Column: Jenny Lewis invites fan onstage to sing ‘Glendora’ in Pomona

I was in Pomona at a Glass House concert Tuesday, minding my own business, when suddenly news broke out: The singer invited a fan from the audience to come onstage and sing a portion of a song about Glendora.

You can read about that in my Sunday column, as well as about my Ontario film series. I shot a one-minute video of the impromptu performance, which you can watch here (warning: adult language!); a full version from closer to the stage can be viewed here.

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Restaurant of the Week: Zendejas, Chino Hills

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Zendejas Mexican Restaurant, 14670 Pipeline Ave. (at Chino Hills Parkway), Chino Hills

Zendejas has multiple restaurants around the Inland Valley, all connected by the family name but run by various members of the family. In other words, the experience and menu isn’t standard from one to the next. Some are as much sports bars as restaurants.

I’m not sure I’d ever been to a Zendejas, even though there are locations in Ontario, Chino, San Dimas and two in Rancho Cucamonga. A Chino Hills friend whose turn it was to choose a lunch spot picked the new Zendejas that opened in February in what was previously a different Mexican restaurant, Sandra’s.

The ambience is pleasant enough, in a somewhat generic-Mexican way, and there’s a dancefloor (!) for weekend evenings. We took a booth, dug into the chips and salsa and perused the menus.

The four of us got veggie fajitas ($15), shrimp tacos ($13), a Tony’s Special burrito, which is chicken with chile verde sauce and cheese ($13) and, for me, chile verde ($14). Reactions were, respectively, “blah,” “very average,” “It was your basic El Torito burrito especial, at which I’m an expert,” and, in my case, “ehh.”

The service was haphazard: We were asked for our drink orders within seconds of the fourth member of our party joining us (he hadn’t finished saying hello), and then later, he couldn’t get a drink refill. The puny, brownish lemon on one water cup was unappetizing. (On Yelp, this Zendejas as of the end of March had a two-star rating.)

But there’s a full bar, and Zendejas may be an improvement over Sandra’s. The burrito eater, the one who chose the restaurant, said cheerfully that his meal “was tasty enough to make me consider coming back.” I suspect the rest of us won’t be joining him. It wasn’t terrible, but there’s better Mexican food a block away at Las Cascadas.

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Beck in Pomona: the ’90s venues

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Beck performed three times in Pomona in the mid-1990s, as recounted in detail in my Wednesday column.

Above, the former Munchies sandwich shop and bar at 291 E. Second St., where Beck sang one night in 1993; it’s now vacant. Below, the former Haven coffeehouse at 296 W. Second St., where Beck performed on Jan. 22, 1994; it’s now Pizza Beer Wings, a sportsbar. At bottom, the Glass House at 200 W. Second St., where Beck headlined in June 1996 (date unclear). It’s still around — whew.

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The dining circuit

There’s no particular rhyme or reason to how I choose restaurants for my Restaurant of the Week posts, other than that I try not to leave any cities out. But some cities get more exposure here than others.

Fontana, Chino and San Dimas have had the least attention traditionally, with Fontana and San Dimas being on our borders and Chino, like them, being hard to get to on my lunch break. (Poor Fontana had only been featured three times prior to Jan. 1.)

For 2015, though, I decided to start off right by rotating among all our cities. In order, I’ve written about Seventh Heaven (Upland), El Fortin 3 (Chino), Stein Haus (Pomona), Noodle House (Chino Hills), El Gallo Giro (Fontana), 5 Star Pizza (Ontario), Lucille’s BBQ (Rancho Cucamonga), Cafe Moderno (Montclair), the Harvey Mudd Dining Hall (Claremont), Wahfles (La Verne) and Angela’s Italian Kitchen (San Dimas).

From this point, I won’t be sticking to a rotation, as it’s kind of limiting, but at least I got to every city this year, something I can’t always say. And it’s barely spring.

(True, I didn’t get to Diamond Bar, Glendora or Norco, at least not yet, but those are really the hinterlands as far as we’re concerned.)

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Reading Log: March 2015

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Books acquired: “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” “Citizen,” Claudia Rankine; “Girl in a Band,” Kim Gordon; “The Ballad of Bob Dylan,” Daniel Mark Epstein.

Books read: “Vulcan’s Hammer,” “The Cosmic Puppets,” “Dr. Futurity,” “The Man Who Japed,” Philip K. Dick; “Early Ontario,” Ontario Library Staff; “More Baths Less Talking,” Nick Hornby; “The Incredible Double,” Owen Hill; “The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil,” George Saunders; “The Dark Side of the Earth,” Alfred Bester; “No Room for Man,” Gordon Dickson; “Pulling a Train,” “Getting in the Wind,” Harlan Ellison; “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” “Citizen,” Claudia Rankine; “Three Early Stories,” J.D. Salinger; “A Small Place,” Jamaica Kincaid; “The Genocides,” Thomas Disch.

