Restaurant of the Week: Saigon Village Bistro

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Saigon Village, 1280 E. Holt (at East End), Pomona

One of a handful of Vietnamese businesses in Pomona’s far-eastern (where else?) stretch of Holt, Saigon Village opened in 2011, replacing Pho Express and the earlier Pho 54. Oldtimers will remember the location as Breakfast at Carl’s, a beloved breakfast spot that moved to Claremont and was renamed BC Cafe.

But that was then, this is now, as S.E. Hinton once said, and this spot has been a Vietnamese restaurant for maybe a couple of decades now. A friend and I met at Macho Pollo across the street for dinner but did so on the one day a week it’s closed. Saigon Village was an acceptable substitute.

The interior still looks a bit like a ’60s diner: crushed stones, big windows, comfortable booths, slinky hanging fixtures. The menu has a zillion items, lettered and numbered. One specialty is called 7 Courses Beef and apparently lives up to its billing (see photo below). An explanation is on the restaurant’s website.

My friend had CS5, special combination crispy egg noodles with chicken, shrimp, squid and vegetables ($9, pictured at bottom); I had the beef pho, another specialty ($7, below).

The noodle dish was constructed like a bird’s nest, very cool. “I liked it a lot,” my friend said.

I’ve had pho a few times, although I tend not to order it because I’m very poor with chopsticks and end up using a fork. The server, who may have thought I’d never had Vietnamese food before, pushed the pho, and when she brought it she explained what to do with the plate of condiments: strip the leaves from the mint and put them in the bowl, add the bean sprouts, mix Sriracha and hoisin sauce in a dish and swirl the meat in it, and add Sriracha to the broth. I have to say, nobody has ever offered instructions before.

Some on Yelp say the broth is bland, and I wouldn’t disagree — that may explain all the Sriracha — but I’m too inexpert to feel comfortable making much of a value judgment. Only large bowls of pho are served; I couldn’t quite finish mine, but I ate too much to bother taking the dregs home. I liked mine, although I feel like I’ve had better.

So, not a bad place, and if you like Vietnamese food, old diners or have fond memories of Breakfast at Carl’s, you might want to try it. Also, as my friend said of the cuisine: “It’s good hangover food.”





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‘A potty mouth mayor’

That was the headline on the lead letter in today’s LA Times letters section. The letter reads:

“My young children and I watched the televised rally Monday celebrating the L.A. Kings’ Stanley Cup victory, while my husband and older children attended at Staples Center.

“What a surprise when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti stood to congratulate the Kings and fans and quipped that a politician shouldn’t be heard swearing, but then proceeded to use the worst of all obscenities. How appalling that a leader in a position to positively influence a community would feel it appropriate to resort to such degrading language on a national stage.

“Language should be uplifting and clean. To resort to obscenities signals a weak mind incapable of expressing intelligent thoughts and emotions in appropriate ways.

“Mayor Garcetti, please refrain from making any statements publicly if you cannot control your potty mouth. My children are listening.”

Stinging — and I reproduce it here because the writer is Julie Bourgeous of Fontana.


While I don’t entirely agree with her, I still think it’s awesome that the leader of America’s second-largest city was upbraided for boorish behavior by someone from the sticks.

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Still dancing

mordohI saw a familiar face a few feet away from me at the Jack White concert at the Pomona Fox last Thursday: Howard Mordoh, the guy I once dubbed the Dancing Man. He’s an inveterate concertgoer around L.A. and usually dances. I wrote about him a couple of times in 2012, here and here. First time I saw him was at a Fox show by LCD Soundsystem and here he was again, even though he lives in Woodland Hills.

Once Jack White came on, I gave Mordoh some room and he was shaking it, spinning with one hand over his head and all the rest. Others around us were amused or impressed, or both. Alas, shooting video was impossible due to the dim lighting. Mordoh, 61 when I wrote about him, is now 63 and shows no signs of slowing down.


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Jack White at the Fox


The ex-White Stripe performed Thursday night at the Pomona Fox, one of the highest-profile concerts the venue has seen. (Green Day, Morrissey and a few more were bigger.)

After a set by the Cold War Kids, White — looking stylish in a black and white checked suit and a fedora — rocked the house for nearly an hour with 11 songs, took a short break and then returned for another 40 minutes and nine songs. Here’s the setlist. Either this was a really long encore or a full second set.

White was energetic, jumping around the stage, playing a lot of lead guitar (and, on a couple of tunes, piano) and moving quickly from one song to the next. We ate it up. Here’s my colleague Wes Woods’ review, with a video.

An announcement before the old-school White came on asked that people “enjoy the moment” rather than take photos. This got a cheer of approval, surprisingly. Professional photos would be taken, posted on White’s website and available for download for anyone who wanted mementos, we were told. While some around me on the floor did take photos anyway, there were a lot fewer than is typical at a concert these days.

