‘Bar Rescue': Upland’s ‘Brokedown Palace’

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Without cable, I needed a place to watch the “Bar Rescue” episode Sunday about The Palace in Upland. So I chose San Biagio’s N.Y. Pizza, which is directly across Seventh Street from the bar. In fact, the TV crew had used an empty storefront next to Biagio’s as their office during the taping back in March.

Watching the show there was a slightly unreal experience. As seen in the photo above, you could watch the episode on one wall-mounted TV (that’s some of the Palace staff on the screen) and then look out the window to see the Palace itself, the orange-tan building in the background.

Pizzeria owner Biagio Pavia watched much of the episode with me. It was late afternoon, before the dinner crowd. The enthusiastic Pavia tried to encourage a customer near the TV to watch; he claimed not to be interested, although he did chime in at times. Another couple professed polite interest.

People are so jaded in Southern California. A neighboring business is on national television right at that instant and they’re like, shrug.

Pavia, though, was curious, keeping up a running commentary of questions and comments, many of the “What is that?” variety, while I was trying to listen and take notes. I had to explain at times that what was on the screen was a commercial.

Anyway, the Palace was run by two brothers-in-law who didn’t get along, surveillance of the kitchen showed cross-contamination, the decor and vibe didn’t seem very Middle Eastern and the bartenders didn’t know how to pour a drink, or even grip a bottle properly.

The bar needed so much work, the “stress test” took place off-site, at Pomona’s Stein Haus, allowing the TV crew a full 36 hours to remake the Palace. The stress test was a disaster, with pita bread coming out of the kitchen hard as a rock and the bartenders completely overwhelmed. One was fired on the spot. Host Jon Taffer cut it short.

“You are the worst team we’ve ever seen!” Taffer shouted in frustration. Of course, reality TV hypes up the drama, as well as the results, and by the end, the brothers are friends again, the staff knows its business, the decor is lovely and business is up.

Pavia exclaimed, “They change everything, look!” as the new decor was unveiled.

I’m looking, I’m looking.

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President Obama visits Upland — the NYC restaurant, that is

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He hasn’t been to the City of Gracious Living, but President Obama did eat at Upland, the New York restaurant whose chef was born at San Antonio Hospital. Evidently Obama ate brunch there Saturday with daughters Malia and Sasha, reports Eater NY, which opines: “The leader of the free world has great taste in restaurants.” Thanks to readers Ann Lara and Matt Krupnick for the tip. Lara also found an Instagram video of Obama leaving the restaurant; in the still above, he’s in dark blue in the center of the frame.

My blog post about my visit to the restaurant is here, with a link to my column on the chef. Nice to know the president of the United States and I have similar taste in food. (We also both like Pi Pizza in St. Louis.)

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‘Pomona A to Z': where to buy

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July 18 marks the one-year anniversary of publication of my first book, “Pomona A to Z.” Gosh! It’s done quite well, selling more than 500 copies to date. And although events and sales have tapered off, it’s still selling.

Barbara Cheatley’s in Claremont just began stocking it in June; when I dropped off copies, three customers bought it before I could even leave the store. I sold two just this week to a Pomona couple, one for them and one for a friend who’s moving away.

If you’ve bought a copy, especially if you bought one directly from me at a signing or talk, thank you! It’s been gratifying to meet people and take their money. That’s said jocularly, but it’s sincerely true too: To have people like my work enough to show up to an event to meet me, and to pay me for my book (as opposed to simply reading me as part of the newspaper), has been a real boost. The extra income is modest, but for a fella working in newspapers in the 21st century, and under a recessionary wage freeze, it’s been useful, believe me.

Where can you buy a copy if you don’t have one, or want another?

