Restaurant of the Week: Samo’s Burgers

samos2

burgerchef2

samos3

Samo’s Burgers, 1701 S. Garey Ave. (at Franklin), Pomona

Samo’s is a burger shack in south Pomona next to Garey High, probably an optimal location to catch young people in search of cheap eats. I ate there once a few years ago and later discussed the place with a friend who goes there; she told me she informed the owner that someone from the Daily Bulletin had been there, and his reaction was astonishment, maybe pride.

I was reminded of Samo’s after “Mad Men” set a scene at a Burger Chef (restoring a vacant Burger Chef in Rialto for the shoot) and someone informed me Pomona has two of them: Golden Wok on north Garey and Samo’s on south Garey. Unlike the heavily remodeled, and popular, Golden Wok, Samo’s, I realized, still has the Burger Chef-era sign, even if the building has been stuccoed over.

So it had been on my mind to go back and feature Samo’s here, and when a friend wanted to meet for lunch in the Pomona area, I suggested Samo’s.

He was still parked in his vehicle when I pulled up. “Is this really where you want to eat?” he asked skeptically, giving me a chance to back out. I affirmed that it was. As I reminded him, I’d described it to him as “a beat-up burger joint,” so I hope he wasn’t under any illusions of white tablecloths.

The menu is broad, as it is in most Greek-owned burger emporiums, with Mexican food, a few random sandwiches and a couple of dinner plates. I got the burger combo with fries and soda ($4.90 with tax); he got a carne asada burrito (price unnoted). We sat in the lonely dining room with its yellow and blue-cushioned molded plastic booths.

The burger was a typical thin fast-food patty, but the bun was broad; the sandwich was dressed with tomato, lettuce, onion and thousand island. They were generous with the fries too. It was a filling meal and I ate only half the fries. My friend’s burrito fell apart — he’d opened the wrapper upside down and the burrito never recovered — but he used a fork and said it was pretty good, loaded with meat and beans.

Our only problem was that Samo’s has no air conditioning, or no working a/c at least. It was 95 degrees outside and maybe 105 inside. We hung out a while until the sauna conditions proved too much. I don’t envy the staff in the kitchen.

At least one commenter on Yelp says Samo’s has been there under the same owner for 30 years. Burger Chef faded out in the early 1980s after Hardee’s bought the chain. It’s likely that it’s been Samo’s longer than it was Burger Chef, maybe twice as long by this point. I can’t really sell you on Samo’s, and it may be years before I return, but as a Burger Chef fan, I liked being inside one again.

samos4

samos5

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: ‘Feb. 31′ date falls off freeway signs’ calendar

For Wednesday’s column,¬†first I follow up on the “Feb. 31″ construction signs spotted recently along the 10 Freeway in Claremont and Pomona. They’ve been fixed. Then come items from Chino and Chino Hills, and from the cultural scene, as well as a note about a TV news geographical mistake relating to President Obama’s visit.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

‘A to Z’ from ONT

kenmcneil

Ken McNeil, formerly of San Antonio Heights, is spotted on a plane back to Reno reading his newly purchased copy of “Pomona A to Z.” Do you have yours?

(“Spotted” is a joke: His wife, Pam, took the photo at my request. They’d each visited our newsroom and, get this, they each bought their own copy of my book. They didn’t want to have to share. If all couples took this approach, I could almost double my sales.)

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Petrilli’s Pizza

petrillis1

Petrilli’s Pizza, 110 S. Mountain Ave. (at 9th), Upland

One letter can make a lot of difference. Petrilli’s isn’t Petrillo’s, which is a San Gabriel Valley institution, with locations in San Gabriel and Glendora. But it used to be. The Upland storefront opened as a Petrillo’s circa 2004 but changed a letter the following year. (A close look at the sign hints that the “o” may have been cut in half.) Someone who knows more about Petrillo’s could probably explain, and if so, please account for Mama Petrillo’s in La Verne, Rosemead and Temple City, whose connection to the main operation is nebulous.

Located at the north end of the Dollar Tree and Fresh & Easy center,¬†Petrilli’s is takeout only, except for a lone table. That, a soda case and a TV are about the only adornment. A friend and one of his friends and I met up there recently for dinner and snagged the table.

We ended up getting two pizzas: a medium specialty ($23.75) and a small three-topping veggie with mushrooms, onions and jalapenos ($14), because a small pizza was half-off that night with purchase of a medium or large. The menu has a few sandwiches and salads, and lasagna, but it’s mostly pizza.

The specialty had sausage, mushrooms, pepperoni, salami, onions and green peppers and was enormous. So were the toppings. As my friend said, “Those are some of the biggest pieces of sausage I’ve ever seen,” and I agreed. The medium was cut in squares, not triangles, and encompassed 16 pieces. Two of us ate less than half.

We liked our pizzas, but we weren’t totally sold. The crust was crunchy and a little boring; my friend left all the edges on his plate, piled like chicken bones. It was a heavy pizza, probably double the usual amount of cheese, loaded with toppings, a little hard to pick up and eat, the opposite of the type of pizza I usually get. It was extreme, even a little freakish, like the giant horse at the county fair.

