Remember the Gallery Theatre? You might if you lived here sometime between 1967 and 1989. First in Upland and then, for 19 years, in Ontario, the theater had popular, family-friendly productions like “South Pacific” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” Co-founder Mark Shipley recalls the times he had in an interview in my Friday column.
Butter Cafe and Bakery, 671 E. Bonita Ave. (at San Dimas Canyon), San Dimas; open daily, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Butter opened in July in the Bonita Canyon Gateway Center in San Dimas and quickly became a hit. I like to imagine that a few people have checked my Restaurant of the Week every week since and exclaimed in frustration regarding my choice, “I can’t believe it’s not Butter!”
Sorry, I had to say it. I’ve eaten at Butter five times so far and have enjoyed each visit to varying degrees, Butter being something the valley is perennially short on: smart, artisanal eateries.
The menu has baked goods, coffee, breakfast dishes, salads and sandwiches.
The display of baked goods — muffins, scones, croissants, cookies and more — is enticing.
On my first visit I had the prosciutto and gruyere croissant ($4), a good knife and fork item. I’ve also taken a cinnamon roll ($2.75) to go; it was icing-free and perhaps not yours, or my, idea of a cinnamon roll, but it was good anyway.
My first sit-down visit, I had a waffle ($6) with fruit ($2), in this case blueberries. Nice, but it took a frustrating 20 minutes to arrive.
Butter can get busy. At high noon on a Sunday, all the tables were filled and so were the two bars with bar stools and the comfy sofas. But I found a spot at the bar (I hesitate to say counter, as it’s just a shelf, not like a diner counter) and by 12:30 there were several open tables. Plan your visit accordingly. The interior is a little stark, but the wooden tables and benches add a natural touch.
That time I had the croque monsieur ($10) with a small salad. Very good. This was off the brunch menu, but it turns out you can order off the regular menu too.
I came in for an early dinner one night — remember, they close at 7 — and was the only customer, other than a couple of people who came in for to-go orders. Plenty of seating. I got the brisket sandwich ($11), one of Butter’s signature items, made with Harris Ranch beef. It didn’t wow me, although it was good enough; the beef’s denseness made it awkward to pick up and eat, and not easy to cut up with a knife and fork either. The fries were bland. I expected better.
On Tuesday I went in for lunch with a friend. I had the meatloaf sandwich ($10), very tasty. The tomato jam spread was a little sweet for my taste. The chips were housemade and no more interesting than the fries. Well, tater tots is the third option as a side. I’ll try them in the future. Why not a little salad or fruit?
Oh, and while my friend’s salad (below) arrived almost immediately, my sandwich took 15 awkward minutes and a worried inquiry from the staff about what I’d ordered. As that’s happened two times in five visits, maybe there’s an issue in the kitchen.
My friend had the Asian salad ($9), said it was good but wished the plum dressing were tangier. He could have added chicken for $3 and thought that would have been a good choice.
Butter seems to be establishing itself and I hope they continue to do well. I’m sorry the Fresh and Easy that anchors the center is closing, but Butter is building a clientele that should keep coming. I’m looking forward to more meals there myself.
Ron McDonald’s first day with the Pomona Police Department was Sept. 1, 1965; his assignment was foot patrol of the downtown pedestrian mall. Fifty years later, McDonald, now 74 and a lieutenant, is still on the job. “Time flies,” he says. His remarkable longevity is the subject of my Wednesday column.
Books acquired: “Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,” Frances Dinkelspiel.
Books read: “Wonder,” R.J. Palacio; “A Pail of Air,” Fritz Leiber; “The Halloween Tree,” Ray Bradbury.
Just as I predicted last time, October was another three-book month. It was a so-so month aesthetically as well: one solid book, two ehh books.
“Wonder,” a young adult novel from 2012, never quite grabbed me, although a lot of people love it, and it certainly has elements to recommend it. It’s the story of a boy with a facial deformity who has never attended public school, and what happens when he does: He’s ostracized, he makes friends, he’s bullied. It’s charming, touching and funny at times, a little unrealistic at others.
“A Pail of Air,” Fritz Leiber’s first collection of stories, from 1964, was pretty good. I read a “best of” collection earlier this year and was impressed. This had some overlap, and a couple of the stories didn’t wow me, but this was worth reading. I expect I’ll read more by him.
“The Halloween Tree” is a Bradbury young adult novel from 1972. I’d read it years ago and don’t recall thinking much of it, and that was as a young adult. A reference to it recently reminded me of it and I was surprised I hadn’t put it on my list to reread. As it was October, the time seemed right to read it again. Originally it was meant to be an animated special by Chuck Jones, but that fell through and Bradbury wrote it as a novel instead.
The story attempts to give a history of Halloween via travel to see ancient Egypt, witches and Notre Dame by a group of trick-or-treating boys led by a mysterious Mr. Moundshroud. (Nary a girl appears.) Bradbury’s prose style reaches what some might consider its height but what I think is its nadir: over-the-top lyricism in support of a very flimsy story.
On the other hand, Bradbury devoted a few pages to the Mexican Day of the Dead, with its candy skulls, cemetery visits, candles and altars, decades before the holiday became widely known. The boys think it’s great, exclaiming: “Mexican Halloween is better than our Halloween!” So there’s that.
“Wonder” was given to me by the Friends of the Claremont Library, “Pail” came from Patten Books in St. Louis in June and “Tree” was a long-ago purchase, probably late ’70s, from my hometown used bookstore.
What did you read in October? And did your month fare better than mine?
