Restaurant of the Week: The Mug Shakes

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The Mug Shakes, Victoria Gardens Food Hall, 12434 N. Mainstreet, Rancho Cucamonga

The Mug Shakes, which opened in May, is a locally owned stall in the Victoria Gardens Food Hall, a non-chain that could become one. It created a sensation upon opening with its decadent creations that are served in glass mugs and spill out of them, with long lines reported on weekends. My colleague Neil Nisperos wrote about them. Fox 11 did a feature too.

As is often the case with me, I was curious but didn’t act on my curiosity for a while; it’s not often I’m at Victoria Gardens, and the messy look of the shakes was a little off-putting, even while it might draw in others. I kind of forgot the place was there. And then a friend from North Hollywood visited and posted photos, and, shamed, I made a special trip on a lunch break this week, when the mercury was 100.

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After lunch, I went to The Mug Shakes, where only a couple of parties were in line. I had time to read the menu board, where photos of the shakes scroll by. A few sounded enticing for my tastes: the Nutty Peanut, with peanut butter and Kit-Kats, the Pine Crunch, with pineapple cheesecake, the O’Real Bomb, with Oreo cookies, and the Grasshopper, with mint chocolate chip ice cream. Some shakes are $7 while others are $8, presumably due to ingredients or assembly time, as all are the same size.

I went for the Banana Bang ($7), with bananas and toffee, in part because it seemed like a (very relatively) lighter offering, and somewhat tidy. It arrived about five minutes later.

There were banana chips affixed to the rim and, inside, fresh banana pieces amid the ice cream, plus smears of toffee inside and around the rim and a topping that some say is marshmallow cream rather than whipped cream.

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Two could share one of these shakes. The elaborate, spillover presentation is eye-catching, if not all that appealing to me. What surprised me was that the shake wasn’t made with premium ice cream. I expected more after all the hype and the care spent on the appearance. Overall, my shake was very sweet but didn’t taste that great. It felt like wasted calories.

Toppings may not impress either: The few, lonely naysayers on Yelp, where Mug Shakes currently has a 4.5 rating, point out that the brownies in one shake are the processed Fiber One brand, not fresh-baked. If they’re going to go to this much trouble, why not use better ingredients and charge another $2 or $3?

“Does it come with a shot of insulin?” one friend asked after seeing a photo of my shake. My NoHo friend said she’d had the Marvelous Mango shake and found it refreshing. “I asked for the calorie counts,” she confided, “and the worker there laughed at me.”

You can take the mug home if you like — the staff will give you a plastic bag for it, since it will be goopy outside and in — or you can return it, which I did. Would I ever go again? Ehh, probably not. At the VG, you might get a better, and certainly more conventional, shake at The Melt (six flavors, including Snickerdoodle) or Johnny Rockets.

Below is a photo from Yelp of a more typical Mug Shakes offering, the Pebble Graham (I think), that may strike you as either challenging or disgusting. I report, you decide.

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A paean to the Pomona Concert Band

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The Thursday night concerts in Ganesha Park by the Pomona Concert Band have been highlighted by me before. But they don’t seem to be as well-known as they should. Mary P. Wallace of La Verne emailed me to make that point.

“They may be the best-kept secret in the valley. It would be a wonderful evening for families in our valley,” Wallace writes. She’s a native of Pomona and has attended the concerts off and on since the 1960s, but has gone consistently the past few years.

To her ears, the Pomona Concert Band is the best community orchestra around. “The reason is that they play wonderful Sousa marches, and other familiar pops music, plus introducing me to new and beautiful music. They are truly a class act, led by Linda Taylor,” Wallace continues.

She and her friend, Jan Van Alstine, have developed a routine, stopping first at the food trucks at the fairgrounds to try something unfamiliar, and then on to neighboring Ganesha Park for the 8 p.m. concerts at the band shell, on White Avenue just north of the 10 Freeway.

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“The park is ‘safe’ and accessible. Just bring a lawn chair,” advises Wallace. She also notes a new feature this year: carvings from the logs of dead trees. There’s a bear rearing up as you approach the band shell, and an eagle perched at the top of a trunk on the rise overlooking the band shell.

As Wallace says, the eagle is “watching over us, enjoying a real piece of Americana.”

I always attend one concert each season and was there last Thursday. (Wallace and Van Alstine saw me and introduced themselves.)

