RV in RC, RIP

Since our office used to be on Fourth Street in Ontario, and now is only a bit farther east at Archibald and Fourth, I’ve passed this RV and Off Road shop at 10234 E. Fourth for, it seems, my entire 22 years here.

I don’t know the first thing about this shop, other than “gear, parts, repair,” but the sign’s lettering always caught my eye. And I have a recollection that in its latter days there was a cross on the facade, presumably to signal that the owner would treat you fairly.

It’s been closed a while with a construction fence around it. I’d meant to stop for a photo for posterity, but there was no obvious place to park. Recently, though, driving east to lunch past the building, I realized I could park at the Havengate complex immediately east at Center and Fourth streets. On my way back, I made a point of doing so.

According to the official sign, the building is going to be demolished for a new one at 58,000 square feet for industrial, office, manufacturing and warehousing. The site, 2.76 acres, is enormous compared to the size of the existing building, so I’m sure it will be a better use of the property.

Farewell, RV and Off Road. You no doubt left a larger mark on the world than this blog post, and probably did so with big tires, but you are memorialized here anyway.

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Restaurant of the Week: Guido’s Pizza and Deli

Guido’s Pizza and Deli, 9755 Arrow Highway (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga; open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., closed Sundays

Guido’s Pizza and Deli has been around since 1991, always at the same location, Arrow Plaza in Rancho Cucamonga. Namesake owner Guido Sciortino retired in 2014 at age 75 and sold the business to Alex DeGioia and Marisa Furno, who promised to keep the sandwiches, add items from Furno’s native Argentina and restore pizza to the menu after a long absence.

I hadn’t been in since the changeover, but a friend ate there and told me he’d liked it. Some time later, trying to think of a place to have him meet me for lunch, I invited him to Guido’s. He initially had no recollection of having been there, then at my prompting replied, “the place I ate at a couple of years ago?” Personally I’m not sure it had been that long. Anyway, my memory for odd details is sometimes stronger than my memory for the important stuff.

Inside Guido’s, which is dinky, there are a couple of tables, but mostly it’s for takeout. Some Italian and, now, Argentinian grocery items are for sale, just as in the old days. Signs list the old familiar sandwiches, including the Guido and the Tony ($6 each), named for the Sciortino brothers, as well as some Argentinian sandwiches, empanadas ($2 each) and pizzas.

We got Argentinian sandwiches: the choripa ($6.50) for him, the milanesa ($9.50) for me. His had sausage, chimichurri sauce, lettuce, tomato and cheese; mine had country-fried steak, mustard, lettuce, tomato. mayo and cheese. The milanesa was large enough to hang over the edge of the roll.

Our sandwiches arrived split in half. After finishing our halves about the same time, I suggested we swap the other halves, and we did.

Also, after eating half the milanesa, he said he preferred his choripa. After eating half the choripa, I preferred my milanesa. Maybe swapping wasn’t such a great idea.

His conclusion concerning the meal: “Delicious, super-filling. If I come again I’ll go for the pizza.”

DeGioia, by the way, said Sciortino still makes his homemade sausages, just as he always has, and had just been in the day before.

I returned a week later with a different friend to share a pizza. This wouldn’t have been necessary as it turns out Guido’s also makes personal pizzas at half the size. Well, we got a full ($17) and got a split of the styles: the Putanesca (mozzarella, spicy tomato sauce, anchovies) for my half, the Neopolitan (mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, garlic) for his half.

DeGioia said he makes the best pizza in the Inland Empire. I wouldn’t go that far. But it was a good pizza, substantial, laden with cheese. We both thought it was salty, but we both had anchovy slices, so maybe it was just the anchovy and not the pizza. We each ate 2 1/2 slices of the pizza. I took home three slices and ate one per night the next three nights. That’s a pizza with staying power.

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Restaurant of the Week: Fat Burrito

Fat Burrito, 9608 Base Line Road (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga; open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Have you had puffy tacos? They’re a specialty in San Antonio, Texas, where I ate them at Ray’s, but they’re rare in SoCal, with Arturo’s Puffy Tacos in Whittier being the prime exemplar. Bar Ama in downtown L.A. makes them, although they’re off-menu; personally, I found them oily and disappointing on a visit earlier (oilier?) this year.

