Remembering Don’s Hobby Hut

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Above, the vacant lot where Mustang Books used to stand.

In January I posted¬†about the demolition of Mustang Books, a long-standing dirty book emporium on Upland’s Central Avenue. But that wasn’t the first business in that building. Michael Guerin, who was the subject of a 2012 post about the Grove Theatre Pal Club of his youth, emailed me about more innocent shop of the 1960s. Take it away, Michael:

“Every time I pass the site of the former adult bookstore on the west side of Central just south of Foothill I am reminded of an earlier hobby shop that occupied the building.

“It was the 1960s and the concrete block building at the front of that lot was owned by a man named Don Domes and operated under the name Don’s Hobby Hut.

“This was at the time the only decent place to buy model cars and airplanes, early remote control aircraft and other hobby stuff.

“Don was a trendsetter in that he even had discontinued Revell or Monagram plastic model kits up on the high shelf available for some exorbitant price for those that were real aficionados.

“That place may have kept me alive in my elementary school years even into early teens.

“I don’t know that anyone’s mentioned it and it certainly doesn’t show any Google searches but I thought I would reminisce about it anyway in case it comes up in other conversations about local history.

“I think it closed down in the late ’70s or early ’80s and later as we all know it became a hobby shop of a different sort before being closed down and later bulldozed.”

Thanks, Michael. Now, if someone ever Googles “Don’s Hobby Hut Upland,” they’ll get one useful result.

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Restaurant of the Week: Upland

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Upland, 345 Park Ave. South (at 26th), New York City; open daily for lunch and dinner, with brunch on Sundays.

This will be a little different: a Restaurant of the Week post about a different part of the country. But under the circumstances, it works, as Inland Valley types are flocking to NYC’s Upland. Heck, more locals may find this post of practical value than some of my writeups on obscure noodle shops in Chino Hills.

Rather than create a “Restaurants: New York City” or “Restaurants: Anywhere But Here” category, I’ve simply slotted this in “Restaurants: Upland.” If it’s in the name, it counts, right?

First off, Upland is the subject of my June 24 column, which can be read here. In brief, Upland is the brainchild of an Upland-born chef, Justin Smillie, who makes his living in Manhattan. It opened in October 2014 after weeks of anticipation and has received a warm welcome from customers and many reviewers. I read about it in the New Yorker, a national publication.

(The magazine referred to Smillie’s home region as California’s “badlands.” Is that what we are? “That wasn’t very fair,” Smillie told me good-humoredly when I brought it up. “They probably haven’t even been there.” Later I noticed that the restaurant’s interior designers used the same phrase in an interview.)

Anyway, Upland is hot, a phrase probably never before applied to anything other than the city’s summertime temperatures. As my Brooklyn friend Matt, who hails from the City of Gracious Living, put it to me: “I don’t remember ever needing a reservation at a restaurant in Upland.”

I got in for lunch with a couple of days’ notice during my recent New York vacation. I met my friend Lesley from Queens, who is originally from Rancho Cucamonga. There are a lot of Inland Valley expatriates.

For us locals, there’s a weird thrill to walking up to the restaurant, which is on 26th no matter what the address says, and finding the name “Upland” on the awnings and vertical sign. Good spot for a Daily Bulletin on Vacation photo.

The menu at Upland changes monthly. Here’s what is being served in June for lunch.

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The entryway has jars of lemons, a nod to the real Upland.

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It was the tail end of the lunch hour when we arrived. The dining room has a lot of copper, green and oak, with a high ceiling, very pleasant, as well as a bar with four sides of seating, apparently popular with the after-work crowd. We ordered hamachi tartare ($18) as an appetizer and two entrees: mussels ($18) and sausage and kale pizza ($19), plus for dessert, a rhubarb and almond tart ($10).

The cooking has been described as California-Italian, with a lot of seasonal dishes and ingredients plus excellent pastas and pizzas, which are more Neapolitan than New York. We were very satisfied with our meal, and the service was cheerful and chatty.

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Near the end, I had to identify myself because I had an appointment with Smillie, a communication that, as I feared, resulted in having the meal comped. Oh well, it was vacation. As in the previous time or two that’s happened at restaurants, I’m disclosing that fact here.

The decor includes drawings of California produce (grapes, figs, lemons, artichokes) on the walls near the ceiling and a lot of green, which Smillie said reminds him of Etiwanda besides being his favorite color.

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It seems like there’s probably always one or more dishes with lemon, and June’s menu boasted the Upland Cheeseburger (“grass fed beef, american cheese, peppadew peppers + avocado”), of which Smillie told me: “I wanted to riff on the Double Double.” At $20, it might be double — double! — the cost of the most expensive burger in our Upland, but that says more about us than it does about the restaurant.

If you go, you might get to meet Smillie (pictured at bottom). And you can always ask for server Julia Tetrow, mentioned in my column as being from Redlands.

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Chronicles of None-ia: Library needs children’s DVDs

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A new piece of furniture in the Pomona Public Library children’s room looked unnecessary when I visited Thursday; from the entrance, the way the unit was turned, it was completely bare. On the side pictured, there’s one DVD, and three more on another side. And that was it.

