New to Pasadena
I just moved down to Pasadena to study to be a chef. Wondering where are the spots that I HAVE to go eat at here in Pasadena. Any suggestions...I know you got em :) Thanks a lot. If there are any other places you can think of that arent in pasadena...or are just in the food experience of livin in LA Wouldnt mind hearin about them too. THANKS!!!
I know this is an old post that I'm replying to ... but in case others stumble upon it, I felt it was important to fill in so many of the missing gaps left by other reponses.
But moving onto so many of the great places overlooked in these posts:
Yahaira's: Colordao Blvd across the street from Vroman's. Started by the same family that owns El Portal this small cafe serves fresh Yucatan-style food and has become immensely popular. Possibly the best brunch/breakfast in town.
Smitty's Bar & Grill: Lake Ave just south of Green Street. Owned by the Smith brothers (Arroyo Chop House, Parkway Grill and the Crocodile Cafe). This is a casual, but up-scale grill with warm, comfortable Pasadena-style decor and a wide menu of top-notch comfort foods. Great ribs, prime rib, fresh fish, chicken pot pie, pot roast, macaroni & cheese, roast chicken, burgers are the top choices and the most consistently good dishes. The steaks, unfortunately, are a little hit or miss, but the wait staff is quite good so if you ask beforehand if the kitchen has any good cuts of steak, you'll be cooked a great meal if the answer is "yes." A good assortment of interesting salads and appetizers is crowned by Smitty's amazing skillet-baked cornbread. (A must.)
Il Fornaio: 1 Colorado Place. This is a chain, but also happens to be an excellent chain of Italian restaurants. When other places are booked solid on a Saturday night in Old Town, you can usually get a table at Il Fornaio ... and a very dependable meal. Has some of the best pizza in town.
Gale's: On Fair Oaks just south of Del Mar. A newer addition to Pasadena. Quite possibly the best pizza in town, but this Tuscan-style restaurant has so much more to offer. A terrific selection of Italian favorites done to near-perfection, such as the rotini bolognese, also includes a nice menu of fish and meat. Without staggering compeition in the Italian scene in Pasadena, Gale's has leapfrogged the level of Italian cooking in the Pasadena area by maintaing a strong Tuscan influence to bring fresh ingredients in simple, but flavorful preparations together for terrific, unpretentious cucina-style meals.
Euro Pane: Colorado Blvd. block east of Lake Ave. People come from all over Los Angeles for the baked delights in this hole-in-the-wall eatery. Also serves excellent sandwiches.
Pie 'n Burger: California just east of Lake Ave. How anyone can talk about burgers in Pasadena and not put Pie 'n Burger at the top of the list is beyond me. This is another hole-in-the-wall type of eatery, but a long-time tradition. The menu is short and sweet. The burgers are fresh ground on the premises. The pies are wonderful. Best burger in town, bar none.
Mi Piace: Colorado Blvd between Raymond and Fair Oaks. Until Gale's came along, Mi Piace was possibly the best Italian restaurant in town. It's still good. However, on Friday and Saturday nights it is a SCENE. Even Sunday nights can be crazy. Your best bet is on a weeknight.
Bar Celona: Colorado Blvd. Old Town. Inventive, fun Spanish food.
Bill's Chicken: Hole-in-the-wall chicken place in Altadena. If want great fried chicken to go.
And no Pasadena list is complete without Houston's. Yes, another chain, but the Pasadena branch is possibly the best Houston's of them all ... and they are all very good. The smoked salmon is amazing. Terrific fresh fish. The best French Dip sandwich in LA. Great salads.
Places to avoid:
Bucca di Beppo. Crowded, noisy and sub-par Italian food.
Saladang. Crowded, noisy, spotty-service and so-so Thai food.
Continental Burger: If you're there for the cheap prices, beer and belly-dancing, it's a blast. But if you actually want a good meal, look elsewhere.
JJ's: Overly formal atmosphere. Okay beef. High prices. If you want the best steak in LA ... go directly to Arroyo Chop House. If you want good steak at bargain prices, get in the car and head up to La Canada for the old school steakhouse that is Taylor's on Foothill Blvd.
