Column: ‘Repo Man’ local reference is anything but generic

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Friday’s column — I’m back! — kicks off with a few words about the 20th anniversary of the movie “Repo Man,” which has a Pomona reference. (Above, Emilio Estevez, left, and Harry Dean Stanton in a scene from the film.) After that: Culture Corner items, Claremont items, a quick note about my vacation and a plug for three upcoming events around my “Pomona A to Z” book, two of them this Saturday and one of them on the radio.

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Restaurant of the Week: Tahoe Joe’s

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Tahoe Joe’s, 3968 Grand Ave. (at Spectrum East), Chino; open daily

Tahoe Joe’s, a Fresno-based steakhouse chain, opened its first Southern California location on Chino’s restaurant row in July, where it replaced La Creperie, perhaps the steakhouse’s spiritual opposite. Based on the lunchtime crowd Sunday when I visited, it’s a success, compared to my quiet lunch at La Creperie with friends a couple of years ago.

The look reminds me of Lazy Dog Cafe, which is meant to resemble a Wyoming ski lodge; Tahoe Joe’s, modeled on a Tahoe ski lodge, has an expansive covered patio, and the interior has a lot of pine, a stone fireplace near the entry, a bar and, overall, a kind of upscale-rustic feel. Both restaurants are stylish. It might also remind you of Wood Ranch BBQ.

Incidentally, the Yelp page currently says Joe’s is open for lunch only on weekends, hence my Sunday visit, but a sign out front says it’s open from 11 a.m. daily.

The menu has steaks, seafood, salads and sandwiches with entrees ranging from $14 to $31. As you can imagine, Joe’s isn’t vegetarian-friendly, with only one item, a pasta, without meat. I went with the signature Joe’s Steak, a tri-tip slow-roasted for 19 hours and rolled in black pepper; this came with green beans and a choice of potato or rice (lunch price $14 for the 6-ounce portion).

It took a while to arrive — maybe it had only roasted for 18 1/2 hours when I placed my order — and the server volunteered a couple of apologies. Not that I minded, as I brought plenty to read. The steak was pretty good, thick-cut and with a smoky taste, and 6 ounces was a good portion (there was a 10-ounce option for a few dollars more). I got rice pilaf as my choice, and I even ate most of my green beans, which I never do. But I passed on their signature cheesecake.

For those interested, the bar has 18 beers, a selection of martinis and 20 wines by the glass, and there’s a happy hour.

It was a comfortable experience even for a solo diner, and there’s nothing pretentious about the place. Worth checking out, at least if you like meat.

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Restaurant photos added for Claremont, La Verne, Pomona

As with Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana, I’ve focused in recent months on updating 2007-09 Restaurant of the Week posts from Claremont, La Verne and Pomona, adding photos to these photo-less posts and, if I ate there again, a few lines about the meal.

Click on the names to find the updates for, in Claremont, CasablancaLa ParolacciaLa Piccoletta and Malott Commons; in La Verne, the Habit, Red Devil PizzaSal’s Pizza and Bagelry and the Tenderloin; and in Pomona, Hilltop Jamaican, Macho Pollo and Omana’s. And I (why not?) added a photo to a Pomona-based entry from 2008 about Mexican Coca-Cola.

I also cleaned up the restaurants listings for Claremont, La Verne and Pomona, shifting any closed restaurants (that I know about) to the Inland Valley Eatin’ category with the notation “CLOSED.”

Further updates to other cities as time permits.

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In praise of libraries and library taxes

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On Monday I emailed L.A. book critic, KPCC contributor, lending library owner (Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights), former NEA official and literacy advocate David Kipen to share my column about Measure PPL on Tuesday’s ballot to aid the Pomona Public Library. He’d cared enough to attend a Pomona council meeting in 2012 about the library.

He replied with a short but thoughtful essay for me to share if I chose — and I do choose.

“Name me a great man or woman who never owned a public library card. I defy you. On the off chance they don’t use the card much anymore, it’s because they’ve parlayed early library use into the kind of success that buys you any book you need, or earns you access to a great university library.

“The only reason I can think of not to support a library bond issue is if you’ve been so burned by the dumb things government sometimes does that you don’t trust it anymore to do a smart one. I can understand that. I can understand it better than a former G-man like me ought to admit. But I promise you this: If you think your government wastes your money now, just wait until your local library cuts its hours, or closes completely. Just wait till people without library cards start casting the deciding vote — the few of them who bother to vote at all — to elect your leaders. Then you’ll see what government incompetence really looks like.

