Aren’t these post-holiday months a drag? Back to the grind, nine to five, with no relief in sight until Memorial Day… which is still 118 horrifying days away! Some lucky people get a day off for Martin Luther King Day or Washington’s Birthday, which is nice, but these are not “party”-style holidays. They’re just an extra day off for doing the laundry or some similar odious-but-necessary task. As much as I was relieved that the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year party boogie-till-you-drop marathon was over, I cannot help but wish we could leap forward in time and start reveling in it again.
So, what to do during these dull days of winter? One solution is to take a long lunch with friends and catch up on holiday horror stories. For Tawny, this is an annual cleansing ritual. But where to meet? For an extended gab-fest, you need a comfortable, affordable place to just hang out, eat well and stay as long as you like.
One place that fills the bill is La Paloma on Foothill Blvd. in Pomona. “Go to Pomona?” you gasp! I know, I know… it’s not the most upscale dining destination, but it has more character than Irwindale, and you might have time to cruise the boulevard and gaze upon some of the old motor inns and other remaining traces of Route 66. Technically, La Paloma resides in the neighboring town of La Verne, but if you look at the city limits sign out front, it appears as though the bar is in La Verne and the restaurant is in Pomona. So, if it helps, tell your friends you’ll meet them in La Verne.
Besides, who can resist the vintage appeal of La Paloma? Just look at their logo—a chef wearing not only a chef’s hat… but also a sombrero. Established in 1966, La Paloma is another one of those gems in which barely anything appears to be touched by time. Large, sometimes huge, red leather booths, tables which slide forward or back in order to accommodate your waistline, stained glass windows, old-fashioned Mexican food on hot, huge plates and highly-potent cocktails. The ringtones jingling on customers’ phones is about the only way to tell what year it is.
As you’re seated, you’re greeted with a basket of warm chips and a bowl of a nice, tangy salsa. If you munch through all of them, they’ll bring refills. Make good use of this “chips and salsa phase” by exchanging pleasantries with your friends and determining who has the “most urgent/must detox ASAP” holiday tale to share.
While this is going down, peruse the menu and decide on your order. I recommend the lunch specials for $6.95. You have your choice of the following: the relleno ranchero, the tostada supreme, the burrito ranchero, the tamale with chili beans or the chicken enchilada supreme. These come with your choice of either soup or salad or beans and rice.
My albondigas soup entrée was packed with three meatballs simmering in a tasty broth and with a decent amount of veggies. The salad is also better than many you get with lunch specials at restaurants: it included carrots, red cabbage, beets and a black olive. Enjoy your entrees while letting your friend with the worst story take center stage and regale you with the details. As long as you are not this person, you can reflect and realize that you are thankful that you are not her.
When your main course arrives, it will most likely be quite hot (“Don’t touch that plate!”), so you have time to let it cool down while the gab-fest turns into a stream-of-consciousness story exchange among your friends, filled with delirious highs and lows and a hilarity that makes you so happy that these are your friends.
Regarding the main courses, I’ve tried almost all of them. Their signature dish, the burrito ranchero, is the standout, filled with savory pork in red sauce. I found the tostada to be quite tasty as well; not one of those super-duper huge tostadas, but large enough to fill me up and make me feel guilty for what I had just done. The chicken enchilada was pretty much what you would expect; tasty but somewhat forgettable. The quaintly-named tamale with chili beans was a little dry and not very spicy, but still a fun old-school comfort food to try on a winter’s day.
Conversation may ebb while everyone gets going on the food, but it picks up again when the forks slow down. Now it’s time to get into debriefing on vital statistics: who is with whom, who is not with whom, who gave birth to whom, who is not speaking to whom, who bought whom what, who didn’t buy whom what and who is in the hospital with what. If this crucial step isn’t taken during an annual gab-fest, continuity will be hopelessly lost the next time you get together, and you’ll need twice as long to clear up the confusion.
I feel better already just writing about this. See ya there!
La Paloma Mexican Restaurant
2975 Foothill Boulevard
(Technically) La Verne, CA 91750