Instrumental music isn’t my thing, candidly, and I’m more of a Glass House person, but the band’s ambition and range is always laudable, from modern symphonic works and showtunes to a classical song by Holst and, yes, a Sousa composition. I like the tradition too, music under the stars at our mini-Hollywood Bowl, something Pomonans have been doing since the late 1940s.

The season’s last Thursday concert is Aug. 25, but there’s a 6 p.m. Aug. 28 concert as well. See the schedule and program notes here. And here is the food truck lineup for this Thursday.

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The Bear Gulch bear

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When taking photos recently of the property around Rancho Cucamonga’s Sycamore Inn for which development is proposed, I paid a visit to the Bear Gulch monument and historical marker, on the western edge of the restaurant property.

The monument was erected in 1932 to mark a resting point of the 18th century. The two overland expeditions by Juan Bautista de Anza from Mexico to Northern California stopped there. Bear Gulch is the local name for the area where, evidently, bears had been spotted on numerous occasions in olden days.

You can check out the plaque below. It’s listed online in the Historical Marker Database.

My colleague Joe Blackstock explored the marker in a column in 2014. He wondered why the marker cites the minor Father Pedro Font when he was accompanying the better-known de Anza, and why the marker says 1779 when the expedition was actually in 1776 — and de Anza had previously been there in 1774.

More whimsically, reader Will Plunkett says he refers to the statue as the Monkey Bear because the bear’s face has a simian aspect.

Check it out sometime when you’re driving past on Foothill Boulevard or eating at the Sycamore, and maybe give a little growl.

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Column: Oh, fudge! Farrell’s in RC closes shop

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Friday’s column may give you an ice cream headache: Farrell’s has left the Inland Valley for the second time. First it was Montclair in the 1980s. Now it’s Rancho Cucamonga this month. Plus: two more items, and a valley vignette. Above, a thwarted diner reads the message Tuesday afternoon about the closing.

If you want to read about the old Farrell’s, I posted about it here.

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Restaurant of the Week: Zait Bistro

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Zait Bistro, 7251 Haven Ave. (at Base Line), Rancho Cucamonga

Located in Terra Vista Village, next to Stuffed Pizza and Ralphs and near a boba shop, Zait Bistro is a mom and pop Lebanese restaurant. A friend picked it for dinner based on online ratings and it sounded fine to me.

Zait’s menu has 10 combo plates of shawarma, kababs and falafel, which come with two sides and pita bread. They can be ordered in two or three sizes depending on the number of skewers or pieces you prefer ($8 to $15). They also have grilled chicken, sandwiches and salads.

The woman at the counter let us try some of the sides, which were in small bins at the counter behind plastic. That was nice. It was like being at an ice cream shop, except we were trying Mediterranean salad, not mint chip.

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I ordered a small lamb kabab, with one skewer, plus tabbouleh and grape leaves ($10); my friend had two shrimp skewers plus potatoes and falafel ($15). We sat down to await our food. A sign on the wall cautions that “fresh food is not fast food” and gives the preparation time for each entree, up to 18 minutes.

Our food arrived after what seemed like a typical wait, but the heads-up was appreciated, as was the concept of making our food to order. It’s served in foam containers, which isn’t much for presentation, but for those taking home leftovers, it’s handy.

My lamb was very good, and one skewer was quite enough food, especially with the sides. My friend got about eight shrimp of impressive size. “This is a lot of shrimp,” she exclaimed. I was a little envious. She also praised her falafel for having more taste than the typical overly fried version.

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Zait has a Pepsi freestyle machine and Turkish coffee for 99 cents, plus baklava and harissa for dessert.

I would go back. Zait is all right.

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Richfield sign’s return

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The Richfield sign atop the restored Cucamonga Service Station was put back in place Friday morning. Reader Diego Ramirez contributed the two photos above. The gas station, now a Route 66 museum, was built in 1915 and stands on Foothill Boulevard just west of Archibald Avenue.

You might recall that the rooftop sign was taken down in February until its height could be lowered by a couple of feet. Its placement interfered with the electronic billboard next door, and its owner, Lennar Advertising Co, had after all donated the service station to the nonprofit Route 66 Inland Empire California Association, so its request deserved consideration.

Below is a view of the newly installed sign on Monday, shot by me as a selfie out my window while stopped at a red light in the northbound turn lane! There’s a small shopping center going up to the west, as you can see.

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