“But if I can’t convince you to support your library, just make me this one promise in return. After the library bond passes without you, do me a favor and pay a visit to your new library. Look around you. See a librarian, who could be making triple the salary in a law firm across town, helping somebody who just lost a job find work. See a librarian connecting patrons with novels that somehow make them feel just a little less alone. See a librarian reading to kids whose parents don’t make the time to. See all this — and then see if you don’t, like me, find yourself supporting library funding every chance you get.”

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Reading Log: October 2014

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Books acquired: none

Books read: “The Machineries of Joy,” Ray Bradbury; “Chips Off the Old Benchley” and “No Poems, Or Around the World Backwards and Sideways,” Robert Benchley; “The Tomb and Other Tales,” H.P. Lovecraft; “God and Mr. Gomez,” Jack Smith.

Welcome back, bookworms! (“Thank you, Mr. Allen.”) Time to share what we read in October. I’ll start: Five books, all from favorite authors.

I’ve read a book per year by H.P. Lovecraft for four years now, one by Jack Smith per year for three and the same for Robert Benchley for a couple of years, I think. And Ray Bradbury is, of course, one of my absolute favorites, one whose oeuvre I’ve been rereading; it’d been a year or two since I read anything by him.

“Machineries,” from 1964, is where Bradbury started softening, a process that only picked up momentum from here, alas. Still, it’s got some sharp stories amid the gauziness.

I read Benchley’s “Chips,” a posthumous collection of humorous essays that had been published but uncollected, over a few weeks; it was disappointing. Dusting off my Benchley books, I noticed that “No Poems” had a note inside of the 13 essays I hadn’t read in the slightly shorter British edition that I’d had previously. Why hadn’t I gone ahead and read them when I bought the book three or four years ago? No idea, but I went ahead and read them, completing a second Benchley book this month. The extras weren’t so hot, but the book as a whole is much better than “Chips,” with a lot of prime material.

Lovecraft’s “Tomb” had a lot of marginal material too, as it’s plumped out with some teenage stories and later fragments. But the bulk of the collection is in the Lovecraft mode of atmospheric, slightly purple horror.

Lastly, 1974′s “God and Mr. Gomez” by Smith, the late L.A. Times columnist, is his most famous, telling the story of his and his wife’s decision to commission a Baja vacation home from a man named Romulo Gomez, who is quite the character. People love this book, the only one most people know; my guess is that’s because it hangs together as a book better than collections of random or related columns, and because building a getaway in a foreign country appeals to dreamers. I liked it, but didn’t love it.

As for the origins of these books in my life, “Machineries” dates to childhood, “Chips” may go back 20 years and “No Poems,” “The Tomb” and “Gomez” are relatively recent, probably within the past five or six years. I think “Gomez” came from Bookfellows in Glendale (It’s signed, by the way), “The Tomb” from downtown LA’s Last Bookstore in 2011 and “Machineries” from the long-gone Double R Book Nook in Olney, Ill.

So that was my October. I wanted to read a Dave Barry book, or finish another Poe collection, but that’s okay. I kept pace with four authors and that was satisfying. I have more books by each to read and will steadily make my way through them.

What have you been reading?

By the way, the photo below is extra-boring because the Benchleys don’t have dust jackets; that’s “Chips” on the upper left and “No Poems” at upper right.

Next month: another month of weird heroes.

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Possible new names for Deja Vu

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The Deja Vu strip club outside Montclair is no more, with a bar slated to occupy the building under the same owners, Tollis Inc. It’s the subject of my Sunday column. To eliminate any hanky-panky, San Bernardino County planners and lawyers set down a list of possible new names for the business. I couldn’t resist sharing them.

From the conditions of approval:

“Tollis shall select the name of the business operated in the Building from the following names, which have been mutually agreed to by the Parties:

a. Ontario Food & Beverage

b. Deja Vu Comedy and Sports Bar

c. The Gay 90′s

d. The Roaring 20′s

e. Deja Vu Bar & Night Club

f. Hammered Harry’s

g. Club Paradise

h. The Iron Rail, or

i. Shooters Sports Bar.”

That’s, um, quite the gamut. So the new business will either have an 1890s theme, or a 1920s theme, or a tropical theme, or maybe a Hooters knockoff theme, or…

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