Restaurant of the Week: El Pueblo Meat Market

El Pueblo Meat Market, 13218 6th St. (at D), Chino; open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily

I pass carnicerias in many of our cities, like El Tarasco in Rancho Cucamonga near Red Hill Coffee Shop, or Mi Mercadito in Pomona, without ever going in. But after a recommendation from a (*cough*) highly placed law enforcement figure in Chino, I gave El Pueblo a try. It’s across from City Hall and the old police headquarters and courthouse.

Downtown Chino, such as it is, is light on places to eat. A couple of times now while attending council meetings, I’ve needed a quick bite and walked over to El Pueblo. They have some grocery and convenience items, but largely it’s a butcher shop, plus a counter for ordering food to go. They sell tacos, burritos, tortas, quesadillas, menudo and a few more items.

My first visit I had an al pastor torta (price forgotten, but around $6). This was consumed on a bench outside the council chambers in near-darkness in January. It hit the spot.

And this month, on a summer evening after a meeting ended early, I got an asada burrito ($6), then walked it over to Aguiar Square, the plaza behind the Children’s Museum, to eat. A fountain is circled by amphitheater-type seating, but a transient was there talking to himself, and sitting near him might have resulted in getting hit up for the money I’d saved by eating a cheap dinner. So I took a spot on a bench elsewhere in the plaza.

The burrito was okay, nothing special, but filling. On Yelp, someone gripes that they mix the steak with ground beef, which I can’t say is true, but which might be true. The torta was a better choice. Even better might have been the taco Tuesday special, which I noticed too late: three chicken tacos for $3.

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A new skillet

The skillet sign in front of Ontario’s Iron Skillet (805 N. Euclid) was looking pretty worn when I shot the photo below in spring 2016 for my Restaurant of the Week post. More recently, some piece broke, I think the top beam, causing the sign to droop, and the wood of the sign split. It was sad looking. It might have been the original sign from 1980.

But on my most recent visit over the weekend, there was a new sign. It’s virtually the same design, but brand new, and sturdier-looking. The owner told me it’s been up two or three months. It certainly presents a better appearance to motorists and reflects the resurgence of the restaurant itself.

If you like Americana-type places, Iron Skillet is doing a good job of it under its current ownership, and business seems to be on a steady upswing — just like the sign.

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Top Hat Liquor, Pomona

This liquor store in Pomona (565 Dudley Ave.) could really use a paint job, but the angled roofline, high-society name and neon sign still have flair. As Charles Phoenix describes it in “Cruising the Pomona Valley: 1930 Thru 1970”: “This stylish modern liquor store is dressed in formal attire with its original neon sign.” The store was built in 1959.

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A book talk in Ontario

Your humble scribe spoke July 16 in Ontario at the Chaffey Community Museum of Art downtown, jointly sponsored by the museum and Ontario Heritage. I didn’t know what to expect, especially after the Facebook invite said “0 going, 0 interested,” and settled in to my 90-minute book signing with some reading material close at hand.

But a steady stream of customers walked up, and I met some nice people, or renewed acquaintances with others. I sold 25 books, signed a 26th that someone brought in and didn’t have a break.

The talk followed, with 30 in the audience. I talked a little, read a column from each of my two books and took questions about my career (peaking), my early interest in writing (adorable) and the future of newspapers (dim). People responded to my reading with laughter, which was much-appreciated, and seemed to be paying attention and to be having a good time. I sure did.

Thanks to CCMA, Heritage and those who gave up an afternoon to listen to a newspaper guy for making this among my best-attended, and most enjoyable, book signings and talks. Photo above is by Petrina Delman of Heritage; that’s a John Svenson piece behind me, making me look good.

Below is a photo of the audience as CCMA’s Nancy DeDiemar speaks, to give you a sense of the room.

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Column: After vote split, educator picked for council

Returning to the Chino Council Chambers after the applicant interviews from last week, I watch as the City Council deadlocks on the first vote to fill a council vacancy before picking a different person on a 3-1 vote. The intrigue didn’t stop there. Also, I crack a few jokes. Because every council meeting column needs jokes. Read all about it in Friday’s column.

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Restaurant of the Week: Project Pie

Project Pie, 4711 Chino Hills Parkway (at Ramona), Chino Hills; open daily

I noticed Project Pie a year ago while heading to another restaurant within the Commons shopping center. Initially disappointed it was a pizzeria rather than a pie shop, I was open to trying it sometime. A year later, meeting a friend for lunch and a movie, Project Pie came to mind.

It’s another fast-fired pizza place, where your food is cooked in about two minutes. Project Pie has only a few locations; oddly, its website lists three (Chula Vista, Eastlake and Carlsbad) and doesn’t cite Chino Hills. Thankfully I took photos or I might wonder if I imagined the whole meal.

One eye-catching part of the interior is a long wall of quotes, great and small. They seem random, but they can be fun to read. (Pieology is the inspiration here, although its are typeset rather than seemingly hand-written.)

The menu is pizza (most are $9) and salads ($4.50 to $8.50). You can build your own pizza, or choose from the pre-selected options, most of which are white pies, without tomato sauce.

I got the No. 4: sliced tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, parmesan and garlic. Its crust was crisp and charred, more so than at other such places. While I still prefer Blaze to its competitors, including Pieology, Project Pie was among the better ones I’ve tried.

My friend got a spinach salad (spinach, feta, bacon, mushrooms, red onions and honey mustard dressing) and added sunflower seeds. “This salad is unbelievably delicious,” she said. “It’s got so many goodies in it.”

That completed our lunch project at Project Pie.

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