Driving north on Central Avenue in Upland one morning last week, I pulled into the business plaza that had Rabi’s Cafe on a whim, just because I hadn’t in so long, and saw the parking lot was nearly empty. Then I saw the sign down and, through the window, everything cleared out inside.
Rabi’s opened in 2010 and, based on Yelp activity, probably closed in July or August. The breakfast and lunch spot had been a favorite of mine for three or four years, but when its co-owner and namesake left in mid-2016, in a divorce from her manager husband, I decided out of loyalty to her that my time there was done.
The breakfasts were good, and the couple was always nice to me. I enjoyed taking the Sunday papers in early and occupying a table until the place began filling up. Some readers would greet me, and occasionally pester me, while meaning well. Rabi almost always waited on me, and sometimes provided column fodder with her attitude and jokes. If she wasn’t involved anymore, there was less reason to go.
I felt a little bad about that, because her husband Ahmed was nice too. (I once joked that I only went there for the excellent management, which made him laugh.) My best to him and to the staff. Perhaps a new place will go in with fine food and good jokes, but less personal drama.
The location was previously Jouni’s Cafe and previously to that was, I believe, the Egg and I, both like Rabi’s known for their breakfasts.
Magic Towers opened in Pomona (540 E. Foothill Blvd.) in 1968 and lasted until 1978. As you can see, it was built to be reminiscent of a castle, specifically Sleeping Beauty’s Castle from Disneyland, according to the owner, with four turrets.
I wrote a little about Magic Towers in a column about Friar Tuck’s, the bar that took over the castle in 1990 and changed to Stein Haus after a “Bar Rescue” makeover (and expired in late 2015):
The castle was built in 1968, about the same time as another piece of roadside architecture, a restaurant a half-mile east in Claremont that resembles a fishing boat.
Originally the castle was Magic Towers, a medieval-themed stand that sold knightburgers, castleburgers and the King Arthur burger, touted as a “triple hamburger with dragon sauce.”
Within two years, an addition made room for a diner and ice cream parlor, and the chef, “Monsieur Leonard,” had trained at the Waldorf Astoria, according to a Progress-Bulletin story.
Owner Monte Radlovic had hoped to expand his empire to other cities and nations, but it’s unclear if any other Magic Towers were developed.
I’m giving the restaurant its own blog post because of this photo, turned up by picture maven Darin Kuna and posted recently on Facebook. How could I not share it in all its medieval glory! It shows the castle after the 1970 addition in front.
In a followup to the saga of the Upland restaurant (1971-2002), dozens of people commented on how much they loved it, and many inquired about the sign that was for sale at an antiques store. One unknown person claimed it.
That consumes most of Sunday’s column, but there’s also a plug for this blog and a Valley Vignette from La Verne.
Stinky’s, a self-deprecatingly named burger stand in Upland popular from 1948 to 1968 (and sometimes spelled Stinkey’s), has been the subject of previous blog posts, which drew many comments here, here and here. Visually, though, all I’d been able to find was an interior photo and a not particularly helpful aerial view.
But then I got these two cool photos via Darin Kuna: an interior and, at last, an exterior. Rather than add them to the long-ago posts, I’ve given them their due here. Dig the box fan. And the fellow in the back has even been identified, as George Kunde.
* And below that is an aerial from 1950, also from Kuna, of Stinky’s.
Felix (Phil) Valenti founded two Italian restaurants in Ontario. First there was Valenti’s Pizza Parlor, 208 1/2 W. Holt Blvd., in 1960. Next came Valenti’s Fine Foods, 1754 S. Euclid Ave., in 1964, which had “pizza, spaghetti, ravioli, fried chicken.” His family said he started by offering pizza for a nickel a slice and that Valenti’s Fine Foods was famed for its 79-cent all you can eat dinners.
When he started, there weren’t many places to get pizza, which was still something of a novelty; in Ontario, competitors were Luigi’s Pizza House, Frankie’s and Capri Restaurant.
Valenti retired from the restaurant business in 1979, meaning he served Italian food in Ontario for three decades, and almost four if you include the extra eight years he spent catering before he retired for good in 1987. Valenti, 87, died June 11, 2013, according to his obituary.
Do you remember any of these restaurants? These yellow pages ads, from 1960 and 1964, may jog your memory and are courtesy of the Ontario Library’s Model Colony History Room.
Farrell’s means a lot to many longtime Inland Valley residents who marked birthdays and other occasions at the Montclair Plaza ice cream parlor, which operated through the 1970s and into the mid-1980s before folding like other locations after a disastrous buyout. Now the chain is back, with SoCal restaurants in Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside (which opened Jan. 31), Brea, Mission Viejo and Santa Clarita. Here’s its website.
Montclair’s original Farrell’s was located at 4971 Moreno St. and opened in 1969. It was demolished in 1987.
