Restaurant of the Week: SpireWorks

SpireWorks Modern Döner, 2129 Baseline Road (at 210), Upland; open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

SpireWorks is a new chain with locations so far only in Eagle Rock, Westwood and Upland, with Thousand Oaks coming soon. Yes, we are part of the in crowd for a change.

Ours opened in the new Sycamore Hills Plaza straddling the Upland/Claremont border on Baseline immediately east of the 210. It’s kind of amazing to see this center spring to life on rocky, scrubby land I’d never paid any attention to. And now there’s a Whole Foods 365 there. The mind reels.

I met a friend at SpireWorks for lunch a couple of weeks ago, curious about döner after having had some in Germany last year. It’s not unfamiliar if you’ve been to a Mediterranean restaurant where they carve meat off a vertical spit. Döner is what they call that in Europe, where döner kebabs (sandwiches on pita bread) are very popular.

SpireWorks has beef and chicken döner, plus falafel. You can get them as plates, bowls or sandwiches. They also sell salads.

I had a beef döner plate with two sides ($12.50): tabbouleh and hummus. I won’t say I was transported back to Wittenberg, especially without a cobblestone street outside and a Lutheran church nearby, but I enjoyed it. The bread, rather than pita, was unusual.

My friend had a falafel bowl ($9.50), Istanbul style (more on that below), and said she liked the mild flavors. Personally, I think the sauce is overdone, but she gave me some falafel, and it was fine.

The sandwiches come on thick bread, not pita, and salads, sandwiches and bowls can be ordered in one of four styles: Istanbul, Berlin, Greek and Philly (!), the latter with Cheez Whiz. Needless to say, SpireWorks is not offering a purist vision of döner but a compromised, America-friendly version. I don’t entirely approve, but the food is okay, and I can see going back.

I like the faux lemon-crate label wallpaper, by the way.

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Column: Hefty book covers A to Z of Zappa’s music

A new book, “The Big Note,” chronicles all 1,663 Frank Zappa recordings, including a few from his Inland Valley years. It’s for diehards only. That leads off Wednesday’s column, followed by reader reactions to my column last month about not being to ride a bike, a Culture Corner and a Valley Vignette.

Let me tell you about the photo that accompanies the column. After deciding Tuesday morning on deadline to lead with the Zappa item, I was faced with how to illustrate a column about a book. For online purposes, we are pretty much limited to horizontal photos, as a vertical photo takes up about a foot of space and looks too funky. So a photo of strictly the cover was out. What to do, what to do…

Suddenly, a brainstorm: I would use the giant, vintage map on the wall by my desk as a backdrop. Without leaving my chair, I held up the book and positioned it to get both Pomona and Cucamonga’s names in the frame. (The map stops short of Ontario.) It took three frames, as the first one had my thumb over the author’s name (see above) and the second had too much glare off the shiny cover. Secrets behind the columns!

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Restaurant of the Week: Domi’s Peruvian Cuisine

Domi’s Peruvian Cuisine, 915 N. Euclid Ave. (at Foothill), Upland; open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. except until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Mondays

The Inland Valley used to have just a couple of Peruvian restaurants; now it’s got at least five: one in Claremont, two in Rancho Cucamonga and two in Upland. Domi’s is among the latter, opening in 2014 in the center on the southwest corner of Euclid and Foothill, in the strip south of Coco’s that faces Euclid.

The last time I’d eaten in that space, it was a taqueria. I’d seen the Domi’s sign many times but hadn’t gone in until recently, when I arranged to meet a friend for a weekday lunch.

It’s a small spot, just a few tables, with tourism-type photos of Peru on the walls. They’ll wait on you if there’s two or more of you, it seems; otherwise you order at the counter.

The menu isn’t online, but it’s got the best-known Peruvian dishes and many that were unfamiliar to me. Click on the photos below for a larger view.

Note there are five vegetarian options.

I had the pollo saltado ($11.50, above): chicken on fries sauteed with tomatoes and purple onions. It was a good version.

My friend had the beef tacu tacu ($12.75): sliced Angus beef saltado (chicken or shrimp and calamari available too) served on garlic rice. He’d never had that, but he liked it.

We had considered getting an appetizer to share but were glad we didn’t, as we could barely finish our entrees.

Another item on the menu intrigued me, the chicharron sandwich, so I went back for a solo lunch. How could I resist, with this menu description: “Blow your mind away when taking a bite out of this delicious piece of heaven. A sandwich layered-in with slices of fried sweet potato, marinated fried pork meat and topped with a kick of salsa criolla.”

Rather than pork skin, as in Mexico, the Peruvian version of chicharron is a pork cutlet. Combined with slices of sweet potato and strips of pickled purple onion, it was served on a thick roll. I’m not sure it blew my mind away, but then, by middle age one becomes a bit jaded. But this was a pleasant combination of flavors, and filling.

If you like Peruvian food, or would like to try it, Domi’s is a good choice.

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Column: To spill the beans, Taco King is for sale

A longtime Upland favorite is for sale and its future as a restaurant is not assured. An extended family gathered last week at Taco King — you’ve probably seen the neon sign along Foothill Boulevard if nothing else — for the proverbial “one last meal” and invited me. I used that as an excuse to learn about Taco King’s history and its owners’ retirement plans, which I write about for Wednesday’s column.

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IVDB in Dubai

Reader Andy Sze of Rancho Cucamonga does a lot of traveling for work. Sightseeing recently in Dubai, he accidentally left his Daily Bulletin in his hotel, but he improvised a Daily Bulletin on Vacation photo, recalling that I’d once said some readers used their phone or tablet to call up our paper.

For his photo, Sze opened up one of my columns while in the world’s tallest building, the 163-floor, 2,722-foot-high Burj Khalifa. See below. Why, it’s almost like I was there, at least in spirit. Thanks, Andy. It’s probably just as well I wasn’t there, as I’m scared of heights.

Click on his photos for a larger view. But you may wish to hold onto something when you open the one with the view down.

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