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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 (www.mikeandannes.com ) or maybe FIREFLY BISTRO (www.eatatfirefly.com


    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!!

              2. There's a wonderful French Bistro in Eagle Rock called Cafe Beaujolais that I just tried myself this past Tuesday. The waiters are French and quite charming. The interior of the restaurant is very pretty. Warm oranges and browns with a variety of French wine-inspired artsy posters hung on the walls.

                As for the food, on the menu, you'll be able to satisfy all meat preferences because there's chicken, beef and fish on the menu. I had the New York strip steak with garlic butter that was excellent and I really enjoyed the chocolate mousse I had for dessert.

                The address and info is below:

                Cafe Beaujolais
                1712 Colorado Blvd
                Los Angeles, CA 90041
                (323) 255-5111


                3 Replies
                1. re: pleasurepalate

                  I've driven by there many times, but haven't had the chance to go. Thanks for the idea and the review! Do you recall what the prices were like? 20-30's for mains, I'm assuming?

                  1. re: The Oracle

                    Actually, what was awesome was all the main entrees were under $20. The desserts were $6.95. The soups and appetizers were under $8. The prices were very reasonable, but the food tastes like it could cost more.

                    1. re: The Oracle

                      I'm still planning on doing a review of Cafe Beaujolais, but here's an advance look at the pictures. Just go to:



                  2. There's also CrepeVine - which is much more casual than your usual b-day fare but a very cute hole-in-the-wall bistro type place with good food and good wines (that you can try by the flight).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: AquaW

                      The family would really enjoy the crepes, and I really like their wines there (really interesting selections) -- although, I hate how cramped it is! The last time I went, I came away smelling like the place. Hope they have done something about their ventilation system.

                      1. re: The Oracle

                        When's the last time you went? I think they did some renovations in April (since they also had a fire then!)... if you can secure indoor seating it should be good (though, as you noted, can be crowded). Avoid the outdoor patios.... oftentimes it smells like homeless. O_o

                    2. I personally don't care tre venezie but there are plenty of folks who love it. It helps from my observation to order wine as the service tends to get better.

                      I think bistro de la gare would be very nice for a birthday esp. if you let them know in advance or try to arrange a special menu with them (au plaisir du chef kinda thing).

                      There's always firefly across the way.

                      Or maybe a banquet at new concept. Check if they have special banquet menus.

                      1. i prefer ruth chris over arroyo chop house any day. we keep going back to the chop house hoping it will get better, but we're idiots. the quality of the meat is superb with or without butter at RC. my husband and i are crazy red meat carnivores. we don't just know the butchers, we know the wholesalers and the cattle ranches. just indulged in the japanese kobe at cut (to share of course). incredible experience.

                        we held a family b-day at RC in pasadena and reserved the private round room for 8 adults, 2 children. it was perfect for the kids because they didn't bother anyone in the restaurant.

                        split some crab cakes among the table. they are amazing. my mother does not eat red meat; her fish was overcooked. the steaks were all amazing though and service excellent.

                        i wrote up mike & anne's a few weeks ago. chef is formerly sous from the ritz. perhaps reserve the patio. it's lovely, but not everything is right on (eg. pork chop dry, halibut overcooked). service is great and i love their reasonably priced, but ecletic wine list. try the poppy pinot 2004 for ~$20.

                        chinese restaurants are great family meals, you can often bring your own wine for little corkage. new concept is a good suggestion. we also like triumphal palace, sea harbour, and nyc seafood (our favorite for the xo giant prawns). we bring in our own riedel to nyc though.

                        another nice family dinner we have had is at my house with a private chef, one server, one dishwasher and it comes to about the same as going to a restaurant. we just don't always like having the same thing as each other. we always order, pass, and taste.

                        if your 909ers don't mind driving 10 mintues farther and right off the fwy at harvey, try minx. we thought the food was very, very good. there was a b-day party outside which wasn't as loud as the inside after 10pm when the nightclub starts up. service was prompt. food great. atmosphere very modern. bring your own wines; their list is horrible unless you're ordering value/budget wines anyways. you can try the primus from chile or the bearboat or angeline pinots. i don't think it will be there for long or at least the chef, but it was yummy and is a great venue for parties.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: revets2

                          thank you for the comparisons and tips -- very helpful! and thanks for the minx feedback -- i drove by past the other night, and I couldn't miss their neon light -- i'm pleased to hear they have good food!