Thai royalty lived like princes in La Verne

elvis_presley_the_king_and_queen_of_thailand3Above, Elvis Presley meets the queen and king of Thailand in 1960 during the filming of “G.I. Blues.”

The king and queen of Thailand visited the United States in 1960, a vacation that began with a week seeing the sights in Southern California before turning into an official state visit. They flew into Ontario International Airport and stayed, believe it or not, at a private residence in La Verne, with much of their retinue lodging at the Uplander motel in Upland. The story is in my Wednesday column.

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Claremont hosts first Restaurant Week

City of Eats? July 9 to 16, Tuesday to Tuesday, is the first “Claremont Restaurant Week,” in which 20 participating restaurants will offer two-course lunch and three-course prix fixe dinner menus. The city’s goal, says the Chamber of Commerce, is “to showcase its many pubs, grills, sandwich shops, bakeries and fine dining restaurants.”

The menus will run $10 to $40, depending on the restaurant, and all will have their regular menus too. Participants: Aruffo’s (Italian), Casa de Salsa (Mexican), Casa Moreno (Mexican), The Lounge at Hotel Casa 425 (small plates), Eddie’s New York Pizzeria (Italian), Espiau’s (American and Mexican), Euro Café (Portuguese), Kazama Sushi (Japanese), La Parolaccia Osteria Italiana (Italian), The Last Drop Café (special lunch menu), Loving Hut Claremont (vegan), The Orchard at the DoubleTree by Hilton Claremont (California fusion), Packing House Wine Merchants (American bistro), Pita Pit Claremont (Greek), Pizza ‘N Such (Italian), The Press Restaurant (American), Saca’s Mediterranean CuisineTutti Mangia Italian Grill (Italian), Walters (Mediterranean, American) and Z Pizza (Italian).

For more information, including menus, see www.ClaremontRestaurant.com.

There are some prominent opt-outs (Some Crust, Back Abbey, Union on Yale, Eureka, to name a few), but the list does include some good places.

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101 Best Food Trucks

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Food Truck Thursdays at Fairplex.

The website The Daily Meal has compiled its picks for the 101 Best Food Trucks in America. The list roams from New York City to Los Angeles, Seattle to Miami. One surprise is how many list-worthy food trucks they found in Nashville, Tenn., and St. Louis, Mo. Even Wichita, Kan., made the list. Food trucks aren’t a California phenomenon.

The No. 1 choice is from the Big Apple, but 16 L.A. trucks are represented. And if you live in the Inland Valley and are diligent about it, you could have eaten at most of them without leaving the 909.

No. 2 is Kogi BBQ, which sends a truck to Pomona nearly every Thursday, where it parks at Temple and Pomona boulevards near Cal Poly Pomona.

I’ve had food from most of the rest, including the Buttermilk Truck (No. 12), the Grilled Cheese Truck (No. 22), Crepes Bonaparte (No. 46) and Ludo Truck (No. 52), which have shown up at Food Truck Thursdays at Fairplex, the L.A. County Fair, the weekly Claremont Craft Ales event and/or the food truck festivals at the arena in Ontario.

Food trucks also show up at local school fundraisers and other such events from time to time. I know I’ve seen India Jones (No. 73) and Nom Nom (No. 51), but haven’t tried them yet. Haven’t seen the Border Grill truck, although I know it’s been to Claremont once. I’ve also had food from the Lobsta Truck (No, 56), but that was in Long Beach. Tasty lobster rolls.

I should lobby some of those St. Louis trucks to rumble out my way.

Have you been to any of the trucks on the list, here or elsewhere?

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Pieology coming to Rancho Cucamonga

Pieology, a pizza parlor, is coming to Rancho Cucamonga, according to its website. The current locations are Irvine Spectrum and Fullerton. Pieology is a fast-fired pizzeria where the pizzas are done in five minutes. It replaces Okawa Sushi and Grill Relax the Back on Day Creek Boulevard, just below Foothill Boulevard and Victoria Gardens, in the Sears Grand center.

* In related news, the Slater’s 50/50 coming to Victoria Gardens is slated (har!) to open in July, and Brio Tuscan Grille, a national Italian restaurant chain, will open in the VG’s former Borders space later this year.

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Slater’s 50/50 coming to Rancho Cucamonga

Rancho Cucamonga is getting its first gastropub, and it’s a hot name. Slater’s 50/50 is a small chain that began in Anaheim Hills in 2009 and has expanded to four other locations with its beer (100 craft and local beers on tap) and burgers that are half beef, half bacon. Haven’t had one, but it sounds interesting, and Slater’s has won a bunch of “best burger” honors.

Now one is coming to the former Harry’s Pacific Grill building on Day Creek Boulevard on the edge of Victoria Gardens. “This summer,” Slater’s website says.

Btw, my Restaurant of the Week feature will return next Friday.

