Restaurant of the Week: Lucille’s BBQ

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Lucille’s BBQ, 12624 N. Mainstreet (at Eden), Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga; also 4611 Chino Hills Parkway (at Ramona), Chino Hills

Lucille’s, a barbecue chain, was one of the original tenants when Victoria Gardens opened in 2004. And it’s still there, while adding a location in Chino Hills. Did you know the Signal Hill-based chain is owned by the same people behind the coffee shop chain Hof’s Hut? The gauzy story on the Lucille’s website about its origins under “Lucille Buchanan” is actually fiction, as the company admits. Ha ha!

I don’t feature chains here very often, but when there’s only one or two local locations, I’ll do it. In this case, a group of friends was celebrating a couple of birthdays recently at the VG, so I was there anyway. It was a Saturday night and the place was jammed.

Lucille’s is colorful and corporate-kitschy, with neon signs outside and quaint-looking advertising-type signs inside: “Good choices: FDR & BBQ,” “Was one mint julep the cause of it all?” The booths have coat racks and hanging lamps reminiscent of mid-century diners. But many employees wear earpieces to receive orders from their BBQ Overlords, or maybe Memphis, so it’s not quite cozy.

The food’s pretty good, actually. One of my friends swears the jambalaya is the best he’s ever had. My experiences there have been solid. The menu has barbecue, Southern specialties, sandwiches and salads.

That night I had a decent half-rack of St. Louis ribs ($24, below) and two sides: cheesy grits, boring, and collard greens, surprisingly good. When you’re done, they give you a hot towel, like at a Japanese restaurant, and that’s a nice touch, and better than Wet-Naps, for cleaning sauce off your hands.

I went back for lunch a few days later to try something else, getting a pulled pork sandwich ($12, below) with more of those greens. It was a meaty sandwich and I ate some of the pork with a knife and fork. This was a good choice.

There’s an adjoining bar, the Flying Pig Lounge, where they have a band every night playing blues. Otherwise, the sound system has blues, of the sleek B.B. King and Eric Clapton variety. They probably don’t know who Peetie Wheatstraw is.

We don’t have a lot of true Southern restaurants out here (J&J’s in Pomona is my favorite), making Lucille’s a credible barbecue spot by default. It’s a cartoon version of the South, sure. But so what? Cartoons are entertaining, and as chains go, Lucille’s is benign, and even fun.

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‘The dips’

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I’ve heard of “the dips” and “the bumps,” both of which were wiped out by progress but which were beloved by young people. Some of you commented on them a few years back on this blog on an unrelated post.

But then this photo popped up on Facebook’s “Growing Up in Upland” page, courtesy of Darin Kuna. It dates to 1939 and shows 19th Street between Upland and Alta Loma, looking east. Notice the dip?

Reader Rich P. explained the lay of the land in a comment on this blog back in 2008:

“The 19th Street bumps were on the Cucamonga Creek wash, between the flood control channel just west of Sapphire and Campus. They were wiped out by the Colonies project. They were dangerous, because some people would drive slower in case some nut was making a blind pass in the other direction, and the nuts would pass these slower drivers. My daughter loved the bumps at normal (not airborne) speed.”

Then there were “the bumps,” located on Base Line Road/16th Street between Claremont and Upland. Reader Tad Decker explained what those were:

“At the time, this was a long stretch of two-lane highway through barren, rocky scrubland. The road basically followed the natural topographic contours of the area, and thus was very hilly. If you traveled the road at a high rate of speed, you could be airborne for a second or two. This was great fun for me as a child with my dad driving, but the bumps were smoothed out by the time I was behind the wheel myself.”

Want to share a memory about the dips or the bumps? Leave a comment.

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Restaurant of the Week: 5 Star Pizza

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5 Star Pizza, 951 N. Haven Ave. (at Concours), Ontario

A friend alerted me to the existence of 5 Star Pizza, which bills itself as the “best pizza in Ontario” and whose name pretty much promises the same thing. Their Yelp rating as of Feb. 9 is five stars.