The photo above was contributed by Glenn Blakeslee to the Growing Up in Montclair page on Facebook and taken from an Images of America history book. For the record, though, it’s evidently not of the Montclair Farrell’s. Steve Lustro, Montclair’s community development director, said the architectural plans on file with the city show a modern exterior rather than the typical “period” style depicted in the photo. The orientation to the street is different in the plans as well.
* Update: The bottom two photos, from Images of America’s Montclair history book, were forwarded by Andrea Phillips of City Hall.
The long-lived Los Monitos chain seems to be defunct, with all locations closed except the one in Upland, which has changed its name to Chuck’s Tacos. The one at 752 E. Holt Blvd. in Ontario, seen above, reportedly dates to circa 1947. The chain gives its founding as 1936 due to its pre-restaurant incarnation as a tortilla factory. At right is the owner’s message in the window. A Bulletin colleague hopes to write a story on the situation. Keep reading for my April 30, 2006 column on Los Monitos’ 70th anniversary. The beginning and end are somewhat ironic now, but they were true at the time.
Continue reading “Adios, Los Monitos” »
Reader John Herring writes:
“I came across your blog while researching an old restaurant in Montclair by the name of Inn-Side Family Pizza. It was located at 10325 Mills Ave. My grandmother used to play the piano there, and it was there, while visiting my grandparents in 1977, that I heard that Elvis Presley had died. My grandmother passed away years ago, but I have always kept a sticker from the restaurant that I received as a souvenir while I was down there. I was cleaning out a storage unit today and I saw this sticker and thought I would research it.
“Could you please ask your readers if any of them remember the Inn-Side? My grandmother’s name was Phyllis Jennings, and my grandfather’s name was Leroy Jennings. She would play the piano and he occasionally played a wash-tub bass while she played. They had moved to Phelan from Pomona, but they still drove to Montclair once a week so she could play the piano there. She also played the piano in a bar called the Thunderbird in Phelan.
“I Googled the address, but it does not appear to be there anymore. My folks moved us to Northern California before I started kindergarten, and I have lived here ever since. I don’t really have many memories of my time in So-Cal, but I do remember the one time I was at this restaurant.”
I’d never heard of the Inn-Side, but surely someone has. If so, please leave a comment.
Lucy and John’s was a restaurant on Route 66 from 1941 to 1955 in what now is Rancho Cucamonga but then was the wilds between Cucamonga and Upland. The building was then transformed into the Magic Lamp, which is still there today. Since my mention of the restaurant in my column, the accompanying artifacts have come to my attention.
Jane Vath O’Connell contributed the photo and Chris Nichols the menu. Both are precious finds, and copious thanks are extended to both contributors. Nichols, responding to my description of Lucy and John’s as a spaghetti house, says: “Please let your readers know that Lucy and John’s offered much more than spaghetti — they also had ravioli.”
Yes, and check the side orders. Radishes and celery, 25 cents! Buttermilk, one slim dime! But feel free to splurge on a 35-cent order of ravioli if you’re feeling flush. Click on the images for a larger view.
I asked Anthony Vernola, whose family has had Magic Lamp since the early 1970s, about Lucy and John’s. He said the couple’s last name was
Di Censo Nosenzo. “When John passed away, Lucy ran it and sold it to Mr. Clearman and Mr. Penn. I believe she moved down to the peninsula, to Newport Beach, until she passed on.” Some of the original restaurant remains under the shell of the Magic Lamp — such as the original flat roof, which is under the current peaked, tile roof (“It’s a rooftop on top of a rooftop,” Vernola says with a chuckle), and one visible artifact: the bar.
That means the bar is about 60 years old…or about the same vintage as a lot of the customers.
Reader Michelle Young emailed a question recently about a restaurant a little east of us, but one some of you may remember. Take it away, Michelle:
“Watching my local news here in Chicago this morning I heard about San Bernardino’s financial problems and it made me think about a restaurant I believe to be called The San Bernardino Inn. [*She really means the San Gorgonio Inn. — DA] It was just off the 10. The last time I remember eating there was 1986, my senior year of high school before I moved away. It was a favorite of my parents in the ’70s and ’80s and we always stopped in when we drove between our home in Carlsbad on the way to Big Bear or Palm Springs.
“Today I came across your Eateries Past category and thought you might know something about it. What I remember most vividly about the restaurant was the tattered newspaper-like menus and dinners that started with your choice of various items including Tomato Juice (I never chose this; wouldn’t taste good with my Shirley Temple), Chilled carrot and celery sticks with radishes, and Chicken livers.
“I Googled everything I could think of/remember about the place to with no luck and the San Bernardino Historical Society doesn’t seem to have any information on their website. And ideas?”
She probably came to the right place. We’ll see, anyway.
* Update: Michelle has agreed via email that based on the first reader comment, she’s wrong and the place was the San Gorgonio Inn, not the San Bernardino Inn. I’ve changed the headline to match.