About David Allen

A journalist since 1987, David Allen has been writing a column for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin since 1997 and blogging since 2007. He's a native of Illinois and lives in Claremont. Otherwise his commute to Ontario would take days. E-mail David here. Read recent columns here

Restaurant of the Week: Gyu-Kaku

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Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ, 7893 Monet Ave. (at Versailles), Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga

Gyu-Kaku (pronounced “gyew-kah-koo”) is a mainstay of Victoria Gardens, located between JC Penney and Fleming’s Steakhouse on the south end of the outdoor mall. I’ve been there a couple of times over the years but never for my blog. It’s not conducive to solo dining, although that can probably be done. When a Japanese American friend suggested dinner, I thought of Gyu-Kaku.

Reservations are generally a good idea here. Another good idea is to go during happy hour, which ends most nights at 6:30 (hours here), because most of the food is $1 off. Tables have charcoal grills, much like Korean BBQ restaurants, but here they leave you alone to cook your own food. You order a few meat or vegetable items, or a multi-course fixed-price dinner, and as the items arrive, you get to work.

We had prime kalbi short rib, N.Y. steak, shrimp, pork belly, chicken thigh, scallops, asparagus and spinach ($3 to $10 each), enough for a filling meal. Each was delivered with a verbal instruction, such as “five minutes on each side.” My friend set the timer on his cell phone. Tongs are provided.

So it’s a little bit of work, and you wonder how much to tip. But it’s also participatory and fun. The food was tasty, with the scallops being our favorite. The only item we didn’t like was the pork belly, possibly due to bum instructions: Five minutes on each side rendered the pieces crispy beyond recognition. The result was like burned bacon. Everything else, though, was spot-on.

It was a good outing. “It’s very social,” my friend said approvingly. Also, the restaurant is open late: until 10 p.m. daily and 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Give it a try. It’s even open on Christmas.

Below: wrapped spinach on the grill with shrimp, short ribs and steak waiting; below that, scallops and pork belly.

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Stephen Neil Hyland Jr. in the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

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I visited the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial in November, the subject of my Wednesday column. Lt. Col. Stephen Neil Hyland Jr., a Claremont native, is honored there. Here are photos of the scene. Above is the explanatory display outside the memorial.

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Victims’ names are in alphabetical order and their year of birth is noted.

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The memorial itself.

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Around the perimeter of the memorial, a wall rises from 3 inches to 71 inches, the age range of the victims. Panels show each birth year. 1955 was Hyland’s.

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I turned and saw this line of benches. Some years have one, some have many. Benches for Pentagon employees face the building; ones for passengers on American Airlines Flight 77 face away, along the path the plane took, according to Wikipedia.

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This is Hyland’s.

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Above is another view, Hyland’s bench in the foreground.

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On my way out, I noticed this panel. Someone had used ground cover to spell out “Love.”

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Bummer! Hip Kitty jazz club to close

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Hip Kitty, a Claremont lounge specializing in fondue and live music, will soon end its run. The business is in the process of being sold and is expected to close Jan. 31.

I was there with friends on Saturday celebrating a birthday. (Hi, Allison Evans!) Owner Nancy Tessier came over to say hello and I gave her the third degree. Ehh, it’s what I do. She confirmed that the club would soon close.

She opened the club in April 2007, shortly after her husband, Jerry, had finished renovation of the old citrus packing plant and opened it as the Packing House, which has businesses and lofts. She’d like to focus on her family, and maybe expand it, and decided she was better off selling the business, which is still successful, as the full house showed.

The new owners plan a speakeasy theme and may call the place Whisper. They will serve small plates and concentrate on cocktails. No fondue and, more crucially, no live music. Tessier was sorry about that and so are musicians: She’s always booked jazz and swing bands for the retro-themed club.

That night, the Lindy Sisters, a trio in the mold of the Andrews Sisters, performed, backed by the Hepcats. Watch a video here of them performing “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Tessier said she’s booked other favorites for farewell appearances through January. The last night is undetermined but may fall in early February, depending on when the sale closes.

I’m sorry the lounge is closing, but at least it’s going out in style, and while it’s still popular. Check it out one — or more — last times before Hip Kitty slinks away into the moonlight.

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Restaurant of the Week: The Supreme Plate

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The Supreme Plate, 9849 Foothill Blvd. (at Ramona), Rancho Cucamonga; closed Sunday and Monday.

New Orleans-style food is hard to come by in these parts, if we politely overlook Popeye’s. Then the Supreme Plate opened in a lonely stretch of Foothill Boulevard east of Archibald. It’s tucked away in a fairly dismal shopping center, Plaza de las Brisas, whose anchor tenant is a charter school. (It also has the very good vegan restaurant Bright Star and Competitive Edge Cyclery.)

Reader Bill Velto raved to me about the Supreme Plate or I might never have learned it existed. Even knowing where it was, I couldn’t find it at first; the only sign is painted on the door and window.