March was a big month — for small books. Once again I saved up short books to read all in one month. I got to 17. This included a couple that were read almost entirely in late February and, heh-heh, finished off in March. It was all about volume.

Represented in the stack is poetry (Rankine), SF (Disch, Bester, Dickson, Dick), book criticism (Hornby), mysteries (Hill), literary fiction (Saunders, Salinger), local history (Ontario Library), pulp fiction (Ellison, and dig the two covers below that form a single image!) and geographical essay (Kincaid).

This is too many to run through in detail, obviously. I’ll say that the best would be “Citizen” and “A Small Place,” both of which are brilliant. Bester’s stories weren’t far behind. The Philip K. Dicks were minor but enjoyable and I love Hornby’s essays. The two I didn’t care for were the Saunders (everyone says he’s great but that this one, which I bought off a remainder table, is rubbish, so I’ll give him another chance) and Dickson’s, a classic that didn’t do anything for me. The others were kind of in the middle.

It was satisfying to blow through so many books, a little better than one every two days, not that they were finished that regularly. Got through some that had hung around for a long time — “Vulcan’s Hammer,” among Dick’s worst, had been on my shelves unread since the early 1980s — and two that I bought in March, at Skylight Books in Los Feliz, and quickly folded into my month of reading.

What have you been reading and have you read any of the above?

Next month: More old books, but far fewer of them.

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Restaurant of the Week: Sanamluang Thai Cuisine, Claremont

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Sanamluang Thai Cuisine, 710 S. Indian Hill Blvd. (at San Jose), Claremont

It might seem baffling that Sanamluang, which has long had a popular restaurant at 1648 Indian Hill Blvd. in Pomona, only a few blocks south of the 10 Freeway, would open a second location a half-mile away. Even Starbucks tend to be placed farther apart.

But the second Sanamluang, which opened in December, seems perpetually busy, as a glance through the windows while driving past reveals at almost any hour. Any restaurant with late-night eats — it’s open until 11 p.m., and on Fridays and Saturdays until 1 a.m. — near a freeway exit and hungry college students is a good bet.

(It’s hard to tell if the original location is still busy as its shopping center is in the midst of a renovation and the restaurant facade and entrance are framed by scaffolding. I blogged about that Sanamluang in 2010, where one perhaps ill-advised line drew a flood of testy comments.)

I met two friends at the new location for lunch recently. The former Bakers Square, and Sambo’s, has a new exterior that with its angles and color scheme matches the look immediately south of the 10 with Norms and more. The interior has been lightened and brightened. It’s very inviting with its airy feel, photo murals of Bangkok and natural light.

One had the No. 44, duck stew noodle soup ($8, pictured below), another the No. 74, Chinese broccoli fried rice ($7, below that). I had No. 1, koo chai, steamed rice buns with vegetables ($7, next to bottom), and No. 59, chapo, which is barbecued pork, roast duck and deep-fried pork belly over rice ($9, bottom).

I’m a fan of both my dishes and liked these versions. The vegetarian said his broccoli “was very fresh,” while the soup eater, who was getting over a cold, made liberal use of the table’s condiments, especially the Sriracha-style chili sauce. He said with satisfaction, “It got my sinuses where I wanted them.”

We got there before noon and by the time we left, the place was buzzing. It’s deservedly popular and a great addition to town. As the soup eater put it, “It’s the nearest thing to soul food in Claremont.”

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Goodbye Albertsons, hello Haggen

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The Albertsons at Foothill and Vineyard in Rancho Cucamonga is among those transitioning to a new market, Haggen. Albertsons’ parent company had to sell off 83 of its Southern California supermarkets when it bought Vons as part of an antitrust deal, as my colleague Neil Nisperos reported. A Chino Hills store opened Wednesday and an Upland store in the Colonies will open Friday. The RC store will open at 4 p.m. Thursday.

I dropped by Tuesday evening and got farewell photos of the exterior sign and the ungrammatical banner that seems to praise its customer service ironically. Both are seen above. The store closed at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, I slipped inside and got a few photos mid-conversion, as seen below. Only the bank and pharmacy were open.

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I’m told all but two Albertsons employees are staying on. Other than the new aisle signs with the Haggen name, not much looked different in the portions of the store that were allowing customers, but employees were busy, and the deli and produce sections apparently will have the most dramatic changes. The product mix in the store will change in phases as Haggen gets in gear in a brand new market. Until now the company operated just 18 stores in the Pacific Northwest. Now it’s going to have 164.

The Upland store will reopen Friday, not Thursday as initially planned, and will gain a Starbucks.

The only Albertsons left in the immediate area will be at Milliken and 19th. So much for my Albertsons club card.

My recollection is that the Foothill and Vineyard market opened circa 2000. I’ve been shopping there that whole time, although less so after the infamous grocery store strike. I’ll give Haggen a try too.

Note the undersized Haggen sign and the ghost image of the Albertsons sign underneath. The curb sign was in the process of being changed.

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