finished four books in October. I did not “fall” down on the job. Three fiction, one nonfiction. To wit:

“The Doom That Came to Sarnath” was my annual H.P. Lovecraft read. This was made up of early fantasy stories in the mode of Lord Dunsany, a couple of collaborations, a poem and a few pre-Cthulhu stories. Overall, the weakest of the eight HPL collections I’ve read. The notes by editor Lin Carter do help put it all into context.

“Echo Round His Bones” (1967) was my sort-of-annual Thomas Disch read. In this one, a military man is dispatched via matter transmitter to the Mars base to deliver the top-secret message that America’s nuclear arsenal should be released against the Russians. But the transmission process is flawed and a duplicate of everyone is created for a shadow world. The anti-war message, and anti-Vietnam War message in particular (in 1967 no less), is commendable. The explanations of the matter transmission and the “echoes” it creates are pretty much impossible to follow, and Disch’s authorial voice as narrator is intrusive. Interesting, but neither here nor there: too complicated for light entertainment and too cheerful for literary fiction.

(Incidentally, I bought a bunch of the hard-to-find Disch books five years ago at a used bookstore in Goleta and have now read four — only one of which I liked. I’m beginning to regret the whole exercise. Except that chronologically, the next one is a classic. We shall see.)

“Banking on Beauty” (2018) was the subject of a column earlier this year. It’s about the partnership of Millard Sheets and Howard Ahmanson that produced the artsy Home Savings branches around Southern California in particular. It’s well illustrated and rigorously researched. It’s a bit much for the general reader, if any there are, but the book fills a gap in midcentury modern architecture history and tells a uniquely suburban SoCal tale of art and good taste being brought to the masses via a philanthropic businessman and an artist who was happy to sign on with a corporate client.

Lastly, “O Pioneers!” (1913) is a classic by Willa Cather spanning about three decades in the settlement of a Nebraska town. Even at a slim 180 pages, her novel has an epic heroine, one who outshines her petty, small-minded brothers in business. Cather’s descriptions of the Nebraska landscape are loving and lovely and her sketches of the Swedes, Germans and Czechs who settled the prairie so far from their home are enlightening and empathetic.

So “Pioneers” was the month’s clear winner, and also the one more of you are likely to have already read or to consider reading. Although I’d bet Rich P. has read “Echo.”

But what of you all? What did you read in October?

As for how these books entered my life, “Echo” was bought at Goleta’s Paperback Alley in 2013, “Sarnath” came from DTLA’s Last Bookstore in 2017, “O Pioneers!” came from Borders (RIP) — I’d have said circa 2011, but as it doesn’t show up in a search of this blog, maybe more like 2007 — and “Banking” was contributed by Claremont Heritage (I was writing about Adam Arenson’s Heritage-related visit to town) in 2018.

My four books made this, I think, my last big month of 2018. There’s a good chance I’ll only finish four or five over the last two months of this year, including two relatively complex nonfiction volumes, my oldest unread books, that I really want to read before another year goes by. Do you have any year-end reading goals?

Next month: a hairy time.

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Restaurant of the Week: Calle Ocho

Calle Ocho, 8880 Archibald Ave. (at 8th), Rancho Cucamonga; open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday; closed Sundays

I heard about Calle Ocho from our Dine 909 columnist, who tweeted a mention of it a few weeks ago. Interesting that that would make two Cuban eateries in the same center, which is half automotive shops (and half, it sometimes feels like, businesses to patronize while your car is being smogged).

Not long afterward, I pulled into the center just above the railroad tracks with an eye toward eating again at Mica’s, the other Cuban spot, while taking a peek at Calle Ocho for future reference. But Mica’s was “closed for remodeling,” which often means a change of ownership. So I stepped into Calle Ocho.

The owner, or maybe co-owner, who was seated at one of the two small glass-topped tables, immediately greeted me and moved behind the counter. The menu is small: a few sandwiches, empanadas and coffees, including cafe con leche, some sides and some breakfast items. There’s a counter with a few more seats by the open kitchen.

I ordered the mainstay sandwich, the Cuban ($11), with roast pork, ham, Swiss, pickles and mustard, plus garlic fries and a Materva soda. Probably 15 minutes later, the sandwich was delivered.

This was an excellent sandwich, with the tender pork a standout. Very filling too. The Cuban soda was like a less intense Inka soda.

“You’re lucky you came in at this time,” the woman had told me after I ordered, which was around 1:30 p.m. “At lunch sometimes people have to wait 45 minutes for their food!” Prepare accordingly, or phone in your order to (909) 560-2925. Also, note that they’re open only five hours a day.

Calle Ocho, which translates to Eighth Street, seems like a relaxed, friendly place. A regular came in, sat at the counter and bantered with the woman and the cook, as if this were a bar. They gave as good as they got. When he complained that last year no trick or treaters came, she fired back: “Nobody wants to go trick or treating in Fontana. They come to Rancho. They don’t want to trick or treat where there’s no sidewalks.”

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