Chinese: While Yujean Kang's has an interesting menu with a lot of good food, there is a bizarre shortage of good Chinese in Pasadena. To the point that when P.F. Chang's showed up, it became the best. If you're looking for truly worth-while Chinese, you have to get in the car and drive to Los Feliz for Chi Dynasty. Only problem now is, the restaurant split off into two locations because of a feud between the old waiters and the owner. I think the owner won out, so head to the new location south of the old restaurant -- 1813 Hillhurst.
Since you're studying to be a chef, one place to check out is the 561 Restaurant and its more-casual next door neighbor The School Cafe (unless, of course you're studying at that culinary school) -- both of those restaurants are staffed by students on both the front & back end.
There's also the California Sushi Academy in the Pasadena area too, great place to get sushi pretty cheaply.
For more homestyle stuff, I'd recommend Marston's, Julienne's or Green Street Cafe.
Pasadena also has a few wine bars/restaurants, including Vertical (already mentioned) and Red White + Bluezz, which I liked a bit.
For fine dining, Pasadena favorites include Smitty's, Arroyo Chophouse & Maison Akira... I particularly like the last one, it's one of those places that really gets fusion right (French-Japanese) - as opposed to just slathering some Western dish with teriyaki sauce.
And, interestingly, Pasadena also has a good amount of Teahouses that does the whole finger sandwich, scones & cakes bit. Not sure if that's your cup of tea ;) , but the tea rooms around there are rose tree cottage, tea rose garden, chado's & scarlet tea room (as well as the one in the Huntington Library) - the Raymond restaurant also has an afternoon tea offering as well.
Had it not tried to pass itself off as an imaginative, tapas-based California wine bistro, I wouldn’t be so critical. The comparisons with A.O.C. by other Chowhound reviewers are a joke.
The nicest part of VWB is the entryway. You walk up 2 “flights” of stairs (get it?) to get to the restaurant.
Red flag: Clueless hostess. We had an 8:30 reservation, and were told it would be 15 minutes before our table was ready, and she hustled us over to the bar area. My wife is thoroughly convinced restaurants do this on purpose to get you to buy more alcohol (highest profit margin) than you normally would. We weren’t falling for that one. In my opinion, a nice restaurant like this should comp you a glass of wine when they make you wait that long. They’re new kids on the block, costs them close to nothing, and in return they have a customer for life.
Two minutes later, a waitress came over and offered to seat us at the bar area instead of in the dining room. We declined because of the music, noise level and lack of intimacy in the bar. One minute later our table was miraculously ready! I was starting to buy into my wife’s theory.
The menu was surprisingly sparse, so we were hoping for specials. Nope – sorry, pal. Plus they were out of the four most enticing dishes on the already small menu.
My wife ordered a Pinot Grigio and I had a Sauvignon Blanc. Hers was good, and mine was....hard to tell what it was! It tasted like it had been opened 3 days ago and left out. My wife took a sip, and said it was also corked. Boy, we sure were off to a great start! They apologized and got us a suitable replacement.
The food was just average bar food. Fried Calamari worthy of TGIF’s, LAX. The salad was thrown together without a thought – greens from one of those assortment bags you get from Ralph’s and golf-ball sized chunks of goat cheese haphazardly tossed on the plate.
Their by-the-glass wine list was grossly overpriced and limited to the Southern California selection you typically find at Trader Joe’s and Vons. Unimaginative and mass-produced. Their wine list by the bottle had much more to offer.
My wife ordered a second glass of wine—the Iron Horse Chardonnay, and said it tasted like it had been sitting out for several days. She complained, sent it back requesting the Grigio she had previously. This one was as flat as the others. My second glass was a Pinot Noir from Inman that had clearly lost its fruit and had no body. By this time, we were beaten down. We threw in the towel and got the check. We didn’t even bother with dessert or coffee.
We had 4 dishes and 4 glasses of wine. The bill was over $100.
The final touch was getting our car. The queue for the valet was really long, and everyone was impatient. The people in front of us were complaining that when the valet returned their car, it had a parking ticket on it! It took about 10 minutes to get our car. There was only one valet guy to handle the crowd. Everyone in line was complaining about their dining experience.
I live in Silverlake, and ventured out for a WONDERFUL brunch this morning.
I treated my boyfriend to a leisurely Sunday morning meal, and it was top-to-bottom splendid.
