Wrapping up my Inland Valley City Council Tour of 2017, I sat in on a Pomona council meeting Monday night. Not a lot happened, but those sometimes make for the best columns. Hear how it went in Sunday’s column.
The Nativity displays are back again in downtown Ontario, of course, but with some improvements this year. Another tradition is being revived: a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” at a downtown church, Bethel Congregational. I tell you more in Friday’s column, along with some Culture Corner items and a Valley Vignette.
Stonefire Grill, 10680 E. Foothill Blvd. (at Spruce), Rancho Cucamonga
Stonefire Grill opened in June in the long-closed On the Border restaurant building at Terra Vista Town Center in Rancho Cucamonga. It’s one of nine current locations around Southern California, with the next-nearest one in Pasadena.
A friend and I went in for lunch recently. It was bustling, that’s for sure. You order at what you might have expected to be a greeter station, at one of two registers. So you get a kind of McDonald’s or Panera vibe, except for the higher price points.
They sell sandwiches, salads, barbecue, pizza, pasta and more. (See menu.) I’m a little suspicious of places with such a broad menu.
Despite the lunchtime line, the staffer who took our orders was friendly. On the counter to tempt us were the largest brownies I’ve ever seen, square slabs about the size of a grilled cheese sandwich, but thicker. We demurred.
After ordering, you fetch your drink, as well as plates and silverware, and find a seat in the sprawling dining room. Why take a plate? It turns out your food is delivered on a metal platter, like a pizza pan.
I got a “meal,” which comes with a salad or side, ordering mesquite BBQ tri-tip and baby back ribs, plus a salad ($16.60). My friend got the All American Burger ($7.50) and a bowl of chicken tortilla soup ($3.50), which he asked to be brought out at the same time as my salad.
My salad arrived, and then when my platter arrived, he got his soup and burger at the same time (sigh).
He said the soup had jack cheese, avocado and plenty of chicken, that his burger was better than fast food if not to a gourmet burger level and that the salt and pepper potato chips reminded him of the ones at the Buffalo Inn, “back when there was a Buffalo Inn” (another reason to sigh).
Oh, and at least with the meal, you get a free basket of breadsticks, which made me think I was at a higher-class Olive Garden.
I’m a little mixed on the experience and probably would like the place better if there was table service instead of the DIY, cafeteria feel. But the food was a little above average. So, overall, not bad.
Angie Campos, who’s been working at Tony’s Famous French Dips in Pomona since 1971, is still on the job at 80. I profile her in Wednesday’s column.
Books acquired: “The Perfect Horse,” Elizabeth Letts; “Addicted to Americana,” Charles Phoenix
Books read: “Hillbilly Elegy,” J.D. Vance; “It Can’t Happen Here,” Sinclair Lewis
I only managed to finish two books in November, one of them on the 30th. Both were birthday gifts from March.
First up was “Hillbilly Elegy,” a 2016 memoir by a Yalie about his Appalachian upbringing and troubled childhood in particular and the challenges of underclass white America in general. So there’s some welcome sociology mixed in. Vance’s book was published before the election and never mentions it, but it was published at a good time to become part of the post-election conversation on disaffected whites.
Consider it a window into the problems of poor, white America, written by a man who grew up poor and still hasn’t entirely shaken its legacy. I didn’t find the mix of his personal story and the bits of research entirely satisfying. But “Elegy” does give a welcome insight into the hopelessness felt by many in this country.
“It Can’t Happen Here” is about an election, the one in 1936. The novel was written in 1935 and posits a phony man of the people who is actually a strongman with his own private militia. After his election, he starts tossing people into labor camps and his enemies, including the press, into concentration camps. The novel gained currency since its 2005 republication and especially the past couple of years, for reasons that should be obvious, even if the comparisons are overblown.
Not a masterpiece of story construction or dialogue, but maybe a masterpiece of ideas. Lewis seems to have been taking aim primarily at Huey Long, but the fear that a seemingly unpolished cornpone fascist would appeal to enough rubes to become president is probably eternal.
I’m a little sheepish that I only got through two books all month, totaling about 550 pages, but then again, that’s about 20 pages a day (I think I started the first one a few days into the month), so by normal-person standards that’s okay, I guess.
I’ve got three books going on my nightstand, all of which I should be finishing in December, and likely one further book to round out my month and year. My annual list of my year’s reading, with an accompanying column, will appear in late December or early January.
How was your November, readers? We’re anxious to know.
Next month: The Boss.
A rarely seen home in Ontario designed by Paul R. Williams is on the market. A photographer and I got a tour. The 1947 has scarcely been updated and the decor matches. Read about it in Sunday’s column, and be sure to check out the photos.
San Antonio Heights hasn’t lighted its Christmas star this year, but Upland City Hall has put one up for the pleasure of Euclid Avenue motorists. I write about that in Friday’s column, along with the demise of a favorite eatery in Chino Hills and more.
El Buen Gusto, 360 N. Park Ave. (at Center), Pomona; open daily, 10:15 a.m. to 7 p.m.; cash only; second location at 990 E. Holt (at Reservoir)
Reader Helen Uceda recommended El Buen Gusto to me possibly three years ago (ulp), seconded by a friend of mine, and the restaurant was dutifully added to my list of places to try around the region. Time passed, as it does, until recently I scanned the list and I made a point of finding the restaurant, which I didn’t believe I had ever noticed despite it being on the fringes of downtown Pomona.
But there it was when I looked for it, in a nondescript building alongside a barber and a botanica with its own tarot reader. I parked around the corner and stepped inside for a late lunch.
Even after 3 p.m., there were a few customers inside the modest restaurant. You order in the lobby at the window, where they also dispense takeout orders. I asked the employee, who might have been an owner, what people ordered, and she listed a few items — pupusas, fajitas and beef soup are the ones I recall — while saying the pork, cheese and bean pupusas were the most popular.
I got two of those — they’re known as revueltas — and a guanabana agua fresca. She said I could pay upon leaving.
There are two small adjoining dining rooms, probably evidence the restaurant has expanded into the next door space. An El Salvador flag is displayed in one window. A Spanish-language program played silently on a TV. After a while my food was delivered: a plate of two thick, pancake-like pupusas, plus a bowl of a vinegary slaw to use as topping.
I’ve had pupusas a handful of times. These might be my favorite, stuffed, delicious and filling. The guanabana drink was sweet but light, a good combination.
The bill: $8. That’s hard to beat.
El Buen Gusto may not be much to look at, but the food is good and the staff polite. I should have tried them three years ago.
The long-shuttered Pacific Electric train depot in Rancho Cucamonga is due to be repaired and reopened next summer, with the hope of having one or more tenants leasing space in the city-owned building. I offer an update and some history in Wednesday’s column.
It’s been a while since I presented any literary references to the Inland Valley, but Sunday’s column brings two, plus some Culture Corner items and a Valley Vignette.