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Aug 18, 2006 04:46 PM

Mom's birthday dinner challenge (Pasadena area)

Help 'hounds -- I'm stumped. Trying to find something 'new' for my mom's b'day dinner in a few weeks... I'm coming up blank!

The whole family loves Parkway Grill and it is a win every time -- but it's completely overdone by our family.

Mom is a salmon/chicken eater (no red meat for her). Sister and BIL are red meat/fish eaters, yet don't like experimental type dishes (salads that are compressed in a circle, strange foams, etc). 8 year old nephew loves fine dining and will do fine anywhere.

Was thinking the Ritz Carlton, but we always do tea there, and I'd like it to be a different location.

Mom loved Maison Akira, but I wasn't that impressed (poor service and hit/miss food).

I thought the Raymond would be a good spot, but went a couple weeks ago and wasn't thrilled with the food (dinner).

One of my favorite spots is the cooking school/Bistro 561, but it's on the overdone list as well - although, I'm leaning towards going there anyway.

Bistro 45 is out (food and service has gone way downhill)

The only other thing I can think of is Madeline's - however, I'm a bit unsure of the food/quality, etc., since I've never been. Thoughts?

Haven't been to the Arroyo Chop House in a while and never had fish there -- are the salmon/fish offerings any good? or at Ruth Chris even?? Can anyone do a comparison overall between Arroyo Chop House and Ruth Chris?

Any thoughts/suggestions are appreciated. I'd like to stay in the Pasadena area (sis and BIL are coming from the 909).


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  1. How about either CELESTINO or SMITTY'S GRILL on Lake Ave.? If your group is large enough SMITTY'S can provide you with a private room, if that matters at all.

    If you want to dine al fresco, might I suggest either MIKE AND ANNE'S ( ) or maybe FIREFLY BISTRO (


    As to Arroyo Chophouse v. Ruth's Chris, I have to go with the former as I just cannot stand butter on my steaks.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      While Ruth's Chris is NOT my favorite Steak place you can say, and they will, "Hold the Butter".

      1. re: JBC

        Indeed, but I think all of their cookware and plates are infused with a buttery aroma from their standard operating procedure ...

      2. re: ipsedixit

        Thanks for the additional suggestions -- I don't really care for either Smitty's (after several tries when they first opened, gave up on finding anything I liked on the menu)... and had a horrid service experience at Celestino one Christmas Eve, but would be willing to try it again.

        I've been wanting to try Mike and Anne's -- but not sure if it's "special occasion" enough for the b'day girl. I think Firefly is darling, and really wanted to fall in love with it - but the food wasn't very remarkable... although, will add that to the short list, because now that I think about it, my dining companion had their salmon dish and loved it.

        Thanks for your thoughts on the 2 steak places.. I think ACH is in the lead at this point.

      3. I'd favor Arroyo over Ruth for steaks.

        If you aren't too anti-chain (which I take you aren't since you're open to Ruth's), the McCormick Schmick's there (Los Robles & Walnuts, same plaza as CPK) has seafood that holds its own.

        Let us know what you settle on and how it turned out!

        But I, too, love Bistro 561 as well (though only been to 3 times...)

        1. you might like Derek's Bistro (formerly Dickenson West.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Local

            oh! Forgot about Derek's -- love that place! Will have to throw in the mix... thanks!

          2. Have you try Bisto k? That place is small but the food is very good.

            I love Bistro 561 too. But it only opens on weekdays.

            1 Reply
            1. re: leun0532

              I haven't tried Bistro K yet - dismissed it due to what I've heard about orders taking a long time to come out - that would likely put the 8 year old over the edge -- and the menu is a little to 'wordy'/frou frou for my sis and BIL. Can't wait to try it though! (The b'day is on a weekday, so 561 would still be an option!)

            2. Well, Bistro de la Gare in South Pas is really quite good, solid bistro fare. I like it. It can get kinda loud, which might not be good for your occasion, but my guess is it's not as bad mid-week as it is on a weekend.

              I had dinner at Madeleine's on Valentine's day. Overall, I was impressed. It was expensive, but that might have been the alcohol portion of the bill. I wasn't completely dazzled by anything but the experience overall was quite pleasant.

              Have you considered Yujean Kang?

              One other place...which might be a bit on the small side, or perhaps a tad too casual for the event but worth considering because of the food: Cafe Verde on Green St.

              I really like this restaurant. The food is fresh & tasty. The service is professional. It's really a very nice operation, and it's BYOB. Incidentally, not only can you bring your own wine, but they have a really tasty non-alcoholic "mojito." Well, you can also BYOB-of rum, and make yourself a true mojito with their "base."


              1 Reply
              1. re: Jack Flash

                Thanks for your thoughts about Madeleine's... I've been really curious about that place, but haven't had the chance to get there.

                Good call on Bistro de la Gare -- I think it's a good dinner/date location -- and I've actually been wanting to take her to dinner there -- but I don't think it will be exactly right for her b'day.

                Haven't even thought of (or been to) Yujean Kang... can you tell me more? It's Korean BBQ, right?

                Love Cafe Verde - used to work around the corner and miss that place! I've always thought it would be fun to have a private dinner party there (which they do for 15-20 people). Thanks for sharing the BYOB-of-rum tip!!