Mod! 1965 Denny’s, Ontario

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I never paid much attention to the Denny’s off the Fourth Street exit of the 10 Freeway in Ontario, but it’s worth a look as it’s one of the oldest surviving examples in the Inland Valley.

Built in 1965, this 1409 E. Fourth St. restaurant is relatively unaltered architecturally, according to the Ontario Planning Department. It’s got an angled roof with a zig-zag profile, large plate glass windows and stone veneer columns (over concrete brick). Architects were Colwell and Ray of Orange.

“The design is a Denny’s prototype building that was created in the mid-1950s as part of the Googie movement. The Denny’s prototype design was built for several years in many California locations (mostly freeway adjacent),” according to Planning Director Scott Murphy.

No permit for the freeway pole sign could be found, but the signage has been updated.

There are squat palms by the entry, a feature that strikes me as midcentury. The interior has been updated quite a bit. But the ceiling, like the roof, angles steeply, the lamps hanging on long cords from the ceiling add style and the windows offer natural light and a modest view.

This Denny’s is certainly freeway close. You can walk out onto a little lawn that abuts the off-ramp, which is just feet away from the edge. It’s rare to be that close to a freeway, unless you happen to reside in the song “Freefallin’,” where there’s a freeway runnin’ through the yard.

I can’t recommend the food, not being a Denny’s fan, but it was worth a single visit to admire the place.

There are former Denny’s of the same or older vintage in Montclair (now a sushi bar across from Shakey’s) and Pomona (now a birrieria restaurant at Holt and Indian Hill), for the record.

Denny’s began as Danny’s Donuts in 1953 in Lakewood, became Danny’s Coffee Shop in 1956, switched to Denny’s Coffee Shop in 1959 to avoid confusion with the Coffee Dan’s chain, shortened its name to Denny’s in 1961 and began franchising in 1963, according to its Wikipedia entry.

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Column: It’s Mothers of Invention Day for Zappa fans

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Sunday’s column marks a footnote in music history: the day Frank Zappa’s band adopted the name the Mothers, later to become the Mothers of Invention, before a gig in Pomona. That occurred May 9, 1965 — 50 years ago.

Above, the former Broadside Club, top, seen in 2000 by Zappa fan Peter Mackay, and a current view by yours truly; below, the Sportsman Tavern, again by Mackay in 2000 and yours truly today. Their significance is explained in the column. Neither bar was open in 2000, having closed decades before, but at least the buildings look closer to their original form then.

Incidentally, the Frank Zappa Chronology (disclamatory motto: “Information is Not Knowledge”) was invaluable in fixing dates and locations.

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Column: Boys’ Brigade once turned boys to men in Pomona

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Friday’s column looks back at Boys’ Brigade, an international youth group that had a chapter for decades in Pomona at Pilgrim Church. One of its most popular leaders recently died, with services coming on Saturday, making this a good time to delve into the story of why church boys were camping out and marching around with unloaded rifles.

Above and below, three undated photos from the church’s collection.

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Restaurant of the Week: Septembers

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Septembers Taproom and Eatery, 6321 Haven Ave. (at Lemon), Rancho Cucamonga

In the old McAlan’s Pub building in the Trader Joe’s and Vons centers, Septembers is a welcome gastropub with local brews and better than average food, concentrating on classic American sandwiches.

Reader Dave Paniagua, who had earlier drawn my attention to Ontario’s Corner Deli, alerted me to Septembers, and since I’m now a regular at Corner Deli, I took his tip seriously.

Septembers is quiet on a lunch hour, with a few people around the bar and only a few diners. They have beer and wine, plus some cocktails. The interior is pleasantly industrial, with high-top and regular tables under an exposed ceiling, distressed wood walls and corrugated steel accents.

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Virtually everything on the menu was potentially of interest to me.

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Well, not nachos, but you get the idea. It’s a a well-designed menu, too, isn’t it?

They have several set lunch specials, all for $8. First time I got one of those, a grilled chicken sandwich with fries. It was good enough that I returned the next week to order off the regular menu. I got a sloppy joe — how often do you see that on a menu? — that was made with chuck and brisket on a long roll ($14, first photo below). An excellent version of the old-school classic. The criss-cut fries, with your choice of seasoning (I got sea salt and vinegar), were addictive.