Next month: A book about wine, and more.
Sunday’s column starts with news about a CHP pursuit that ended in Pomona in unusual fashion when the motorist turned himself in to a competing agency, the Police Department.
(This took place Oct. 20 but when it became clear it wasn’t going to make the paper unless I wrote it, I did. And now it can become a candidate for the year’s Top 10 weirdest local news stories.)
After that: items about local culture, about the advisability of leaving your engine on while pumping gas, about a famed architect’s Upland work and about Vince’s Spaghetti’s grand prize drawing on Sunday. You’ll never guess who’s drawing the names!
Valley Department Store opened in downtown Ontario in 1929. It’s holding a liquidation sale before moving to smaller quarters in Upland. Read all about the big and tall store and its history in my Friday column.
N7 Creamery, 7880 Kew Ave., Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga
One of the few one-of-a-kind shops in the Victoria Gardens mall, locally owned N7 sells ice cream, baked goods and coffee. Open until 10 p.m. most nights and 11 p.m. on weekends, it’s a personality-plus environment: a high ceiling that looks like pressed tin, faux brick walls, distressed wood and local art on the walls.
N7 is on the east side of the mall, north of TGI Friday’s and across from the Macy’s women’s store. (The mall is finishing up a millennial-friendly area on the west side, but N7 shows there’s life on the east side too.)
The menu shows the type of offerings: Stumptown coffee, nitrogen ice cream, baked treats, even if some, such as the flavors of ice creams, change frequently. I’ve been to N7 a few times and have always been impressed.
Not a coffee drinker, I’m afraid, but if you are, you’ll find them suitably serious about the whole thing. What I’ve tried is a scone ($3.75, above), cinnamon roll ($4.50) and a hazelnut hand pie ($5), in visits earlier this year, all three delicious and clearly made with care.
I’ve also had the ice cream, which comes in such flavors as madagascar vanilla, guilford chocolate and salted caramel. The one I’ve had is winter citrus with blood orange sauce (above); it’s just as good as it sounds. (If you’re strictly a rocky road person, this may not be the shop for you.)
They make it in front of you, although the setup isn’t designed to show it off the way it is at some nitrogen specialty shops. Prices are $6 for 4 oz., $7 for 6 oz. and $9 for 8 oz. When I had the ice cream, months ago, it was $1.75 cheaper all around; I didn’t blanch at $4.25 for a scoop, but I might at $6.
In everything they do, they emphasize quality ingredients from local, organic and/or sustainable sources, and a ban on preservatives, a stance that boosts the prices, perhaps, but shows they care.
In the back, there’s a lounge with more seating, plus a bookcase with a scattering of reading material. It’s a cozy place to hang out or study.
Basically, this is one of Rancho Cucamonga’s most unique, hand-crafted places, and it’s tucked away in a mall. That’s about as quintessentially Cucamonga as you can get. Give ’em a try. They deserve your support.
For Wednesday I’m writing my column on the 50th anniversary of a national monument, St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, with which I’m fairly familiar. Here are a few extra photos.
Above, the Arch is framed in an entranceway to the Old Courthouse. (I was exiting on my June visit, saw someone taking a photo and quickly took one myself.)
Below, a view from under the Arch, which is 630 feet high and the same span wide.
And, below, a family snapshot from 1968 of your young columnist on his first visit. My legs, like the Arch’s, are bare.
Have you ever been to the Arch? If so, leave a comment and tell us about it.
Reader Doug Evans, who recently read a Bob Hope biography, emails the following:
“In googling YouTube clips of Bob and Bing clowning around in their movies, I found this verse in a song called ‘Apalachicola F-L-A’ from ‘The Road to Rio’ : ‘Magnolia trees in blossom and a pretty southern gal / It’s better than the orange groves in Cucamonga, Cal.’ So I can contribute that to the vast lore of Inland Empire references you’ve been accumulating over the years.”
The reference comes early in the song and is easy to miss — so, extra thanks to Doug for not missing it. This is the first time anyone has brought up this song to me. Nice to know old-time local references are still out there to be found!
Jack Smith, the LA Times columnist who died in 1997, is still spoken of with reverence among those who recall his insightful observations, gentle humor and lively prose. I missed him in his prime but am catching up on his books. I own them all and have read half so far, spacing them out to one per year. (I also wrote his Wikipedia entry a few years back.)
All 10 were purchased at used bookstores, and as signed copies are relatively easy to find — the man must have done a lot of bookstore events — I’ve bought only signed copies, except for his last, posthumous book, of course. Many have a short inscription to the buyer as well. The one above is so simple and witty.
At the late, lamented Acres of Books in Long Beach, perhaps six or eight years back, I had my choice of two copies of “The Big Orange” — one that was signed traditionally, and one that had something better.
“Jack Smith’s letters to me” reads an envelope taped inside, “and some Jack Smith columns.”
Evidently the book belonged to one Constance Gramlich. Inside the envelope is a postcard and a letter, each addressed to her.
The letter came first, postmarked Sept. 7, 1966. Evidently Smith had recently written about student letters for the column that Gramlich was commenting on. It’s a great little letter, and Smith, in print an inveterate flirt, does not disappoint here, either. Click on the letter for a larger view.
Four years later, Gramlich received a handwritten, but more terse, reply from Smith, who it seems had been laid low by illness. The date is Nov. 9, 1971.
Alas, the columns Gramlich had saved — perhaps the ones that inspired the letters? — were not in the envelope. But I treasure my very own Jack Smith correspondence.