Million Dollar Theater

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Wednesday night I attended the L.A. Conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats program at downtown LA’s Million Dollar Theater. The 1918 movie palace is unrestored and not in the best of condition, but it’s still pretty neat, and the exterior is spectacular. We saw “Captain Blood,” a 1935 pirate movie with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Great fun.

There are still three more movies in the series, each on Wednesday nights, at different theaters on Broadway. (Two of the three are already sold out.) Click here for a schedule. I’ve got a ticket for “Safety Last” on the 29th.

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LA got there first

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Remember how Ontario has been seeking (for almost two years now) a liquor license for its library cafe? One retired Ontario cop likes to reverse the idea of a bar in the library, joking: “Let’s put a library in the bar.”

I was reminded of all that on Sunday when I met friends at downtown LA’s Library Bar.

LA’s version isn’t really in the library — the Central Library is a block away — but this gastropub has a wall of books in a cozy area with couches, rugs and a fireplace, akin to one of those personal libraries in a country estate, and drinks have literary names: the Scarlet Letter, the Tequila Mockingbird, the Odyssey, etc. My friends liked the drinks (I stuck to cranberry juice) and we all liked the food: burgers, fries, beet salad, edamame and pork belly sandwich.

The Library Bar. What will they think of next?

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Buff’s-eye view

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There’s a downtown L.A. park under construction between Bunker Hill and City Hall, and one of the best places to get an overall glimpse is from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, L.A.’s opera hall.

Here’s a recent, if rainy, view from the fourth floor balcony level overlooking Grand Avenue. The nosebleed tier provides a better view of the construction than the swells get. That’s the County Hall of Administration in the background.

Chandler, you may recall, was nicknamed Buff because of her maiden name, Buffum, and yes, her family owned the Buffum’s department store chain.

The $56 million Grand Avenue Civic Park, set to open in May 2012, will include “lawns, performance spaces, seating areas, walking paths, vegetation, an upgraded fountain and even a dog park,” says the L.A. Downtown News.

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Dining with the bloggers (part 3)

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Mike Tanner, who produces the excellent L.A.-based blog Dinerwood with reviews of coffee shops (especially ones serving pie), and I met up for breakfast in Whittier. The site was Jack’s. Is this Jack’s connected with the one that used to be at 19th and Carnelian in Rancho Cucamonga? I suspect so, although I don’t know.

Mike and I had met up a couple of times before, once at Roady’s in San Dimas, the other time at LeRoy’s in Monrovia. He tossed out a couple of options for a third get-together and I picked Jack’s based primarily on its amazing out-of-the-past sign. Love the Erector-set pole too.

There’s a great, long counter inside with swivel seats in the classic style. We got a booth and hunkered down for what turned out to be an only average meal. The corned beef hash with my eggs was the best part and it was probably out of a can. The country potatoes were mushy, not crisp. Mike wasn’t blown away by his waffle. Service was inattentive. We skipped the pie.

Conversation was the highlight. Well, that and the sign.

Here’s Mike’s take, with lots of photos. He was no more inspired by Jack’s than I was.

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Dining with the bloggers (part 2)

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I had dinner in Highland Park last weekend with the Bulletin’s RC Now blogger, Wendy Leung. Not only is RC Now your top source for Rancho Cucamonga news and views, it’s often darn funny even if you don’t care about Rancho Cucamonga. Well, I can only imagine it would be — who doesn’t care about Rancho Cucamonga?

Wendy had a coupon from the Good Girl Dinette, a restaurant that is said to meld Vietnamese dishes with American comfort food. I’d been there a couple of times for lunch and liked it. Even better, it’s only a couple of blocks from a Gold Line station.

We had Vietnamese spring rolls, spicy fries with garlic and a soy-based dipping sauce, and two pot pies, one chicken, one vegetarian. The pot pies are one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. They were curry-like, came in a dish and had a biscuit-like top. We liked all our dishes.

Good Girl is on LA Weekly’s LA99 list of great restaurants. We met there early and by the time we left, near 8 p.m., the place was nearly full.

I’ll have a third and final (?) blogging-related meal in L.A. to post about as soon as the other blogger finishes his writeup and I can link to it.

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We (heart) Lucinda Williams

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A group of us single types from the Bulletin newsroom headed for Hollywood on Monday night for dinner at Village Pizzeria and a free (!) weekly show at the Bardot club sponsored by KCRW, dubbed “It’s a School Night” and this time featuring the great Lucinda Williams.