Next visit I got a shrimp po’boy ($14, second photo below). Served open face, it was overstuffed and strictly knife and fork. Good, yet maybe too much of a good thing. The side of mac and cheese was excellent.

I’ve gone back three times since, making this one of the best-researched Restaurant of the Week posts ever. The Italian panini melt ($14) was a little boring and so big I couldn’t finish it even if I’d wanted to. The classic burger ($11, third photo below) with onion rings was very good; two onion rings don’t sound like much, but they were very large. That time I finally had room for dessert, getting the apple crisp a la mode ($5, bottom); as you can see, they didn’t skimp on the ice cream. And most recently, the fish and chips ($12) were meaty.

I’m not a drinker, so in that sense this may be the most poorly researched Restaurant of the Week ever, but I can tell you they have local brews such as Dale Brothers and Hangar 24. Margaritas are $3 on Mondays, wines are $3 on Wednesdays and you can get a $6 sampler paddle of beers on Thursdays.

If no dish has wowed me, everything has been solid, and my impression of the place is positive. I appreciate that the chefs are using quality ingredients and raising everything up a notch. A sandwich and an iced tea will set you back about $20 with tax and tip. If you can splurge a little, it’s worth it.

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A gift of art, Ontario

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Downtown Ontario’s Chaffey Community Museum of Art has received two gifts, both of them as a result of a new parking structure next door.

The structure, on Transit Street (see bottom picture; view is from the structure’s southeast corner), serves the new San Bernardino County Health Department office building on the long-vacant southeast corner of Holt Boulevard and Euclid Avenue. The museum, housed since 2013 in a 1907-built power building at 217 S. Lemon St., is in the same block as the two-level parking structure.

First, a round concrete pad for sculptures near the museum entrance was added at the city’s request during the cement pours for the parking structure and curbing (see photo above).

Second, and more intriguingly, there’s a rock basket, made as a decorative element for the front lawn (see photo up top). How that came about is worth noting.

Fullmer Construction built the structure. Museum staffer Jenelle Lowry struck up a friendship with the work crew, watching over the site for them, while they kept the front of the museum clear of construction dust and debris, and with supervisor Gary Rue. She asked him to save her some scrap rebar for a future art project.

Rue got inspired, recalling the sight of rock baskets in Boulder City, Arizona, during a recent visit. He hit up some colleagues for materials and built the basket and rocks as a present for the museum.

“The entire project was made with scrap material from the construction of the parking structure,” marveled museum president Nancy DeDiemar Jones. “The rebar is fixed in a cement pad that has been partly sunk into the grass. Before the river rocks were added (and I think those came from the construction site too) the rebar and cement pad weighed 400 pounds, so it is unlikely someone will walk off with the rock basket.”

It’s certainly a novel addition to the museum. Rue will be honored June 14 at the museum’s artists reception. He should exchange his hard hat for a beret.

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Reading Log: April 2015

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Books acquired: none.

Books read: “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” “R is for Rocket,” “S is for Space,” “The Vintage Bradbury,” Ray Bradbury; “My Ideal Bookshelf,” Thessaly La Force and Jane Mount.

Greetings, readers! Welcome to the latest installment of my ongoing chronicle of stuff I’ve been reading — and your own ongoing chronicle, if you’re a regular commenter.

April saw me reading four — count ’em, four — books by my main man Ray Bradbury, as well as one unique art book.

As careful readers may recall, a few years back I read all the late period Bradbury, much of which was subpar, frankly; this led me to revisit his early classic work, which I hadn’t read since boyhood. That’s been a happier experience.

This time I read his 1962 novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” which proved a pleasant surprise. I had only vague memories of the book and of the lackluster movie version, but the writing is poetic and matters of age are explored in intriguing fashion. The plot concerns two best friends, a father who feels old before his time, a creepy carnival and a merry-go-round that erases years from your age, a year for every turn, but at a price. This is arguably Bradbury’s last fully realized work, with the possible exception of “From the Dust Returned” in 2001.

