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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Column: Betsy-Tacy and Claremont are now bench friends

Revisiting a couple of columns from early 2014, Wednesday’s column provides an update on the worn bench outside the Claremont Public Library dedicated to children’s author and onetime Claremont resident Maud Hart Lovelace and her Betsy-Tacy books. The bench has been repainted and repaired and is back in place. Also, the library now has all 10 of the books on the shelves.

(I really didn’t think it would require 13 months to be able to follow up on this, but the wheels of government apparently turn slowly.)

In other news in my column, exhibits on comic books and Dr. Seuss are on view at the Pomona Public Library, and new county supervisor Hilda Solis makes a surprising comment that does not involve Pomona.

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Remembering the Poly Trolley

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Cal Poly Pomona’s Facebook page posted this circa 1990 image of the campus tram, which operated from 1975 to 2003 and was known as the Polywagen and the Poly Trolley, along with this witty caption:

“Twenty-five years ago, students could be seen walking around campus in strangely patterned grandpa cardigans and high-waisted jeans. Seems like not much has changed. Except the tram. RIP, tram.”

The post has more than 1,000 likes and many comments from alumni. Among them:

Melissa Oldenburg: “I miss the tram. I remember how the exhaust fumes kept me warm on chilly mornings when I sat directly behind its exhaust vent.”

Michael Nguyen: “I miss running and jumping on the tram. That was a fun memory.”

Laura Gomez Alvarado: “I miss getting soaked on rainy days.”

Micheal Fro Fro Huluf: “If CPP brings the trams back, that will be awesome.”

To which the university replied: “You say that, but you might not like it if it were raining when you tried to ride it. But who are we kidding? It doesn’t rain here anymore.”

(Whoever is in charge of this FB page deserves a pat on the back.)

Cal Poly now uses the name Poly Trolley for a lunch wagon and, rather than an open-air tram, uses buses, called the Bronco Shuttle, to ferry students, faculty and staff from parking lots to campus buildings on the commuter campus.

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Column: Film series designed to honor Ontario Oscar-winner

Sunday’s column previews my annual film series at the Ontario City Library. This time I’m showing four classics with little in common other than the production designer, Henry Bumstead — and their own greatness, of course. Bumstead was born and raised in Ontario. Hope some of you will consider coming out for the movies, which screen for free each Thursday in April at 6:30 p.m.

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