Of the 70 child-friendly DVDs in the system, all but four were checked out. Neat, eh? Clearly there’s demand. Another 90 are waiting for a staffer to enter them into the catalog and otherwise prep them for checkout.

The library didn’t have any child-friendly DVDs until last year. That’s when the library partnered with the Inland Valley Humane Society to get some, and it’s looking for more. Donations of “gently used” DVDs and Blu-rays suitable for children and teens are accepted gratefully at the library, 625 S. Garey Ave. Tell ’em the David Allen Blog sent you.

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Column: Ontario acts right away on subsidy for giant QVC hub

Friday’s column breaks some news, as a close reading of this week’s Ontario council agenda, if not the actual proceedings, made clear that QVC is interested in leasing a giant warehouse soon to begin construction, for which the council offered a generous incentive. But QVC hasn’t formally agreed yet, meaning that either I got the jump on the news or we’ll all have to avert our eyes if the deal collapses.

I also have other news from the council meeting and two Culture Corner items, one about a Mexican cookbook, the other about a free screening of “Dr. Strangelove.”

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Vacation food: New York

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And here are some of the food sights from the New York City leg of my vacation. Above, a slice of pizza from a random spot in the Meatpacking District, which I point out mainly because it’s fun to type “Meatpacking District.” Anyway, it was a treat to walk from the sidewalk into an open storefront and buy a slice of pizza, a very New York thing to do and something that’s hard to pull off in the Inland Valley.

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On the Lower East Side, another great place name, friends and I ate at Russ and Daughters, a Jewish deli, getting the Hattie, a platter with, clockwise from lower left, baked salmon, sable, lox and (only partly visible) kippers, and potato salad in the center. I got a chocolate egg cream. The appeal of egg creams is lost on me, but it was as good as any other I’ve had. The platter was delicious and came with a basket of bagels, bialys, pumpernickel and more.

Most surprising sight at Russ and Daughters, and maybe my whole trip, was that among the wall displays over one booth was the scene below, cans of Ontario-made Graber Olives. Huh!

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In Washington, D.C., last fall I became acquainted with the East Coast chain Shake Shack, and was happy to have a chance to try them again. This is high-quality fast food.

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And I returned to a favorite from my only previous visit,¬†Junior’s in Grand Central Station, where I got chocolate swirl cheesecake.

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My last food before blowing town was a doughnut from Dough in Bed-Stuy. (Another place name that it’s fun to casually toss off, like a local.) They had only a few flavors, most unusual. I got hibiscus. Oh, man. Thick, chewy doughnut, with thick, flavorful icing and a few leaves of actual hibiscus. This is the first doughnut I’ve had to rival Donut Man’s strawberry doughnut, and I had to travel across the country to get it.

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Sorry you can’t immediately satisfy your cravings for these items, or the ones from St. Louis, but you can always book a trip if so inclined…

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Vacation food: St. Louis

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In lieu of a Restaurant of the Week post, here’s a report of eats from an exotic land, St. Louis, where I vacationed recently. Above, frozen custard from local favorite Ted Drewes (since 1929); below, the exterior of Crown Candy Kitchen, famous (since 1913) for its ice cream treats, tin ceiling and, more recently, its BLT made with a dozen slices of bacon. Love the brick building and vintage Coke sign.

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Toasted ravioli (with a cup of marinara for dipping) is a local innovation, as is St. Louis-style pizza, made with a crisp, cracker-like crust and processed cheese, cut into squares. It’s not to everyone’s taste, and it’s reminiscent of cheese and crackers, served hot. But I like it. (Those are anchovies on the half nearest the camera, by the way.) Both examples are from local chain Imo’s.

Below, pork ribs, brisket, slaw and applesauce from Pappy’s Smokehouse, plus a Fitz’s soda, bottled locally.

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Column: His St. Louis vacation was in the cards

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Wednesday’s column recaps highlights of my vacation, the Midwest part, and addresses the question of whether St. Louis is worth a visit. While you may be as unlikely to book a flight there as you would to Des Moines or Enid, the unsung city has more to offer than you might think: free museums, a giant park, a great baseball team and more. Plus water, and plenty of it.

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Daily Bulletin on Vacation, Pt. 2

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While in New York, I made a pilgrimage to — because the Empire State Building is passe — the intersection at which the cover for the Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique” album cover was shot circa 1989, Rivington and Ludlow on the Lower East Side.

Admittedly, it was a letdown, and I’d have had to have the album itself with me to compare then and now. Even then, the corner was somewhat fictional, as the Paul’s Boutique sign was added for the photo shoot.

Instead of a downscale sportswear shop, the corner now has a wraps place. One nice touch today is a street art mural of the boys on the side of the building, commissioned by a man who lobbied unsuccessfully to have the intersection honored as Beastie Boys Square.

Here’s my 2014 column on the album’s 25th anniversary and its Claremont connection.

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Daily Bulletin on Vacation, Pt. 1

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I brought a newspaper on my travels for the requisite Daily Bulletin on Vacation photo. Here’s the first of two that were taken in meaningful locations. In this case, at the Manhattan restaurant Upland, where I dined with Rancho Cucamonga expatriate Lesley Tellez and met chef Justin Smillie. Column to come.

By the way, the headline across the top of this Dec. 16, 2014 edition reads “Dave Allen picked for president.” Of the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, but who’s counting?

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