Here's the info:
The Raymond Restaurant
http://www.theraymond.com (the website does not do it justice
)1250 South Fair Oaks
I found an ad for The Raymond in the back of an old American Bungalow magazine last week and called to make reservations. The restaurant is in an old Craftsman style home, and they have remained true to the style of the time- the hardwood floors, period wallpaper, simple wood furnishings, cozy atmosphere... I have a warm spot for the Arts and Crafts movement, and they have done a wonderful job keeping the house in beautiful working order. The house was revamped into a restaurant with care, and it was obvious that they worked to retain the Arts and Crafts aesthetic.
My boyfriend and I sat in the front garden under huge umbrellas. The restaurant butts right up to all the traffic of Fair Oaks Blvd., and there is a huge industrial park right next door. Nevertheless, they did a great job of making the outdoor dining feel like its own little world. The garden is really cozy and enjoyable.
The service is all white linen, and the waiters are in white button downs, full aprons, and black slacks. Elegant, but not stuffy. Our hostess greeted us warmly and made sure we were comfortable. Everyone- the bussers, waitstaff, etc.- was low-key and ready to be of service. LA waiters are often more apt to tell you about the screenplay they are working on than the house specials. This used to drive me nuts, but now I pretend I'm in a sitcom about LA when they start in so I don't lose my humor. Not so at the Raymond- everyone was intent on making the dining experience special. I was so appreciative.
The menu is limited: Breakfast breads, egg dishes (a scramble, Eggs Benedict, a lobster omelet), a french toast the looked lovely, mid-day faire like sandwiches, salads, a seafood plate, and a couple of beef dishes- looking down the menu, most everything was tempting. My only gripe was that it would be a challenging place for vegetarian and vegan friends. Being an omnivore, we ordered the Raymond scramble and the breakfast bread sampler to share.
A trio of a fluffy coffee cake with strawberry preserves, a currant scone with lightly sweetened whipped cream, and round little apple fritters with maple syrup. I usually pass on scones because they remind me of a dough brick, but I ate my half of this one and then snuck some off my boyfriend's plate when he wasn't looking.
The Raymond Scramble:
Goat cheese, applewood smoke bacon, avocado, fresh button mushrooms, and egg.
A simple, yummy service. I'm a sucker for a scramble.
During the course of the meal we had FIVE different breads on the table: a crusty ciabatta-like roll when we sat down, our sampler, and then a couple slices of a dark raisin-walnut loaf at the end. Prasie the lord and pass the starch- not for the faint-of-heart.
The latte I got was passable, but not the quality I expected. Their barista let the shots go to long and they came out a little more bitter than I'd like.
Throughout the meal, the service was grand- I waited tables for about four years, and I always strived to be attentive and unobtrusive. The Raymond staff fit the bill. I can't say enough good things about the staff.
There are lots of great breakfast spots throughout our area, but my boyfriend and I used to frequent one and only one- Fatty's in Eagle Rock. They stopped serving breakfast (screw that) and since then we've been without a regular spot. At $45 for breakfast (including a rotund tip) it was a bit rich for my regular budget, but from this time hence The Raymond Restaurant will be our splurge brunch. I forsee a monthly morning trek to Pasadena. We are both choosy foodies, but the all-around experience this morning made believers out of both of us.
Note- this is a take-your-time-and-enjoy dining experience. Plan to spend a a couple hours here. Good place if you want to linger and get romantic, or catch up with a friend.
Suggestion: Go to The Raymond for breakfast, and then go over to Orange Grove and take a tour of the Gamble House http://www.gamblehouse.org. A truly wonderful Pasadena Sunday.
the more i read this the more i wonder why there isn't a top notch pizza place in pasadena. i used to work in the parsons buildings ( fair oaks and union ) - i was lucky to see the blossoming of old-town...and believe me...in the past...it was not a nice area. i used to like delmonico's across the street on fair oaks ( i believe this is where la maschera is now ) - i know there is the little bistro on union - the back side of one colorado ( below santorini...aprrox. ) the name escapes me...i had one ok pizza there...but not what i would call a pizza place. manny's...well....i'm not sure what to call there food. badda bing...now pinkberry...not that it was much to begin with...lamonica's didn't last....geez you would think there are enough businesses/offices nearby to support the delivery crowd - does everyone just drive to casa bianca ?
