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January 22, 2006


I used to think the Midwest was strange until I moved here.

On the other hand, compared with the greasy local chinese cuisine, this stuff was pretty darned good.

I actually know those strip malls between San Antonio and Mulberry. When I first moved to California in 1983, I lived one block north of them. No veggie places during the year that I lived in the area, but I think Liquorama's been there forever, and I know that the "Hi Brow Lounge" has been there for decades. I still use the dog groomer there.

The late Linda McCartney would not be amused, but I never have really taken to veggie food. Tried a Gardenburger once at Coco's and hated it. While I shouldn't judge an entire cuisine (actually multiple cuisines) by that one experience, I'm still not willing to run out and can the meat.

Ummm, I wouldn't go to Coco's for my first vegetarian experience. I would expect the chef to be thinking, yeah, right, I'll teach that pinko wimp something and mash the peelings that fell on the floor into a "garden burger."

I don't have the limitation of vegetarianism going against me, yet I have to agree one of the biggest drawbacks of living in the IE for me has been the dearth of good restaurants. More specfically, the lack of interesting restaurants with local flavor and personality, restaurants that are not Chili's, Applebees, Macaroni Grill or TGIFridays.

I hate to sound like a snob, but the lack of taste of some of our neighbors is just astounding. My wife and I went out to a wonderful Japanese fusion restaurant last Saturday night, which one would assume would be a big night in the restaurant business. Instead the place was practically empty, leaving little hope for its long-term survival (it was empty the last time we went there too) Yet the Red Robin neighboring the place had a line out the door.

Gooch: You put your thumb right on it. Plosh and I go nuts trying to find decent eats in this area. Even Claremont, a college town, has only a handful of not-mediocre restaurants, and they're overpriced for the relative quality.

Let me know where the fusion Japanese place is -- they probably have a few veggie selections on the menu and I'd like to get there before they go under.

Gooch's comment triggered some thoughts in my brain. Even I, who am not completely offended by corporate power, am starting to get disgusted at the exacting sameness of nearly every mall around here. I wasn't up in arms went Starbucks entered downtown Claremont, but I can picture the day in which downtown Claremont has a Quiznos next to a Cold Stone next to a Panda Express next to a Rubio's.

OE: Shudder. It's one of the things I objected to about the new Victoria Gardens mall too. Sure, it's perdy, in a sterile kind of way, but underneath the faux '50s facades it's the same same same.

I'm just going to say it: I hate the Inland Empire.

Anne, the restaurant is called Yen. It's in Temecula on Winchester Road, near the mall, so it may be a bit of a drive.

OE, I'm not anti-corporate either, but I also find it depressing how homogenized all the cities in the Inland Empire and beyond are becoming. I swear, you could blindfold me, and drive me from my house in Temecula all the way out to Victorville and I'm not sure I'd even realize I had left since once my blindfold was removed I'd see the same Red Lobster, Best Buy, Target, Starbucks, Lowes...

It's not just the IE. I'm seeing it in the OC, in Henderson Nevada, in Arlington Virginia...even in San Francisco.

It's a phenomenon chronicled by New Urbanists and other suburban critics, such as James Howard Kunstler in his "Home from Nowhere."

Unfortunately, when dimwit planners in places like Rancho Cucamonga decide to do New Urbanism, they simply come up with another mall.

At least when they built The Grove in Los Angeles, they put real housing above the stores. At Victoria Gardens, they put in FAKE apartments.

I can't give up meat, I am a happy carnivore.

I don't know if this helps or not -- probably not much -- but the corporatization is over here in London, too. There's a Starbucks on every corner and we get the added angst of having many Europeans think all Americans actually like Starbucks coffee, and are therefore as a nation foisting it upon them in a rush of corporate imperialism. The "high street" phenomenon is our equivalent of the "strip mall"... the same Oasis, TopShop, Miss Selfridges, Habitat, Next, Monsoon, and so on.

But the grass is always greener - the other day I saw, listed on ebay.co.uk, a set of 15 paper take-out menus from various resturants in a California suburb, being enthusiastically bidded up by various people in the UK. So everyone and every place is exotic to someone!

Oh Robin, that's just tragic. I have such fond memories of all that's unique about London, from the pubs to the wine bars, tea shops and the much-mourned Reject China Shop. Sigh.

Oh, don't worry, that's all still there too. You just have to look harder -- or farther out of town -- for it. When're you coming to visit, anyway? I want to meet the little people.

To Robin: we've hosted several exchange students over the years, and have found that a number of exchange students who end up in Southern California love Mexican food by the time their stay is over. So we sent two of our former exchange students t-shirts and sipper cups from Don Jose's (an Inland Empire-Orange County Mexican restaurant chain) for Christmas. If I hadn't found those, I was considering sending In N Out burger accessories. (And no, I won't say what they do to In N Out Burger bumper stickers; this is a family blog, after all.)

Anne, I will investigate Kunstler and New Urbanists.

OE: Click on the blog Veritas et Venustas to your left. He's a New Urbanist architect who was on the team appointed by the Mississippi governor to redesign communities along New Urbanist lines after Katrina. They're also getting their eager paws on New Orleans. Should be exciting stuff.

Robin: I'd be there tomorrow if we could!

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