Remembering St. Charles Grill

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In its day, the St. Charles Grill was one of the finest restaurants in Pomona. Located at 158 W. Holt Ave., a half-block west of Garey Avenue, the restaurant served steaks, chops, lobster and other delicacies, waited on celebrities passing through town (as they did in the pre-freeway era) and hosted service clubs and wedding receptions in its banquet room. There were even some apartments rented out up above.

St. Charles Grill opened in 1930 and faded out in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The space reopened as Alpine Haus (!) in 1973 and as Lucier’s in 1979. (Thanks to the Pomona Public Library for the names and dates.) The building has been vacant for many years and is currently for lease sale.

I’ll be writing a column about the place in the near future. You’re encouraged to comment here with any memories of the St. Charles — the food, decor, atmosphere, staff or whatever else you’d care to share.

Photo courtesy Growing Up in Pomona Facebook page

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Upland Winchell’s sign is now art

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Remember the old Winchell’s Donuts at 887 W. Foothill Blvd. in Upland? What a great sign, and the building was great too. I’m not a big doughnut guy, but I went there a couple of times just for the ambience (and a chocolate raised).

It closed in 2004 (the building is now Cherry on Top Frozen Yogurt), but the sign was saved. It’s now owned by the Museum of Neon Art and is on public display through January on Santa Monica Boulevard at Martel Avenue in West Hollywood. How about that! See my Friday column for more.

Below is the scene from across Santa Monica Boulevard, and below that is a portion of the interpretive panel alongside the sign so we know why we’re supposed to be impressed.

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Remembering Breakfast at Carl’s

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The former Breakfast at Carl’s building, 2011.

You know you’ve lived in the Inland Valley a long time if you remember when BC Cafe (locations in Claremont and Rancho Cucamonga) was located in Pomona and was known as Breakfast at Carl’s.

Reader April Patterson remembers but has a question about the precise location.

“Could you please clear something up for me? There is a thread on Facebook about Breakfast at Carl’s. I seem to remember them on Holt on the south side of the street just west of East End. And then they moved to Claremont.

“Quite a few people are saying that they were first located at the northeast corner of Holt and East End before IHOP went in. But I lived right around the corner from there from 1968 to 1997 and IHOP is the only thing I remember being there.”

Patterson seems to be correct. I found the minutes of a 1976 Pomona Planning Commission meeting online when Carl’s was applying for a beer and wine license. It was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner then. The location given is the southwest corner of Holt and East End, just as Patterson remembers.

The address, for the record, was 1280 E. Holt. (Bit-o-Sweden is described in the minutes as being “across the street.”)

Those minutes say that Carl’s had been open since 1959 at that location and since 1950 elsewhere in Pomona. Can anyone explain that? My understanding is that founder Carlo Purpero also owned a place named Perp’s Purp’s somewhere in Pomona, which may factor into this equation.

Purpero died in 2010 at age 95, according to his obituary.

Feel free to share what you remember about Carl’s or Perp’s. Oh, and does anyone remember their souffle omelet? I’ve been told that was a specialty, and that if you ask for one at BC, they’ll make it.

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Go East, young Cattleman’s

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A post here about restaurants that had formerly occupied a building on eastern Foothill Boulevard in La Verne, inspired by a question by reader Tom Gay, brought a note of (intended) correction from reader Tom Meader.

Meader wrote: “Cattleman’s Wharf was on the west end of La Verne. Currently the 99 Cent store is in the approximate location. Nowhere near what was at that time Liberty Ford.”

Meader is mostly right, partly wrong. Cattleman’s did spend most of its life in western La Verne, but it evidently did move to the Ford property in eastern La Verne for a brief period before closing, according to Eric Scherer of the Planning Department.

Cattleman’s began at 1504 Foothill Blvd., near Wheeler Avenue, in a building fashioned like a lighthouse, with beams and pulleys, as if the cattle boat had just pulled up at the dock. Everybody into the kitchen! The menu cover gives a date of 1975; click on the thumbnail version for a larger view.

In the early 1980s, Cattleman’s seems to have moved to the Ford property before vanishing, according to Planning Department files. So Cattleman’s Wharf existed in both locations, making both Toms correct. I love splitting the difference. Everyone’s happy (or unhappy).

The Cattleman’s lighthouse later housed the La Verne Cattle Co., as seen in the photo below, and Toppers, a restaurant that morphed into a night club and was shut down in the late 1980s. The building was demolished in the 1990s and the site became a Pep Boys and a 99 Cents Only store.

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Undated photo of the La Verne Cattle Co., courtesy La Verne Planning Department

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Polynesian puzzle solved

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Back in February, reader Glenn White asked for our help in determining the identity of a Polynesian restaurant that once operated in Covina. A bunch of you weighed in and, five months later, someone got it right and White confirmed it: The Warehouse Restaurant on Garvey at Barranca. Read the original post and comments here.