But now comes Fat Burrito, a family owned Tex-Mex restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga that opened last December in what had long been home to the late Chile Red.

Fat Burrito is a good name for a Mexican restaurant. But the specialty is puffy tacos.

On my first visit back in April, a friend got a chicken huarache ($8), seen above. He hadn’t had a huarache before. “That was excellent,” he said after finishing. “I’m glad I stepped outside my comfort zone.”

I got the puffy tacos ($3.55 each): one al pastor, one chile verde. They come with onions, cilantro, cotija cheese and sour cream. The tortillas puff out, as if the tortilla were an animal in defense mode. These were delicious tacos, and scarcely oily at all.

On a subsequent visit I got carne asada and pollo asado in my puffy tacos (above). I was back this week and got the final two meats: machaca and carnitas. I have completed the Fat Burrito meat circuit.

I’d be hard-pressed, though, to tell you which meat to get. They were all tender and moist. But as a pork fan, I’m partial to the al pastor and chile verde.

You order at the counter, by the way, and take a seat in the small but comfortable dining room. The menu has a couple of other items, including something called a burrito salad, plus standard tacos for $2.25, but that’s about it.

All told, I’ve eaten at Fat Burrito four times so far, and I’m sure I’ll return many more times. Between Fat Burrito and El Patron, Rancho Cucamonga now has a couple of very good Mexican restaurants. (And perhaps more of which I’m unaware.)

On one visit, I tried a burrito. It’s in their name, right? I got chile verde ($9.25). You know, the burritos here are good too, wrapped in flour tortillas, the interior a pleasing mishmash of rice, beans and meat, everything kind of fusing into one filling.

It’s also true, though, that you can get a good burrito plenty of places, but you probably can’t find puffy tacos anywhere else in the Inland Valley. Go for those. You’ll thank me.

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Restaurant of the Week: Pie Hole

The Pie Hole, 12466 N. Mainstreet (Victoria Gardens), Rancho Cucamonga; open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday

The Pie Hole, as in “shut your — —-,” specializes in pies by the slice, plus coffee. It began in downtown L.A.’s Arts District in 2011 and has since expanded to Long Beach, Orange, Venice, Glendale and good ol’ Rancho Cucamonga, where a location opened in the Victoria Gardens outdoor mall in 2017. Nice of them to take notice of us fairly early instead of decades from now.

I’ve been to the Arts District shop a few times, where slices are $8, a lot to pay even for an artisanal slice of pie. While I was excited by Pie Hole’s impending arrival in Rancho Cucamonga, I never ended up going. Somehow I was under the impression it was only going to be takeout only, kind of a turnoff, and also I rarely go to the VG.

Earlier this year, after a friend expressed surprise and amusement (as we ate at the Pie Hole in the Arts District) that I hadn’t been to the one in Rancho, I resolved to make a trip soon, and did.

It turns out our Pie Hole is just as full service as DTLA’s. Oops.

It’s got a few tables indoors and out, and floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides that let in a lot of light. Very appealing. The menu has pies, pot pies ($7-$7.50) and breakfast pies ($7), as well as coffee, draft beer and ice cream.

The seasonal pies change, but the current ones include Earl Grey, Mexican Chocolate, banana cream and a few more. One crucial note: slices are $4, half the price of L.A.’s. I like the 909 pricing.

On my first visit, I went with Mom’s Apple Crumble, got it heated and splurged on ice cream for $1.50 more. In other words, $5.49 total, still cheaper than $8. The pie was excellent, loaded with apples, and the ice cream was premium.

I was back a month later and couldn’t resist ordering the Cereal Killer pie. On my Arts District meet-up, one friend got that kind (I had ordered a Blood Orange slice) and while his choice hadn’t struck me as appealing, not being prone to getting, say, doughnuts with cereal on them, the slice actually looked pretty good. So at the VG, I got one.

It’s a cheesecake with bits of cereal inside. The clerk asked what cereal I wanted on top. I forget the choices; maybe Froot Loops or Fruity Pebbles? I went with the more prosaic Frosted Flakes. It was a fun slice, but truth to tell, I’m more of a fruit pie person and having indulged this whim, I doubt I’ll order it again.

But I’m sure I’ll be back to the Pie Hole to fill mine. Sorry it took me so long to visit!

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Column: Library tutors boost young readers. Comprehend?