Pasadena isn't quite the dominant force in pizzas that it is in hamburgers, but besides the marvel that is Casa Bianca, I am pleased with Tarantino's, especially for the pies done in the spicier ``Grandma Tony'' style; Domenico's, especially the sauceless ``Calabrese'' pies; the olive-oil crust wood-cooked pies at Avanti (ask for them a little well-done); and the old-fashioned pies at Greco's in Old Town. I'm not a huge Carmine's fan, but others on the board are. There are respectable pizzas at Briganti on Mission in South Pasadena and at Tony's in San Marino. Zelo, which is just a couple of freeway minutes away in Arcadia, has amazing cornmeal crust pies.
My favorite pizzas at the moment - the blistered-crust marvels at Mozza and the profoundly smoky pies on Mondays at Vincenti - happen to be in other parts of town, but it is hard to think of an area in Southern California with nearly as much pizza variety as Pasadena.
Yes, I agree. Fatty's seems to get slammed on these boards yet every experience I have had there has been great. I can take my non-veg husband here and he loves the food as much as I do. It is not only artful and innovative but tasty and satisfying as well. The servers have always been friendly and attentive but leave you alone enough to have a romantic dinner or a conversation with friends. The building is loft-like and makes me feel like I'm in a real city not a fabricated one (like much of Los Angeles). My theory is that most Los Angeles residents that consider themselves "foodies" have bought into the crappy celebrity owned psuedo-cool, publicity driven dumps that Los Angeles abounds with, that they don't know what an authentic dining experience is.
This lifetime Pas resident just "discovered" Eagle Rock on Friday and was very pleased. I'd say the easiest way to get there (believe me, I got very lost in South Pas) is to take Colorado Blvd. from Old Town and just go east, east, east until Eagle Rock appears.
I went to Fatty's (a romantic-ish vegetarian spot-- quite the opposite of what you'd picture from their name!), which hasn't gotten great reviews here, but I really enjoyed it. Beautiful atmosphere and my entree was pretty innovative and very well put together. And my server was very sweet and helpful!
What do you think of the South Pas farmer's market? Thursdays 4-8 pm at Meridian and Mission.
I much prefer South Pas to Pas-- it has a much more "small town" feel to it, which is nice. It's in an older, prettier part of South Pas, I haven't been disappointed by the selection, and the crowd quite enthusiastic.
I like the South Pasadena market, especially for the prepared foods. But for produce - which is what most of us are there for isn't it? - the Saturday Pasadena market blows it away. And as for small-town feel - if you live in the area, it is hard to leave the Saturday market without bumping into a dozen people that you know, and after a while, all the vendors know you by name too.
if you're going to go the the s.pas. farmer's market, make sure to get a sandwich at nicole's and sample the cheese.
i'm also partial to bistro de la gare on the corner.
and speaking of sandwiches, you should try the chicken hoagie at lee's hoagie house pn colorado 1 block west of sierra madre blvd.
finally, the only decent sushi place in the area IMO is Z on garfield near the intersections of garfield, huntington & lor robles (atlantic) just south of the in-n-out.
Second Tonny's on Orange Grove, with the caveat that you need to approach it by turning left off of North Lake Avenue, because there's this big island you can't drive through and there's no U turn at the intersection (if you're going east on OG). But if you're jonesing for a chile relleno at 3 am that's the place to go for sure. I'm so happy to have a place like this in my neighborhood...
One place nobody's mentioned yet, I must assume just because they forgot to, is Kuala Lumpur on Green Street between DeLacy and Fair Oaks. Very satisfying Malaysian food, curries and noodles and rice and stuff, friendly service and friendly prices. Makes us happy on a regular basis.
I ordered it Hawaiian style before and the juice ran together. I like ordering it with everything: meatballs, pepperoni, bell peppers, onions, fresh tomatoes, basil..the works. I really, really love the crust. thick and hearty. It's its own style of pizza, not thin, not deep dish, not New York Style...A good style.
Central Park Cafe-219 S Fair Oaks,Across fr: Central Park, 2 blocks S of Colorado/Old Town.
Cal-American Bistro, very nice interior, good food, great value. (downright inexpensive considering- atmosphere, quality, taste & service). A few misses but heavy on the hits.
Entrees, Pasta, Pizzas, Sandwiches, Apps, Soups, Salads.