I took home seven pieces and got four more meals out of them. I’ve never had anything quite like Petrilli’s — well, except for my single Petrillo’s experience — and it’s hard to imagine returning. But it’s some people’s favorite pizza, and I won’t fault them for it.

petrillis2

petrillis3

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: For Ray Bradbury fans, overlapping events this way come

bradbury1

Claremont has a Bradbury film, “Fahrenheit 451,” at 2 p.m. Sunday; meanwhile, Pomona has a Bradbury film, “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” at 3 p.m. Sunday. Awkward! Wednesday’s column delves into both events, either of which promises entertainment for the Bradbury fan. Pomona’s is more star-studded (Edward James Olmos! Joe Mantegna!) but there’s a fee to get in, as it’s a fundraiser to benefit the Pomona Public Library. Claremont’s is cheaper (free!). Also, I’ll be there, introducing the film, moderating a discussion afterward and, if you like, selling you a copy of “Pomona A to Z.”

Above, there’s a neat display this week of Bradbury items at the Pomona Library (625 S. Garey), with books, photos and memorabilia, and DVDs of the two films this weekend happened to be placed side by side.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Remembering Yum Yum’s Frosty Freeze

yumyum

Frosty Freeze was a teen hangout on Foothill Boulevard in eastern Upland across from Memorial Park. Some called it Yum Yum’s Frosty Freeze, or just Yum Yum’s. From the sign, it looks like the phrase wasn’t necessarily intended as part of the name, but I can see the appeal of calling the place Yum Yum’s.

According to a reminiscence by Shelby Garrett, the stand went up in 1950, founded by Mary Weitzel: “Teenagers went there for great hamburgers, shakes, malts and dancing.”

One habitue was future crime novelist Joseph Wambaugh, who told me a few years ago that Yum Yum’s was a favorite hangout for him and the rest of the Chaffey High crowd in the 1950s.

Mike Guerin, who grew up in Upland, took the above photo in 1981 when Frosty Freeze closed. Note the sign in the window: “We Quit. Out of Business. We Will Miss You.” (Click on the photo for a much larger view.) Guerin says: “Just found this in my files. Fast food from a family restaurant. Millie was always at the register.”

Do you remember Yum Yum’s Frosty Freeze?

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Reading Log: September 2014

booksept3

Books acquired: “Three Early Stories,” J.D. Salinger; “Mockingjay,” Suzanne Collins

Books read: “Dangerous Visions,” Harlan Ellison, ed.; “Mind Fields,” Harlan Ellison and Jack Yerka; “Eye in the Sky,” Philip K. Dick; “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Zora Neale Hurston; “One Fearful Yellow Eye,” John D. MacDonald

Four or five years back, fresh from making a list of the title of every unread book on my shelves, I brainstormed potential theme months where titles played off each other. It was one way of grappling with, or coping with, a frankly overwhelming number of books, around 550 at the time.

Quite a few of those groupings have been used since then, or rendered obsolete as titles have been peeled away, but September brought one of those themes: sight. Some of these books are relatively recent to me, but two have been on my shelves for decades, and reading them was satisfying indeed.

“Dangerous Visions” is the landmark science fiction anthology of all-original stories that were considered envelope-pushing in 1967, generally too literary or adult to be marketable, and hardly a rocketship among them. I bought my copy around 1982 and was too daunted by its 500-plus pages to read it. But now I have, and I’m glad, do you hear? Seriously, it deserves every accolade it’s received, and even in 2014 made for great reading. A handful of the stories didn’t do much for me, but there’s not a clunker in the bunch, and many are brilliant.

“Eye in the Sky” has been on my shelves just as long, and maybe a year or two longer. Dick’s third published novel, I believe, this was the first that read like the Philip K. Dick we know and love, a crazy plot about a group of strangers injured in a science accident who learn that they haven’t really regained consciousness after all but instead are living in realities controlled by each of them in turn. Marvelous and hilarious.

“Their Eyes” is a more recent purchase. Written in 1937, it was among the first novels to star an African-American woman, and she’s quite a creation, strong and independent. This was a strong month.

“Mind Fields,” alas, was disappointing, late-period Ellison in which he wrote stories to accompany Yerka’s already finished paintings. Cute idea, and inventive, but none of the stories would stand alone. Bought this a couple of years ago.

“Yellow Eye” was a good Travis McGee mystery, eighth in the series, and despite a faintly ridiculous plot, it has all the hallmarks, such as McGee’s asides. This time he muses on modern art, credit cards, the Playboy philosophy and Chicago. He’s down on all of them. I read some of the McGees in the early ’80s, but not this one; it’s a relatively recent purchase.

So, five books, of which three were vastly entertaining and a fourth was a fun read. Not a bad month at all. And I’m down to 441 unread books — more than I’d like, but having restricted my book-buying this year, the number is dropping fast.

(A side-note: For anyone familiar with “Dangerous Visions,” I’ll mention that I actually read the trade paperback, 35th anniversary edition for ease of handling — I hated to mess up my nearly mint original pocket paperback — and that sometime next year I intend to get to the sequel, “Again, Dangerous Visions,” which is considerably longer.)

If you read anything in September, or have ever read any of these books, won’t you comment below?

Next month: Some old, annual favorites.

booksept4

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email