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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Column: With Angels Flight, the devil is in the details

I take a ride, two in fact, on the newly restored Angels Flight railway in downtown L.A. Of all the weird luck, the next day it closed again due to a faulty part. I’ve been on it on at least a half-dozen occasions over the years, in between closures, some of which have lasted years. It’s nice to have it back.

I write about it in Friday’s column. Have you ever been on it?

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Column: His mission: explore San Juan Capistrano

On a recent day off, I took a day trip by train to San Juan Capistrano. (Three hours there, three hours back, $23.) While there (six hours), I toured the Los Rios District and Mission San Juan Capistrano. It was a fun, informative outing, and the tale is told in Wednesday’s column. Have you been to SJC? What were your impressions?

Above, the other side of the tracks is quite nice; both sides are. Below, a view inside the Serra Chapel.

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’47 things’

Pomona College put together a list for its seniors of “47 things to do before leaving Pomona,” basically a local and Southern California to-do list, given that many students are from out of state and may never, or rarely, return. And 47 is a college in-joke.

It’s a cool list; click on the hyperlink above to see it. Depending on how you count, I’ve done about 27, if you allow, for example, eating at Donut Man (No. 45) but not at midnight.

I’ve never been to Joshua Tree National Park (No. 1, ulp) or taken the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (No. 40), or ordered from the In-N-Out secret menu (No. 10), the latter perhaps because I operate strictly on the up-and-up. Somehow I don’t see myself hitting the slopes (No. 12), catching a wave (No. 13) or playing broomball (No. 42), whatever that is.

What do you think of the list and how do you rate?

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Toad in the hole

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Some friends and I made an inaugural visit to the Tam o’ Shanter, a Los Angeles restaurant. The Tam (2980 Los Feliz Blvd.) opened in 1922 and is said to be the city’s oldest restaurant in its original location and owned by the same family. (It’s also said by Jonathan Gold to serve the city’s best classic cocktail, the Moscow mule.)

I saw toad in the hole on the menu and couldn’t resist. I’ve never had one, and what a great name. It’s described as filet mignon with onions, mushrooms, burgundy wine sauce and Yorkshire pudding. I couldn’t picture it but was ready to be surprised. And was.

Yorkshire pudding, it turns out, is basically a puffy pastry. I don’t know what the toad is, and didn’t see any holes, but I liked it. That said, if I return, and I may someday because the Scottish theme, cozy setting and history make the Tam a unique spot, I’d probably opt for something different; one friend got a hand-carved prime rib sandwich on an enormous poppyseed bun.

What is toad in the hole? My understanding is there are various versions, and the American style can differ from the original British. The Simply Recipes site┬ásays the English version is sausages in Yorkshire pudding, while the American is “an egg cooked in the hole cut out of a piece of bread.” You’ll note that these two dishes have absolutely nothing in common.

One reason for my interest is the old stand at the L.A. County Fair named Toad in the Hole. It was there from 1933 until 2008, when it was bulldozed. The stand’s motto was “The Aristocrat of Foods.” Its last decade, it was Toad in the Hole Pizza, which seems less aristocratic somehow. As for what the stand served, Charles Phoenix said it was “filet mignon tucked inside baked potato,” while a Fair spokeswoman said it was “a piece of toast with an egg fried inside it.”

It’s not surprising these recollections differ, is it? Anyway, above is the Tam o’ Shanter version, below is the Tam’s sign and at bottom is the Fair’s stand, as seen on the Panoramio website by Pomona’s Danny Mac.

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