Williams, one of my favorite singer-songwriters, performed for an hour in the small club, which held about 200 people, standing. Nobody was far from the stage but our group was a mere 12 feet from her. She sang a bunch of songs from her new album, “Blessed,” which won’t go on sale until March 1, and a few past songs, including “Out of Touch.”

“This is cool,” she exclaimed at one point. Nobody disagreed.

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Dining with the bloggers (part 1)

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Last week I had dinner with Meg and K., the couple from the M-M-M-My Pomona blog. We’ve had such blogging summits before, but not often enough.

This time we went to L.A.’s Koreatown and tried out Park’s BBQ, one of the LA99 restaurants as chosen by critic Jonathan Gold. We had bulgogi, short ribs and a kimchi pancake, as well as panchan, the side dishes most Korean restaurants give you for free (as did Park’s). Pictured are the short ribs on the grill and some of the panchan. A delicious meal for about $30 each.

To bring in the almost inevitable public-transit angle, Meg and I took Metrolink and K. picked us up at Union Station. She and I talked blogging on the way in and I notice that after a long period of near-silence on her own blog, she’s posted several times of late. Always interesting to read.

I’ll have a second blogging-related meal to recount soon.

* Meg’s more detailed take is here.

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Petrillo’s

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I had dinner Sunday with friends at Petrillo’s, the famed San Gabriel Valley pizza chain. Two of us had never been while the other two grew up eating there. We went to the original on Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel. Motto: “Since 1954.”

The pizza was thick crust, cut into squares and generously topped. It was terrific. A medium fed four of us (we also shared a spaghetti) and two of us took slices home.

The ambience is old-school Italian pizza parlor, reminiscent of Casa Bianca Pizza in Eagle Rock. The pressed-tin ceiling adds character, as does the lovely neon sign glowing outside.

There are other Petrillo’s locations, including Glendora, and a couple of offshoots whose connection to the real thing I’m unclear on: Mama Petrillo’s, with a location in La Verne, and Petrillii’s, a takeout-only spot in Upland that may be a former Petrillo’s.

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Please, no photos

A friend and I splurged on dinner Sunday at Red O, a high-profile new restaurant on Melrose Avenue in L.A. On the sidewalk, we passed a photographer chatting with the valets. Paparazzi? Wow. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one, given that I don’t frequent places a celebrity might be.

Disappointingly, he didn’t even lift his camera. Hey, I could be Anthony Edwards! Or Jeff Zucker! Oh well. He was still there when we left. Was anyone famous inside, or was he just hoping there might be?

The meal, by the way, was very good: upscale takes on taquitos (with duck), shrimp cocktail and tamales, in a classy setting with pleasant service. Here’s a blogger’s very critical take, with multiple photos, and a verbal throwdown between chef Rick Bayless and critic Jonathan Gold.

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Westwood’s vintage theaters

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After Westwood’s National closed in 2008 and the Festival in 2009, without my ever having been there, I decided to catch movies at the Bruin and Village theaters, Westwood’s two other vintage single-screen theaters, just in case. (There’s also the Crest, where I saw “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2006.) The Bruin and Village are now owned by the Regency chain, which vows to keep them going.

Early this year I saw “Invictus” (the Clint Eastwood rugby movie) at the Bruin (948 Broxton Ave.), and on Sunday I saw the latest Harry Potter movie at the Village (1036 Broxton), which is directly across the street. It’s rare that my tastes, the mainstream fare at these theaters and my schedule all align.

The Bruin is nice enough, especially the wraparound marquee, but the Village is beautiful, and much larger than it seems from the exterior. I sat in the balcony. It was a pleasant spot from which to try to remember what happened in the last Potter movie and who all these Weasley family members were.

Cinema Treasures has pages on the history of the 1,300-seat Village, which opened in 1931 as a Fox theater (the same year as Pomona’s), and the 700-seat Bruin, which opened in 1937.

Westwood also has the Regent, which from the exterior looks like a bland ’60s theater (it opened in 1966) and hence less interesting, but I’ll probably end up going there sometime too.

For you public transit buffs, I took Metrolink ($17 from Claremont) and availed myself of its free-transfer policy to ride the Purple Line subway to Wilshire/Western and then to ride the Metro Rapid 720 to Wilshire/Westwood, and then to repeat those steps on my way back to Union Station. The free transfers saved me the cost of a $6 transit day pass and public transit saved me from a $5 or $6 parking fee. Plus I could read the newspaper and part of a novel.

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