So, that explains the two high-quality images with this blog post. You can find more on White’s site.

White has performed three previous times in Pomona, all at the Glass House: with the Stripes in 2002 and 2005 and with another band, Dead Weather, in 2009. He made joking references to past appearances at one point. His fabulist spiel went something like this (I pulled out a piece of paper and pen about halfway through):

“In 1993 my band the Rabble Rousers played the Glass House. In 1995 I played the Glass House with my new band Jerry’s Kids. In 2001 I played the bar next to the Glass House with my band Deeper Purple. In 2003 we played Pomona again. But it was Pomona, Montana. It was a scheduling mishap. A promoter booked us on a tour from San Diego to Montana. We had 10 hours between gigs.”

Ha ha! What a kidder.


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Remembering Casey Kasem

I spent the late 1970s and early 1980s listening fervently to “America’s Top 40,” the syndicated weekly show hosted by the smooth-voiced Casey Kasem, who died Sunday at 82. And I spent the early to mid 1970s watching various Saturday morning cartoons that used Kasem’s voice talents. His characterization of lovable hippie Shaggy on “Scooby Doo” was classic, but there were others.

From the top 40 show, “a long-distance dedication,” “and now, back to the countdown” and “keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars” were staples, delivered in Kasem’s warm, earnest cadence. Here’s an appreciation from NPR.

Did you listen, and if so, what do you recall?

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Column: Pomona punk scene set stage for man’s Nirvana photobomb


Sunday’s column tells a story about the above photograph from an early Nirvana concert as I interview the guy at the far left in the Angry Samoans shirt. He’s Bob Durkee, a punk fan who was connected to the Pomona scene during the ’80s. I let him talk about that and about how he ended up in an iconic photo.

You can listen to audio of the 45-minute concert here.

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Column: ‘Pulp Fiction’ to offer adrenaline rush in Pomona

Friday’s column has news about a 20th anniversary (where does the time go?) screening of “Pulp Fiction” at the fairgrounds as well as about more outdoor screenings in Pomona this summer. I also offer some brief items from Chino and put in a plug for this blog; somehow I forgot to do that last week, so I’ve got two weeks of items to promote.

Candidly, I was going to devote one paragraph, maybe two, to “Pulp Fiction,” but then I overheard the editors saying this morning among themselves (based on my summary of the column, which was still in the works) that they were going to try to put the column on Page One due to the “Pulp Fiction” angle. So I extended the item so that none of us looked foolish.

“Pulp Fiction” fans will get the pun in the headline, right? If not, this clip will explain.

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Restaurant of the Week: Flo’s No. 3


Flo’s Country Cafe, 10140 Beaumont Ave. (at Vineland), Cherry Valley; 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily

Thus far I’ve stuck solely to Inland Valley restaurants here, roughly Glendora to Fontana, Diamond Bar to Norco. But when a friend suggested we try the new Flo’s spinoff in the wilds of Riverside County, and offered to drive, I was game, and I figured I might as well share the results here. After all, the other two Flo’s are Chino favorites and some of you may be curious. I’ve added a “Restaurants: Around the I.E.” category just for this, and for any other excursions I may make in the future.

Cherry Valley? I’d never heard of the place. Getting there requires a long but pleasant drive out on the 10 well past Redlands (or on the 60 past Moreno Valley if you prefer) to the Beaumont area. Flo’s took over a small cafe there earlier this year. Unlike the Chino locations at the airport and on Riverside Drive, this really is country.

This Flo’s was an immediate hit, and the restaurant could probably be twice the size based on the crowds we witnessed late morning on a Saturday. The small parking lot was full and we parked on the gravel lot beyond. There was a waiting list to sit inside, which is cozy, but we got a table outside right away.

The menu is basically the same as the other Flo’s: breakfast and lunch staples like biscuits and gravy and burgers. But this Flo’s also has barbecue. Having heard from Bulletin reviewer David Cohen that Flo’s had the best BBQ in the Inland Empire, we opted for that, each getting the No. 4 combo: three baby back ribs, tri-tip and a hot link, plus two sides ($11).

Well, it was good barbecue, in Texas style, although our socks remained firmly in place. Personally I like ribs finished off on the grill, not pink when they’ve only been smoked. The tri-tip and hot links were more to our liking. The price was right, too, and our sides — Texas toast, slaw, beans — were tasty. The sauce was more North Carolina than Texas, according to my barbecue-fancying friend.

Flo’s, of course, is known for its pies, and they had a good assortment. I got a slice of peanut butter cream ($3.50) and was not disappointed. Also, it was nice to see waitress Debbie Mahlstadt, a familiar face from the Chino Airport Flo’s, who’s now in Cherry Valley much of the time.

So, the third Flo’s was a good, if possibly once-in-a-lifetime, experience, based on the geography, and now I can brag that I have been to all three existing Flo’s. Do you want to listen?




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