“R is for Rocket” and “S is for Space” are mid-1960s collections aimed at the young adult market, such as it was back then. They’re grab-bags but worth seeking out for fans, as a few of the stories are otherwise unavailable. “The Vintage Bradbury” is a 1965 best-of that has most of his classic stories, aside from “A Sound of Thunder” — is it possible what’s now his best-known story wasn’t so well-regarded then? — with only a few weaker selections that betray his mainstream aspirations. But the ones that verge on horror (like “The Small Assassin,” about a mother convinced her baby wants to kill her), have a gleefully nasty edge. “Vintage” is fairly easy to find used and is worth the effort. It will suffice until he gets a Library of America collection.

At this point I’ve re-read Bradbury’s work through the mid-’60s, with only three or four books to go after this before I’m back to where I started.

“My Ideal Bookshelf” is a fun book about books. A variety of creative types — writers, artists, chefs, fashion designers, graphic designers, musicians and more — were asked to compile a shelf of books that they particularly like or that define them in some way. An artist painted such a shelf with the real spines of the books, facing a page in which the person is interviewed about their choices or reading life.

I’m using it as an autograph book and, since its 2012 publication, have collected five contributor signatures, from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Kim Gordon, Pico Iyer, Jonathan Lethem and Francine Prose. More to come (I hope)!

That book was purchased at Vroman’s in Pasadena; the others all date to my childhood.

What were you reading in April? Probably a greater variety of authors or subjects than my choices.

Next month: More sf, but not by Bradbury.

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Column: Blocked Wal-Mart means end of Frisella’s in La Verne

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Sunday’s column begins with news that could be considered ironic: A mom and pop eatery in La Verne for 20 years, Frisella’s Roastery, is closing because a Wal-Mart isn’t going in, at least not soon. There were hopes a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market would help revive an ailing shopping center with no anchor tenant, but with a lawsuit putting the market on ice, Frisella’s decided not to renew its lease.

Also, I’ve got Culture Corner items, more La Verne items and dialogue from an episode of CBS’ “Scorpion” about Pomona.

Above, manager Henry Durazo slices some of the restaurant’s signature tri-tip.

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Restaurant of the Week: Noodle World Jr.

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Noodle World Jr., 2440 W. Arrow Route (at Monte Vista), Upland

This small chain opened a location out our way in April 2014. Technically it’s in Upland, but it’s only a couple hundred yards from the Claremont border. In fact, with Claremont McKenna right across nearby Claremont Boulevard, it’s possible Noodle World Jr. is closer to some of the campuses than any other restaurant.

Pay attention, students: Noodle World is a sit-down restaurant with locations in Alhambra, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Marino and Westwood; Noodle World Jr., which is only in Hollywood, Downey and now Upland, is fast-casual (order at the counter) and with a limited menu.

It’s pan-Asian, with items representing China (fried rice), Japan (ramen, udon), Thailand (various noodle dishes) and Vietnam (pho). And they have boba, although not enough to satisfy a boba connoisseur. There’s seating inside as well as outdoors in a covered courtyard with a high dome roof.

I’ve been there twice so far. First time I got garlic chicken ($8.25, pictured below), which is chicken sauteed with garlic flakes, served on rice. I’ve had this at Thai restaurants like Mix Bowl and this was a very good example. I also had a Thai tea with boba ($3).

Next visit I tried the spicy beef ramen ($8.25, bottom), which has tonkotsu broth, noodles, bean sprouts, seaweed and stewed beef. I’m no ramen specialist, but this made for a satisfying meal on a cool evening. (A professor friend at the colleges calls this “an A- rendition of the classic.”) A taro smoothie with boba ($3.75) hit the spot too. Since then I’ve been back for beef steak with rice ($8.75), another winner.

This won’t replace favored Asian spots in the 626 or beyond for those who can parse ramen varieties or know regional Chinese cooking, but for a local option, especially in Asian food-poor Upland and Claremont. Noodle World Jr. is quite welcome. And I suspect it’s practically an unofficial Claremont Colleges dining hall.

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