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Pasadena -- Mission Impossible?

  • m

I am tasked with the seemingly insurmountable challenge of planning a ladies' networking dinner for my firm.

All of us are out-of-towners, and as such, the majority stay at -- and would prefer to dine near -- the Westin Pasadena on Los Robles.

I enjoy innovative cuisine from all cultures. My colleagues, however, are less adventurous and anywhere lacking at least several "safe" options will likely terrify them, cause them to eat only the bread basket, or both. To illustrate, our last dinner was at Twin Palms, which everyone absolutely raved about. I thought it was fine, no major issues, but tremendously boring in the food department.

Here are the restrictions. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will not find anywhere that meets all criteria, but I would be happy to meet at least most.

-- In or near old town Pasadena
-- 2 courses and several shared bottles of wine at no more than $50/pp, before tax and tip
-- Pleasant ambience (most of the attendees will likely pay more attention to the surroundings than the food)
-- Able to accomodate a group of 15, relatively comfortably
-- Choice of several "safe" menu options (e.g. the menu from Bistro K would send people running for Olive Garden)
-- This one is purely selfish, and the one that is most likely to go unfulfilled: at least a few somewhat innovative options, or if not, then fantastic renditions of common dishes

I'd add to the list "not touristy" but my initial impression is that this is an anomaly in old town.

Is this an exercise in futility? Am I destined to eat at Buca di Beppo or similar?

Please help! And if you ever need any recommendations as to where to eat in Toronto, you know who to ask :)

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  1. Try TWIN PALMS ... it seems to best fit your criteria.

    1 Reply
      1. Parkway Grill or Cafe Bizou.

        1. Marno -

          There are plenty of options that will satisfy everyone. In the courtyard where the Westin is located there is a California Pizza Kitchen and McCormick and Schmicks. I'm not too keen on either and as you prefer.. something more adventurous. Here's some options that you can surely walk to or drive the 1/2 mile down the hill:
          Cheesecake Factory (If you don't have in Toronto),
          Indian - 2 really good places-Mezbaan on N. Fair Oaks 626-405-9060 and All India Cafe on the other side of Colorado on S Fairoaks (near Cheescake) 626-440-0309.
          Italian: Louises Trattoria on Colorado across from Cheescake on Colorado, Mi Piace E Colorado and Fair Oaks 626-795-3131 If you are going soon, check for their fabulous pumpkin ravioli in brown butter-YUM!)
          And, for casual yummy Thai -Boba World and Noodle World (within the same confines) (next to Cheescake) on Colorado

          If you and your cohorts are after a cheap but fab burger and fry dinner, walk the other direction to Walnut and El Molino and eat at Rick's. It's a local landmark that will soon disappear to make way for condos!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Kitchen Queen

            Thanks for the suggestions. I should have added that I'm trying to avoid chain restaurants -- I'm the only Torontonian (although a native Chicagoan). The rest of the group is from Atlanta, Seattle, Pittsburgh, New York, San Fran, Houston, and also Italy and Bulgaria (not sure which cities). So, the American folks are quite likely to have eaten at many a Cheesecake Factory in their time.

            I would LOVE a burger dinner -- I gave Pie 'n Burger a shot a few weeks ago (thanks to the folks on this board). Really tasty. The "sauce" on the burger reminded me of a thinned Thousand Island dressing. I've seen this on other burgers out here. This is a Southern California thing, I take it? What is it, exactly?

            1. re: marno

              Ricks is your typical take away burger joint but, with great respect. Cheryl Crow even used it as an album cover! Go for a cheap good meal. (I don't eat meat so, can't tell you how they taste? Most chowhounds love this place tho).

              Here's a nifty different kind-a place: La Luna Negra. I enjoy it every time I go. Spanish Tapas, NOT mexican but spanish. Tapas are great with groups and this place is fun. It also has great Sangria and Flamenco in the evenings (F-SA). On Green and Fair Oaks. 1 block s. of Colorado. The Indian suggestions are good and Mi Piace for Italian (lunch is less$). None that I have recommended will burn holes in your pockets. If your up for a small drive or a long walk, go to Go China on Lake at Walnut. (Next to the Ralphs shopping center) Fab chinese without the $$$ (Because it's off the beaten track)Family owned not chained or franchised. It's the only one.:)KQ

          2. I second Cafe Bizou and would give Yujean Kang a qualified rec if and only if the group is amenable to Chinese.

            4 Replies
            1. re: bodie

              I've been intrigued by Cafe Bizou (for the sand dabs? I've never heard of these but they sound interesting). However I mentioned "French" to one of the ladies and was told "I don't know about that..."

              I'm thinking Italian, upscale Mexican or regional American would be safest.

              1. re: marno

                For upscale Mexican, I recommend La Huasteca in Old Town Pasadena. Diverse menu with a good mix of familiar and interesting Mexico City DF-style cuisine.

                http://www.lahuasteca.com/menu.html

                1. re: marno

                  Sand dabs are a small flatfish, usually replaced by Rex sole when the supply runs out. They are delicious, though not to any legendary degree, but a platefull of these simply dusted with flour and sautéed in butter is as pleasant a supper as anyone could wish. I have had very good ones at Café Bizou, and not expensive, either.

                  1. re: marno

                    Cafe Bizou is not really French, more like California fare with a little bit of theme decorating. It is a very standard menu, reasonably priced and not at all challenging. I think it perfectly fits your parameters. They post a menu online and you can see for yourself how standard the fare is:

                    http://www.cafebizou.com/pasadenaDinn...

                    By the way, Sand Dabs are really just rex sole, in this case small filets that are dusted in flour and served in caper butter with mashed potato and veggies.