Online, Amazon carries it, as does my Upland publisher Pelekinesis. These local businesses sell it:

• In Ontario, the Daily Bulletin (perhaps you’ve heard of it? 2041 E. Fourth St.; if I’m here, or if you make an appointment, I’ll sign it for you), Newsboy Books (215 N. Euclid Ave.), Graber Olive House (315 E. Fourth St.), the Museum of History and Art (225 S. Euclid Ave.) and Vince’s Spaghetti (1206 W. Holt Blvd.);

• in Upland, the Cooper Museum (217 A St.);

• in Montclair, Barnes and Noble (Montclair Plaza);

• in Claremont, Rhino Records (235 Yale Ave.), Heirloom (175 N. Indian Hill Blvd.) and Barbara Cheatley Antiques (215 Yale Ave.);

• in Pomona, Magic Door Books (155 W. Second St.), the DPOA office (119 W. Second St.), the Glass House Record Shop (248 W. Second St.), the dA Center for the Arts (252 S. Main St.), Funny Business Comics (896 N. Garey Ave.) and the Ebell Museum of History (585 E. Holt Ave.).

I’ll update this list if new venues are added. As for a second book — a collection of columns is in the works for 2017.

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Column: Pomona’s rumored rejection of Disneyland still animates people

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In Friday’s column, I take another swing at exploring and debunking the folklore that Pomona turned down Walt Disney when he approached the city about building Disneyland. There’s no evidence to support it. The park’s 60th anniversary is Friday, by the way. Above, Sleeping Beauty’s castle is seen under construction (in Anaheim). Below is the 1997 Daily Bulletin article that addressed the matter, taken from the Pomona Public Library’s history collection folder labeled “Disneyland Myth.” Thanks to today’s column, they’ve got a fresh piece to fill out the folder.

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Restaurant of the Week: King’s Fish House

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King’s Fish House, 12427 N. Main St. (Victoria Gardens), Rancho Cucamonga

King’s is one of the original tenants from the launch of Victoria Gardens in 2004. It’s a chain with just 11 locations in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona, the nearest one being in Corona. I’ve eaten at the VG one a few times over the years, usually when someone else is buying. (I ate there once with my parents, for instance.)

An editor owed me lunch recently after losing a work bet and, wanting to pinch his wallet a little but not too much, I chose King’s.

It’s in a prominent place, on the corner where many turn for the parking garage, and there’s plenty of seating, including a bar and a covered patio. The interior looks the same as I remember it, vaguely Art Deco. They were having a lobster promotion and a salmon promotion too.

The menu has grilled seafood, a few sandwiches, salads and small plates, an oyster bar and even sushi, with lunch entrees running $14 to $24, dinner up to $30.

I got lobster bisque ($5.75) and cedar plank salmon ($21). The friend buying my lunch opted for fish and chips ($16.50). He liked his dish. The bisque was a bit sweet, as the server had warned, due to cooking sherry (ooh la la). But it was fine. Ditto with the salmon, rice and veggies. The glaze wasn’t my favorite. But then, the whole lunch was all the sweeter because I wasn’t paying.

Still, maybe I missed my chance by not getting filet mignon and lobster tail ($45) or at least dessert. I am merciful in victory.

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So close, and yet so far apart

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A banner in Ontario International Airport behind the Travelers Aid information booth depicts those two bosom chums, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Ontario Mayor Paul Leon. Maybe they if actually met face to face, or side by side, we could get a resolution of the airport ownership issue (our mayor is a charming fellow), but this may be as close as we’ll see them. The previous, pre-Garcetti banner had Antonio Villaraigosa and Leon.

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Column: Go set a time to read ‘Mockingbird’ in public

Sunday’s column is about the “Go Set a Watchman” novel by Harper Lee, a sequel of sorts to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The new book is out Tuesday; the old one will be read aloud in a daylong event Monday at Barnes and Noble stores. If you can get to the Rancho Cucamonga store at 9 a.m., you can set, er, sit and watch me read the first chapter.

Or some of it, at least. I sat down Saturday at the Pomona Public Library to refamiliarize myself with that chapter. In the edition I picked up, it was 15 pages. I got a little tired of reading it silently and am not sure I’ll have the voice to read that much aloud. Also, the second and third pages, about the history of Maycomb, are kind of dull, and I could imagine eyes glazing over. But the chapter ends great, and I’ll see if I can get through the whole thing.

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