At last, my vacation in Philadelphia is memorialized in a column — Friday’s, to be precise. A second one is coming Sunday. Above, the LOVE sculpture in JFK Plaza.
Taqueria La Oaxaquena, 825 E. Mission Blvd. (at Towne), Pomona; open daily, 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. except Friday and Saturday until 4 a.m.
It’s a large space occupying two storefronts, with a bare floor and few frills. You order at the counter and sit at one of the basic fast-food-style booths lined up in rows. A mural of a Mexican village scene, probably meant to represent the pilgrimage town of San Juan (the exterior sign is Taqueria La Oaxaquena de San Juan), decorates one wall and spills over onto the next.
The menu is confusing and incomplete — a few pictured items on a couple of banners and some signs noting specials — and the staff is more comfortable in Spanish. They sell tacos, quesadillas and mulitas with the standard fillings, and some uncommon ones, plus breakfast, some seafood items, aguas naturales (bionicos, licuados and smoothies) and ice cream. Based on the exterior signs, their specialties include birria, barbacoa and mole con pollo.
My first visit I had one of the specials, four tacos ($5) al pastor, plus a Coke. They arrived with double tortillas, handmade and crisped on the grill, with a generous amount of barbecued pork. They were quite good, and there was a bar of salsas, limes, etc. to choose from.
I took a flier that listed a few of their items, plus the fillings. Three are vegetarian: huitlacoche or corn fungus, champinones or mushrooms and flor calabeza or squash blossoms. On a return visit, I had a huitlacoche quesadilla ($6.50, I think), which took me back to my vacation to Mexico City. It’s a rare item in these parts. It had mushrooms, corn fungus, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.
I also got an aguas fresca ($2.50, I think), serving myself with a ladle from one of the five jugs. Mine was strawberry, and I liked it.
The clientele on my visits was very Mexican-American and working class. I can’t tell you whether the food is from the state of Oaxaca or the state of Jalisco — anyone able to explain this to me? — but I can tell you this is among Pomona’s better Mexican restaurants. For the adventurous, it’s worth making a pilgrimage to.
Books acquired: “Europe Through the Back Door,” Rick Steves
Books read: “Make Room! Make Room!,” Harry Harrison; “The Door Into Summer,” Robert Heinlein; “Knockin’ on Dylan’s Door,” the editors of Rolling Stone; “The Glass Key,” Dashiell Hammett; “Re-Enter Fu Manchu,” Sax Rohmer
June was a good month: I read five books, in a sequence I had sketched out four or five years ago. (If you read the titles, they almost form a little narrative of their own.) It took me getting to the 12th book in the Fu Manchu series for me to pull it off.
These five books averaged 200 pages, or a bit less, so the retirees among you might have polished them off in five or six days. Oh, to have read them in a week or so, and have had another 15 or 20 books of the same complexion ahead of me! Still, I’m happy to have read these and crossed them off my various lists.
By the way, it didn’t occur to me until putting this post together that even my lone book purchase of June fits the theme. That was unintentional. But funny.
In short: “Make Room!” (1966) is a classic dystopian novel about a miserably overcrowded NYC faced with food and water shortages. It was the basis for the movie “Soylent Green,” but does not have cannibalism as an element. It’s worth reading.
“Door Into Summer” (1957) involves a man in 1970 cryogenically frozen to wake up in the glorious world of 2000, but who also has some unfinished business in the past to resolve via time travel. It’s a little complicated, but enjoyable. The narrator even visits Riverside and Big Bear.
“Dylan’s Door” (1974) is a collection of Rolling Stone reportage about the singer-songwriter’s 1974 tour after eight years off the road. Very inessential, obviously. When this book came out, only a handful of Dylan books existed, and I used to see it in bibliographies and wonder about it. It was fun to finally stumble across a copy and to have read it.
“Glass Key” (1931) is one of Hammett’s five novels, with only “The Thin Man” still to be written. (I’ve read all but “The Dain Curse.”) “Key” is about a political fixer and his pal who is not a detective but who is shrewd enough to figure out a murder plot anyway. Unconventional but very good.
“Re-Enter” (1957) is the 12th of 14 Fu Manchu books. Yet another narrator loses his head over a mysterious woman (this happens in nearly each book), and Fu tries to double-cross the commies to help the U.S. with a kind of missile defense shield. It’s one of the lesser entries in the series.
“Make Room!” and “Glass Key” were the winners this month. As far as their purchase, it looks like all five date to the pre-blog period of the ’00s, when I was buying a lot of books and reading very few. So they’ve been waiting for me patiently.
How was your June, readers? Let us know what you read and what you thought in the comments section. I’ve already finished two books for July, but I also have to pause to study up in advance of a late-August vacation.
Next month: a little housekeeping of a lost rancho.
Following up on last Friday’s column about the Pomona home at 1195 Washington Ave., I went to the event Sunday afternoon to tag along as child actor Jon Provost revisited his boyhood home for the first time as an adult. Then I stuck around for the ceremony dedicating it as Lassie House. I write about all that in Wednesday’s column. Above, Provost, his wife Laurie Jacobson and yours truly. Not pictured: Lassie.
I was all set to write about my vacation, but then Harlan Ellison, one of my favorite writers, died, and I felt compelled to write about him instead. He’s the subject of Sunday’s column.
The home at 1195 Washington Avenue in Pomona is undergoing extensive renovation. An event Sunday will celebrate the work done so far and include the installation of a plaque designating the home where child star Jon Provost lived as a city landmark. Come check it out from 1 to 4 p.m. that day. In the meantime, won’t you read my Friday column about the house?
Above is a current photo, shot by me; below is a 2008 photo shot by Ren.
Last week I spent four nights in Philadelphia, which is known for a few food items, none of them highbrow. Above is a cheesesteak from Pat’s King of Steaks. Pat’s is across an (angled) intersection from its equally famous competitor, Geno’s. I got mine with onions and with provolone rather than the other option, Cheez Wiz. Some things are just too much.
Water ice is a redundantly named dessert, finely ground ice with flavoring. You eat it with a spoon. I went to John’s, the recommended spot. Cool and refreshing. I also had one that was half ice cream, half water ice, from Rita’s, a Philly-based chain that briefly had a Chino Hills location and still has one in Glendora last I checked.
The hoagie, also known as a submarine sandwich (and hero sandwich, and grinder), is another Philly specialty. The Italian, above, is from Campo’s, a local favorite.
Roasted pork is another local item. The one above is from DiNic’s, a longtime stand in Reading Terminal Market. The recommended garnish was broccoli rabe — that was different — plus sharp provolone.
I expect to write Sunday about Philadelphia, but this is the food portion!
My Restaurant of the Week feature will return next week, I hope; it’s a short week, what with a holiday in the middle, which will complicate getting three columns written, much less a restaurant piece (and, perhaps, a Reading Log). But I have notes and photos on four local restaurants, just awaiting my attention as soon as time permits.
Have you been to Philadelphia and had any of these items, or others?
I returned to an Upland City Council meeting for more drama, and I was not disappointed. The result is Wednesday’s column.
Vacation was fab, by the way, and will be the subject of, I hope, Sunday’s column. Had to get some news out of the way first, and another locally based piece is coming for Friday.
I wrote last week about Robert F. Kennedy’s visit to Pomona (and Ontario and Fontana). In response, a couple dozen people commented on a Pomona Facebook page with their memories of that day. I turned that into Friday’s column.
(Only a handful commented on an Ontario page, and their memories didn’t square with the facts. The most detailed involved Kennedy driving up Euclid Avenue, which to my knowledge never happened, and doing so the day he was shot.)