Lesson: This blog can get to the bottom of any mystery…eventually.

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Restaurant (Closure) of the Week

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I ate at Freddie Mae’s Southern Cooking, in the food hall of Victoria Gardens, on April 22, eating a not-bad fish po’boy sandwich ($7.95). Freddie Mae’s was in the first slot on the west side of the hall, where Nathan’s Hot Dogs had been. I took photos and expected to share them here today.

Because I didn’t get a menu and felt I didn’t know quite enough about the place, I decided to try another lunch on Thursday, three weeks later. Perhaps my spidey sense was tingling. When I walked into the food hall, the Freddie Mae’s space was vacated!

I had already filed Friday’s column with a mention in my weekly blog report that Freddie Mae’s was my Restaurant of the Week. Oy. So I used my new cell phone to email my boss to ask him to hold my column until I could rewrite the last item.

The Freddie Mae’s website says they have a location in Fontana. Well, maybe I can go there sometime.

So what did I do for lunch? I went back to Crepes de Paris, already the subject of a Restaurant of the Week in 2008. But this time, I took photos, which I’ve added to that post.

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Polynesian in Covina?

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* Postcard image found on eBay by reader Elwood

Reader Glenn White has a question:

“I wondered if you could help me with some information on an old restaurant that I believed was located in West Covina. I believe there was a restaurant in the late 1970s or possibly early 1980s that was located off of Grand Ave. or possibly Barranca Ave. It was on a street that went down into like a ravine and it had a Hawaiian/Polynesian or tropical/island/beach theme.

“I was hoping that you could help me out. Maybe I’m crazy, but I thought there was restaurant like this in that area. Someone told me about Bahooka that was on Francisquito, but I don’t believe that is the restaurant that I was thinking of. Maybe it has been demolished and something else is there now. Any help that you could provide would be greatly appreciated.”

Anyone able to help Glenn?

* Update: A reader named Elwood has suggested, and White has confirmed, that the restaurant was the Warehouse. Read the comments for more details. Success!

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Home Kitchen stops cooking

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Home Kitchen at 309 E. Foothill in Pomona closed recently. I’d never been there but passed by frequently over the years. Then in January I noticed all the letters were gone from the face of the building. Yep, it’s closed.

“No lease,” explains a message on a whiteboard that directs diners to Ho’s Silver Spoon at 150 S. Grand Ave. in Glendora, which is owned by the same people.

Click on the thumbnail photo at right for a larger view of the message and full directions. What a public-spirited fellow I am. Ho’s gets decent reviews on Yelp.

Some of you may recall that circa 2000, the Pomona building had a Winchell’s on the other end where you could watch them make the donuts. It was an experiment and didn’t last long. Home Kitchen was in the other half of the building probably since the beginning. Nothing ever replaced Winchell’s. Now the entire building is vacant.

Incidentally, in the small patio area when I visited a week ago, the H from the Home Kitchen sign was lying face-down on a table, as if someone couldn’t be bothered to haul away the last letter.

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Remembering Taco Kitchen

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The former Taco Kitchen is now Simpsons Floor Covering, 2911 Bonita Ave., La Verne.

Reader Bill Lukens, now residing in Marin County, writes:

“Reading about Henry’s reminded me of the great Taco Kitchen located in the middle of an orange grove in an old pump house at the end of Bonita Avenue in La Verne. In those days Bonita did not go through to Claremont, it stopped on the edge of the orange grove just out of the east side of town. You took a small one-lane road into the middle of the grove to find the restaurant.

“On hindsight the food was not just good, it was outstanding. The owners, Elsie and Marshall Moss, presided over every meal. One of them was always there.

“Local people waited the tables and each plate had to pass under the eyes of Elsie or Marshall before it hit your table. The enchiladas were to die for coming piping hot, right from the oven, with the cheese still bubbling. And the tacos and beef tostadas were the best I have tasted even to today.

“The restaurant was always full. Right up to the last time I went there in 1970, it was good to the last plate. I often have thought of starting a Taco Kitchen in Tiburon where I now live and replicating the great recipes accumulated by Elsie and Marshall from their trips to Mexico.

“The funny thing was that it was located in La Verne, whose population was American mainstream. But oh how they loved the Taco Kitchen — La Verne’s little surprise.”

What a nice reminiscence. Thanks, Bill. Here’s some additional information: Taco Kitchen’s address was Fourth Street at Fulton Road (phone number LYcoming 4-2453). The building dates to 1944 and today, heavily remodeled, it’s home to Simpsons Floor Covering and an insurance office. No enchiladas or orange groves in sight.

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