The Back 2 Basics literacy program at the Rancho Cucamonga Public Library (both branches) offers free tutoring in reading to qualifying youngsters who are behind a grade level. I write about the program in Wednesday’s column. After all, library officials had invited me to address their pint-sized graduates, and first I had to learn what Back 2 Basics was all about.

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Column: Long and short of a 20-minute RC meeting

After a few weeks of wanting to get to a Rancho Cucamonga City Council meeting, I finally made one on Wednesday. It was super short and almost nothing happened, naturally. But I wrote about it anyway (and got ideas for future columns), as well as adding some cultural notes and a vignette, for Sunday’s column.

Speaking of cultural notes, one of them is that I’ll be speaking at 11 a.m. May 11 at Chino’s Old Schoolhouse Museum, 5493 B St. It’s my first and possibly only Chino Valley appearance for my book “On Track.” Come see me!

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Restaurant of the Week: Bento Kuma

Bento Kuma, 8796 19th St. (at Carnelian), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily from noon to 7:45 p.m. Monday to Wednesday and to 8:45 p.m. Thursday to Sunday

A friend had been talking up Bento Kuma, a Chinese spot in Rancho Cucamonga that opened last November. He said it’s on his way home and that if he phones in an order when he leaves work, it’s ready for pickup when he arrives. And that he likes it, of course. He invited me and one of his work colleagues to lunch there. Thankfully he didn’t make us take it all to go to his house.

If you think about the name, it’s kind of funny: Bento boxes are Japanese, not Chinese. But they sell some lunch specials as bento boxes — not really in sectioned-off trays, but with a few courses in bowls on a tray.

I got the barbecue pork ($9.50), which came with rice, an egg roll, a cream cheese wonton, orange sections and edamame (which is Japanese). He got the same except with broccoli as well. The other guy got curry chicken ($9) a la carte.

He said the chicken was fresh and had plenty of curry. Our barbecue pork was fatty and not that appealing. The broccoli was said to be crisp.

“We are the only customers,” the invitee noted with accuracy. “In the evening there are definitely people here. People are lined up for takeout orders.”

Personally I see no reason to return, this being a neighborhood spot without a lot to recommend a drive here. But I’m glad he enjoys his takeout.

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Restaurant of the Week: Mr. Dumpling

Mr. Dumpling, 9319 Foothill Blvd. (at Hellman), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

I was predisposed to like Mr. Dumpling, a Chinese restaurant in the center across from the New Kansan Motel, based on its name alone. Courtesy titles in business names are usually a winner. I would like to see a Mr. Dumpling mascot, perhaps a pudgy anthropomorphic dumpling wearing a smile and a rice hat.

Regardless, the restaurant had been on my list to try pretty much since its 2017 opening, and an opportunity recently presented itself when I was setting up lunch in Rancho Cucamonga with two friends. Let’s try Mr. Dumpling!

The double-sided menu has appetizers, soups and, naturally, dumplings, steamed, boiled or fried. We started with cucumber ($4), pickled and with serrano chiles, which we liked, although we sometimes avoided the chiles, and house fried rice ($4), with scallions and egg.

We also got pork wonton in chile oil ($7), another table favorite.

As for the dumplings, we got xiao long bao ($9), soup-filled pork dumplings of the type you would get at Din Tai Fung. These were not to those level, but they matched my memory of the XLBs at Min’s, also in Rancho Cucamonga. We also had beef and onion panfried dumplings ($9.45), which I unaccountably did not photograph. We liked those too.

Service was efficient but not especially helpful, as seems standard for Chinese restaurants. The dining room is enlivened by a wall-length mural by the co-owner.

I enjoyed the meal, as did my friends. I’d rate it among the better Chinese restaurants in the city. “For dumplings I’d definitely come back,” said one. “They needed to have those little spoons for us,” chided the other, referring to the soup spoons that usually come with XLBs.

And then in writing this post I reread our restaurant critic’s review and learned that there is evidently a sauce station opposite the kitchen with sauces, oils, black vinegar and slivered ginger for our dumplings. I did wonder why we didn’t get black vinegar and only a, well, sliver of slivered ginger. Maybe they had soup spoons there too. But no one told us it existed.

Tsk, tsk, Mr. Dumpling, you adorable fellow, you!