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Restaurant merry-go-round

• Oporto Chicken outlets in Rancho Cucamonga, Glendora and Ontario, the first three in the United States for an Australian fast-food chain, are now known as Feisty Chicken, a locally owned concept. Break it gently to Crococile Dundee.

• The EZ Take Out Burger at Foothill and Central in Upland will become Ramiro’s Mexican Food No. 2.

• LYL Garden in Claremont, the Chinese restaurant that replaced China Star in 2009, has become a Casa Jimenez.

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Restaurant of the Week: Golden China

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Golden China, 8851 Central Ave. (at Arrow Highway), Montclair

The sign outside Golden China was glowing as were the paper lantern-shaped lamps outside when a friend and I met here for dinner on a Friday night. I’d never been here but we were drawn by the four-star Yelp rating.

Inside the place is very 1980s, with vinyl booths and mirrored walls. Charmingly old school. (The decor likely originated with Royal China, there from 1987 to 1996; for the record, it was followed by the shortlived Golden Buddha. Golden China opened in 1998. A future incarnation as Royal Buddha would round things out nicely.) There’s a well-stocked bar at which drinks are mixed. You can see the menu here.

We tried two of the specialties, black pepper chicken ($12.55, below) and sizzling rice shrimp ($16, bottom), both as dinners with soup, egg roll, paper-wrapped chicken and rice. The platter of white-meat chicken pieces came with onions and black pepper. My shrimp arrived on a sizzling platter. The dish had a welcome number of large shrimp in a sweet sauce with unusual crisp rice puffs.

My friend and I liked his dish more than we liked mine. When Yelp reviewers rave about the orange chicken, you know you’re not getting cutting-edge food. Ditto when you’re brought a cup of jello to end your meal, as well as the requisite fortune cookie. But the service was efficient and attentive. Not a four-star restaurant, and you can do better, but for Americanized Chinese food, it’s homey.

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Ramon’s Cactus Patch closes

Say it ain’t so! But it is. Ramon’s Cactus Patch, a Mexican restaurant in existence in Ontario since 1938, had its last day of business March 30.

Owner and founder Ramon Sanchez, who will turn 99 on May 21, has colon cancer and his illness has put too much of a strain on the family-run restaurant, the family told me Friday. The restaurant is typically closed Sunday and Monday. On Sunday, during a family meeting, they decided not to reopen Tuesday.

I’ll have the story in Sunday’s column. The banner pictured above hangs outside the restaurant and represents Sanchez’ farewell message to customers.

Sanchez began serving Mexican food in Ontario in 1937 at a cantina and opened his own restaurant the following year in the Orange Hotel downtown before moving in 1962 to 647 W. California St. in the barrio. Ramon’s Cactus Patch, which has a cactus garden out front, is Ontario’s longest-operating restaurant.

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At 20, Panda Inn gets a facelift

Ontario’s Panda Inn has been here since 1992 and recently underwent a million-dollar renovation. Friday’s column talks about the restaurant chain’s ahead-of-the-curve decision to open here and the remodel. Above, Manee Coe and Gigi Cheung flank Andrew Cherng, CEO and co-founder of Panda Restaurant Group, at the Ontario Panda Inn last week.

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Restaurant of the Week: Phil House

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Phil House, inside Island Pacific Seafood Market, 6753 Carnelian Ave. (at 19th), Rancho Cucamonga

Like Market World, the Korean market chain that occupied this old Alpha Beta (and later IGA), the similarly Asian-grocery specialist Island Pacific Market has a small food court. Having never dined inside a supermarket before, I invited a friend for lunch.

The main food stall is a Filipino buffet, and there’s also a small dim sum stall. A couple of other spots are vacant. The market only opened in November. We lined up at the buffet, named Phil House. (Presumably no relation to reader Bob House.) It’s a little like a Panda Express: If you want a combo of one or more items, they grab a styrofoam container that already has rice in it and will add whichever items you request.

They had various pork, chicken, beef and seafood items, including barbecue skewers, and soups and stews. Other than an eggplant dish, we didn’t see any vegetables. Nothing is labeled, but we asked about various items that looked appealing. I had a pork dish and a soup with fish ($6, pictured below). My friend had a different pork dish and some kind of barbecued fish. No way you’re going to duplicate our order because even we don’t know what we had.

We sat in a nearby roped-off area of tables and chairs near the other stall. My grilled pork was tasty and the sauce at the bottom, flavored with onions and peppers, was great with a little rice mixed in. The soup, a broth with chunks of whitefish, was also enjoyable. My friend liked his fish (even though he had to pick out all the bones) and his other dish.

His wife arrived and got steamed buns from the dim sum stall. I had a pork bun (price unknown), and that was good too. The staff could be seen making them in the kitchen. About the only place I ever get steamed buns is the Famima in Union Station, and as you’d expect, these were better.

So, yes, you’d be eating inside a supermarket, but the food was good, fresh and cheap. Even if it might not have catchy names.

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