Well, it’s near our office, and I was hungry, so I dropped in for a late lunch. It’s in the Concours Center on Haven just below Fourth, where it replaced Pizza Factory late in 2014. I’d been there once and hadn’t been impressed by the food, only by the comical dining room that reminds me of a high school gym with picnic tables: It’s got sports posters and pennants, a tile floor, giant TVs and one of those arcade games where you shoot baskets, all of which appear unchanged.

5 Star has an accommodating attitude. I’d missed the buffet, which had ended an hour before, but they still had a few slices out by the salad bar. The manager volunteered the buffet anyway and said they’d put out a fresh pizza. At $8, including soda, that was a good deal. (Officially it runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays.) They started a pizza with pepperoni on half and asked what I’d like on the other half; I said sausage and mushrooms. Done.

The salad bar was standard, except with dressing in squeeze bottles, which is actually a decent idea. For one thing, unlike open containers, you won’t find croutons floating inside. I sat near the entrance rather than occupy a lonely mid-afternoon spot in the sports room.

The pizza had chewy crust, plenty of sauce and a decent amount of toppings. Not five stars by my book, but a solid three.

The menu has $1.50 slices all day, every day (see, they ARE accommodating), plus wings, fried chicken, submarine sandwiches and three pastas, plus Hangar 24 beer. Among their specialty pizzas, priced $13 for small to $20 for extra large: all meat, mucho pepperoni (double portion), Philly cheese steak, Latino (pepperoni, carne asada, onion, green peppers and mushrooms), burger (hamburger, pickle, onion, tomato, green pepper and mushrooms) and, most unusually, Indian (all veggie with ginger, garlic and cilantro). I think 5 Star is Indian-run; there are brochures on the counter for Koyla, an Indian restaurant up the street.

The owner was in and out making deliveries. Seems like a scrappy place that will bend its own rules to accommodate customers.

Is it the best pizza in Ontario? It’s not a big pizza town — if you know of a popular place, let me know — and the only pizza I can remember having here is a slice at Sbarro before a movie and a slice or two at Joey’s on Archibald a few years ago. 5 Star may very well be the best pizza in town, even though it was average to me. But they get an extra star for trying.

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Column: Early Ontario: no city hall, two cops, one bum

Wednesday’s column is about the new book “Early Ontario,” part of the Images of America series of local history books, and some of the tidbits therein. After deadline I was told the $22 book will be sold for $15 at Wednesday’s launch party at the library, which takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. at 215 E. C St. Good deal. Also, I’ll be there selling my own book at regular price.

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Marvel and Montclair, 1964

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A young comics fan from Montclair had a letter published in The Avengers’ issue 11, cover-dated December 1964. Tom Conti and his pals wanted to see Thor and the Hulk really go at it, a request that editor Stan Lee was able to say was coming the very next month in a different comic.

It’s not much of a letter, but you have to smile at Conti’s youthful enthusiasm. This is the second Inland Valley fan who had his name in the early days of Marvel Comics, the earlier one being Upland’s Mark Carey, who’d started a Fantastic Four fan club in 1963.

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Mod! Mountain Avenue Car Wash

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The latest in my occasional series of midcentury modern architecture posts (see earlier examples here) spotlights Mountain Avenue Car Wash at 820 N. Mountain Ave., Ontario.

I have passed this car wash many times but was never so struck by it as one recent sunny afternoon when I had parked directly across the street. I walked out to the curb to take photos, admiring the turquoise paint and the (it looks like) 14 blades jutting skyward. You see those at a lot of car washes from that era. It’s an attention-getter and may reflect jet-age optimism.

This dandy was built in 1961 as California Car Wash before later lowering its sights to become merely Mountain Avenue Car Wash. Thanks to Ontario’s Planning Department for looking up that detail.

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