Column: Upland’s New China now part of history

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Sunday’s column wraps up (one hopes) the story of New China, the Upland restaurant that was subject of a blog post here in mid-March. I came up with some history of the restaurant and its predecessor, the Sage Hen. Also: two Culture Corner items and one on my film series at the Ontario library.

Above and below, photos by Matthew Landes from the Growing Up in Upland Facebook page of New China’s interior, shot a year ago.

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Restaurant of the Week: Szechuwan Garden

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Szechuwan Garden, 8851 Central Ave. (at Arrow), Montclair; open daily

This ’80s strip mall has had a Chinese restaurant of one name or another for 30 years: first Royal China, then Golden Buddha and then, since 1998, Golden China. When it closed in 2014, after a long run, its replacement was yet another Chinese restaurant, Szechuwan Garden.

Thankfully, they made the place over, ditching some of the dated touches that left you wondering if A Flock of Seagulls might drop in for a pu-pu platter. The dining room is more industrial now, the lighting is focused and the atmosphere less tacky.

The menu is slightly more interesting than your typical Chinese American restaurant — shredded pork with dry bean curd, chow fun — but largely has familiar dishes, even moo goo gai pan, and cream cheese wontons, but no orange chicken at least.

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I had lunch there last month with a friend. He got tangerine chicken off the lunch menu ($7), while I got one of the chef’s specialties, Mao braised pork belly ($13). His came with soup, salad and egg roll. They gave me a soup to be nice.

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He liked his lunch, and mine was pretty good too, soft chunks of pork belly atop sauteed spinach, with brown rice on the side. Inland Empire had named it to its 10 Dishes to Die For list, a display at the entrance had boasted.

This isn’t San Gabriel-style authentic Chinese food, and thus I wouldn’t recommend driving across the valley to eat here. That said, it’s clean and comfortable, a small step up from Golden China, and in a time when decent sitdown places for traditional Chinese food are becoming scarce, I wish them luck.

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Column: LCD Soundsystem in Pomona: This is happening

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You may not know who LCD Soundsystem is, but the important thing is, a lot of music fans do, and they were buzzing about a show by the band in Pomona on Monday, a semi-secret show that drew 1,700 to the Fox on only three days’ notice. Was this the most talked-about cultural event of 2016 for the Inland Valley? Time will tell, but maybe. My Wednesday column tells the story.

Above, two photos before the concert; below, two photos after. So many people!

Videos of many of the songs from the concert have been uploaded from fans’ phones. Here’s one: “Home.” Oh, and “This is Happening,” referenced in the headline, is the title of their third album.

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Happy 100th, Beverly Cleary

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Children’s author Beverly Cleary, writer of more than 30 books, many starring Ramona and Beezus Quimby and their friends, turns 100 today.

She was born Beverly Bunn in McMinnville, Oregon, on April 12, 1916. When her family moved to Portland, a school librarian encouraged her to write. She attended Chaffey Junior College, on the Chaffey High campus in Ontario, during the Depression, from 1934 to 1936, because tuition was free. She boarded the first year at 328 Princeton St. and her sophomore year worked at the Ontario Public Library.

That was the end of her time here, but she memorialized that time, and more of her early life, in her 1995 memoir, “My Own Two Feet.”

The Washington Post interviewed Cleary in mid-March and she sounds sharp and in good spirits. She spends her days reading the newspaper and books. Today she plans to have carrot cake in a low-key event at her retirement home in Carmel.

Her publisher promotes April 12 as Drop Everything and Read Day, although this year they’re making an entire month out of it.

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Putting the ‘wood’ in Valwood Estates

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Someone must have driven into the fancy corner sign (Fairplex Drive and Avalon Avenue) marking the start of the Valwood Estates subdivision in Pomona, based on the damage. A piece of plywood covers the hole.

The tract has had its ups and downs — in 2005, the Post Office briefly stopped delivering there after a shooting, leading to protests — but the architects, Palmer & Krisel, evidently have a following: Someone on Flickr has posted the original sales brochure, and a website that tracks Krisel homes on the market has posted about the neighborhood multiple times the past few years, including this overview, which begins:

“Consisting of just over 500 Palmer & Krisel-designed homes built in 1955 by builders Weber-Burns, Valwood Estates offers relatively affordable modernism in western Pomona.”

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Restaurant of the Week: John’s Hamburgers

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John’s Hamburgers, 13511 Central Ave. (at Schaefer), Chino; open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily

“Since 1976,” the monument sign outside reads, enticing this history lover whenever I drive past this spot near Chino City Hall. The fact that the 3 p.m. close doesn’t work for an evening council meeting made a visit more of a challenge — one I accepted.

There’s a spacious dining room that must seat more than 100. John’s reminds me of a few other burger spots around the valley, like Terry’s in Rancho Cucamonga, where there’s a wide-ranging menu and a seasoned staff of actual grownups. Even though you order at the counter, the place fulfills a Denny’s-like function, with the veteran staff reminding you of diner waitresses.

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At John’s, you can get cinnamon roll french toast, omelets and scrambles, for instance, at breakfast, and eight salads, ribeye and New York steaks “from the broiler,” cheesecake and “homemade bread pudding.”

As it’s John’s Hamburgers, I got a cheeseburger with fries and soda ($7.28 with tax). It was your standard fast food meal, alas, not one to encourage a second visit from the distant land of Rancho Cucamonga.

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A closer look at the menu, though, showed more ambitious burgers, such as a hand-pressed 10-ounce Super Burger ($6), a meatloaf sandwich and more. Feeling a little foolish, but wanting to give John’s a fair shake, I once again ventured deep into the heart of Chino for a second lunch, this time ordering an albacore tuna melt ($6), which careful readers will recall as my baseline sandwich. Served on grilled sourdough, this was a pretty good sandwich and redeemed the place.

On the other hand, I substituted “fresh fruit” for fries and was confronted with (sigh) an entire bowl of nothing but cantaloupe, which was dispiriting. If they’re going to go to that little effort, why not just hand customers a banana?

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I’d like to go back for the meatloaf, but I decided to cut off my research here rather than make a project out of the place. John’s is okay, if unexciting. But maybe soon to become peppier: A sign on my last visit read “Beer and wine coming soon” — how about that? Congratulations to them on 40 years in an ever-changing world.

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