The interior is mostly nondescript too: stackable chairs, black vinyl tablecloths, minimal decoration other than an excellent mural in street art style. The staff, though, is gregarious, with Deep South accents.

The menu is almost entirely seafood: plates and po’ boy sandwiches featuring shrimp, oysters, crab, catfish and red snapper. My first visit, I got a catfish po’ boy (pictured below) with a side of Cajun fries and a soda for $10. Good stuff, although my preference is for a filet, not a series of nuggets.

I returned for dinner one night and brought a friend. I got the jambalaya ($11, pictured below middle), loaded with chicken, sausage, shrimp and more, and half of which I took home for a second meal. He got a shrimp and oyster po’ boy ($13). “You pay more, but you get more,” he said, taking home half his sandwich. “I was going to offer you half, but it was too good. I want it for lunch tomorrow.” Well, he was honest.

The oysters looked so good falling out of his sandwich, I went back for my own shrimp and oyster po’ boy (pictured at bottom). Those were some mighty oysters. The staff is small and my sandwich took a half-hour to arrive during lunch hour, as a few people were ahead of me; you might call ahead or visit at an off-peak time.

I’ll keep going back. They’ve got sides like cheesy grits and sausage, hush puppies, red beans and rice, and more, as well as gumbo on weekends and oxtails with rice. I hope this place succeeds — there are always customers, a good sign, and it currently has a five-star rating on Yelp — because it’s a good addition to the area. The Supreme Plate is supreme.

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‘Christmas’ in Claremont

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“A Christmas Story” will screen at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Garner House Courtyard in Memorial Park, 840 N. Indian Hill Blvd., courtesy of Claremont Heritage. Dress warmly as the screening is outdoors — although with a storm expected, the screening will be moved indoors at the same location. Admission is free and hot cocoa and cider will be provided. Film-specific attire is encouraged — but please, don’t bring a BB gun.

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Column: On Monday, it was finally time for Timm

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Carol Timm (whose longtime campaign slogan was “It’s Time for Timm”) was elected to the Upland City Council. She was sworn in at Monday’s meeting. That’s the first half of my Wednesday column; the back half is about Saturday’s Christmas Parade, in which I drove the grand marshal, Marilyn Anderson. See photo above! John Valenzuela took it.

The photo below was shot by Ann Lara, who was in the passenger seat, as I guided the car in to a stop at the end.

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Remembering El Adobe Village

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Rather than a town of ancient cliff dwellers, El Adobe Village was a shopping center in La Verne. Located at Foothill Boulevard and Wheeler Avenue, it was a unique-looking series of buildings. Let’s let Eric Scherer of the city planning department tell the story. There’s even a personal note to it.

“Originally constructed in several phases between 1977 and 1979, it was designed with Spanish-style architecture, interior courtyards, fountains, smooth plaster, large wooden gates at the entry points, ‘desert’ landscaping (what we would call drought-tolerant today) with the main anchor being a large Carlos O’Brien’s Mexican restaurant that had live entertainment. Some women would complain, however, as the walkways were purposely uneven and it was difficult to walk through the center while wearing heels.

“The building housed many shops, some of which remained within town at different locations after the center closed (Sarcas Ski and Sport, Bob Mastro pharmacy, and JML Haircutting (the only one still open today)).There was a Sgt. Pepper’s restaurant too… although it seems like that was just a sandwich/salad type place with no real theme (imagine the possibilities!). The center also boasted a pet store, a Chinese restaurant and a sweet shop.

“As a kid, being able to run around the interior corridors, play at the fountain and explore the place while my mom was getting her hair done at JML Haircutting was one of my favorite things to do growing up in La Verne.

“Having these interior corridors, however, proved to be the reason why the center was not successful. The development was designed mainly with access to the shops taken from within the courtyard area, with one building being located completely within the center, with absolutely no visibility from Foothill or Wheeler.

“The lack of visibility made it difficult for tenants to keep their doors open. Most people have very fond memories of the center, but apparently didn’t shop there enough. The building was torn down in 1990, the site sat vacant for many years except for the Carl’s Jr. on the corner, until the site was developed with Rite Aid in 1999 and soon after came AutoZone.”

Thank you, Eric. He also notes that the Cattleman’s Wharf/Toppers building, subject of a previous blog post, was next door. The accompanying photos from the planning department’s files give a rough sense of the property and were taken in 1981.

Do you remember El Adobe Village and its shops? Based on the photos, there was an Arthur Treacher’s fish and chips eatery.

* Update: At bottom, a 1980 ULV yearbook ad for El Adobe Village, also contributed by Scherer, had a map. My favorite business name: United Hairlines. (Salons always have the best names.) And note the El Adobe motto, “Like a stroll through Old Mexico…”

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El Adobe Ad 1980 MAP

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