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Restaurant of the Week: Calle Ocho

Calle Ocho, 8880 Archibald Ave. (at 8th), Rancho Cucamonga; open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday; closed Sundays

I heard about Calle Ocho from our Dine 909 columnist, who tweeted a mention of it a few weeks ago. Interesting that that would make two Cuban eateries in the same center, which is half automotive shops (and half, it sometimes feels like, businesses to patronize while your car is being smogged).

Not long afterward, I pulled into the center just above the railroad tracks with an eye toward eating again at Mica’s, the other Cuban spot, while taking a peek at Calle Ocho for future reference. But Mica’s was “closed for remodeling,” which often means a change of ownership. So I stepped into Calle Ocho.

The owner, or maybe co-owner, who was seated at one of the two small glass-topped tables, immediately greeted me and moved behind the counter. The menu is small: a few sandwiches, empanadas and coffees, including cafe con leche, some sides and some breakfast items. There’s a counter with a few more seats by the open kitchen.

I ordered the mainstay sandwich, the Cuban ($11), with roast pork, ham, Swiss, pickles and mustard, plus garlic fries and a Materva soda. Probably 15 minutes later, the sandwich was delivered.

This was an excellent sandwich, with the tender pork a standout. Very filling too. The Cuban soda was like a less intense Inka soda.

“You’re lucky you came in at this time,” the woman had told me after I ordered, which was around 1:30 p.m. “At lunch sometimes people have to wait 45 minutes for their food!” Prepare accordingly, or phone in your order to (909) 560-2925. Also, note that they’re open only five hours a day.

Calle Ocho, which translates to Eighth Street, seems like a relaxed, friendly place. A regular came in, sat at the counter and bantered with the woman and the cook, as if this were a bar. They gave as good as they got. When he complained that last year no trick or treaters came, she fired back: “Nobody wants to go trick or treating in Fontana. They come to Rancho. They don’t want to trick or treat where there’s no sidewalks.”

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Restaurant of the Week: Mimi 5 Bobee

Mimi 5 Bobee, 9799 Base Line Road (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily except Tuesday, closed

Sometimes these restaurant visits are planned, sometimes they’re on a whim based on what’s near where I need to be for a story assignment and once in a while they become even more random. Needless to say, this is among the latter.

A friend and I had planned to meet at a Chinese restaurant in Claremont on a certain Wednesday, but when we got there we learned it’s closed on Wednesdays. He suggested a Chinese restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga in the 99 Ranch center that he’d tried and liked. We each drove there and learned that it, too, is closed on Wednesdays. What were the odds? Before that day I knew of only two restaurants that are closed Wednesdays, Vince’s Spaghetti in Ontario and Mariscos Jalisco in Pomona, and suddenly that number doubled on one lunch break.

But I noticed the Taiwanese restaurant Mimi 5 Bobee in the same center, and my friend hadn’t eaten there before either. It’s the only restaurant of four in that center neither of us had tried. So, undeterred by the name, we went in.

It’s a small, but large enough. We examined the menu and selected two items.

First was chili pepper wonton ($7.50), a decent version of a favorite dish, pork dumplings in chili oil.

We also got pork stew dry noodle ($7), wisely upgrading to hand-pulled noodles ($1.50). The ground pork was lightly spiced, the noodles stretchy and chewy. This proved to be our favorite item.

Those two orders weren’t enough for two people, so after some consultation with the server, we got pork in red grain with rice ($9). (They are big on pork here, and I guess we, too, were big on pork here.) It was deep-fried, quickly, and came with cabbage and carrots, jicama (or something like it) and a hard-boiled egg, and rice with a bit more pork. We liked this as we had the others, but the noodles remained our favorites.

We also got milk tea drinks off a specials board, two-for-one.

Mimi 5 has locations in Diamond Bar and Rowland Heights. The Bulletin’s real reviewer, David Cohen, wrote in 2016 that specialties include stinky tofu, marinated pork and oyster pancakes, among other dishes not commonly available in the area.

I’ve been to Red Chilli House, Lotus Cafe and Min’s Dumpling House in that center and have enjoyed them all, with Min’s and Red being the standouts. Still haven’t ventured inside 99 Ranch, which has its own food court. And of course I need to try the new spot that is closed Wednesdays — but obviously should not do so in midweek.

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