Wine (Avg about $6/ Glass- $25/Bottle-Decent Choices)& beer.
I can recommend -
Sauteed Sand Dabs w/Lemon Caper Burre Blanc Sauce w/ vegs, really good Yukon Gold mashed potatoes - $15.
Braised Boneless Short Ribs W/ Natural Jus w/ sides - $12.
USDA Prime Flat Iron Steak w/ Red Wine Reduction & sides-$14.
Beer Batter Fish & Spicy Chips, Broccoli Salad - $12.50
Everything on their Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Menus is "wanna try" for me.
Based on tables around us on Fri & incl us, they have a bunch of regulars after being open just 2 1/2 weeks*.
* 1st time we went was their 1st Sat. Had 1/2 hr to eat, told the server and we got our meals in about 5 minutes- very well prepared & good. Showing they were up to speed from the get go.
The food used to be cutting edge many years ago at Parkway, but now it is just servicing its clientele very well, doing it with class, and serving many of California's finer wines. The Chop House is meant to serve the carnivore in many of us, and also does that quite well.
There are times when both concepts fit the situation. Not cutting edge, not inexpensive, yet a place to take guests, parents, in-laws, etc. where a dressier occasion is warranted.
re: Al Gore mand
Have never had that experience at Carmine's. Always top notch. However, I get the thin crust (need to specify) since thicker is their norm. Also, I ALWAYS get it cooked well done. Pepperoni & Mushrooms is my favorite. My friend loves their meatball or sausage and onion. But once again, always specify well done.
Lots of good suggestions so far.
Lemme throw in a few that might have been passed over thus far (just little nooks and crannies that you might not otherwise find):
GERLACH'S GRILL (grilled seafood that won't bust your budget)
1075 S. Fair Oaks Ave.
PASADENA SANDWICH COMPANY (best and biggest sandwiches in Pasadena)
259 Sierra Madre Villa Ave.
843 East Orange Grove Blvd
You've got a lot of great selections already, so I'll just add
The Lebanese Kitchen
1384 E Washington Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91104
For some delicious, authentic Lebanese food. They have the best hommus I've had in LA and one of the best felafels I've ever had.
For an added treat, next door is an old cookbook store that is even more addictive than food.
Here are some more:
Maison Akira for French-Japanese.
Bistro K for outstanding, inventive, and inexpensive French.
Ritz Carlton Huntington Restaurant for fine French and international influences.
Bulgarini Gelato at Laemmle Theatre or Pacific Asia Museum.
Famima! for nifty snacks and drinks.
Zona Rosa Caffe for Mexican hot chocolate.
Europane for delicious pastries, egg salad, and chicken yogurt-dill sandwiches.
Violet's Cakes for cupcakes.
Crepes at CrepeVine Bistro.
Mediterranean at Cafe Santorini.
Wide beer selections at Yardhouse.
I'm newish too. And here's how big the Pasadena food scene is. At first, I was certain chica had some typos. I thought she meant "Dona" Rosa, not "Zona" Rosa. And surely she meant Tutti Gelati next to the theater in One Colorado.
But no! Zona Rosa and Bulgarini are just places I haven't been yet. Impressive, Chowhound, impressive.
(FWIW, I recommend Tutti Gelati and the hot chocolate at Dona Rosa. Yes, DR is a tad corporate, but the hot chocolate with corn meal is nice.)
I second the Parkway Grill mentioned above.
I've never found consistently better Indian food in all of LA than at All India Cafe.
You've got easy access to great Chinese with Yang Chow and Fu Shing.
Great beer-on-tap selection at Lucky Baldwin's.
Enter the greatest LA Chowhound debate cycle by having an amazing burger at Pie N Burger.
Slide over to Eagle Rock for FANTASTIC fish tacos at Senor Fish and probably the best pizza in this half of CA at Casa Bianca.
Having gone to school in Pasadena myself, I most recently like Briganti's in South Pas, but I agree that Saladang is the most consistent restaurant, although the Arroyo Chop House / Parkway Grill conglomerate is also good. While we're on steak houses, we have to mention J.J.'s.
Welcome, and props for you to check out chowhound.com. I'd also suggest signing up to dailycandy.com LA edition for a fun daily email about random cultural/edible/novel finds in and around the area, not just in the food scene. I've found a few cute spots that way (lately, T on Fairfax for excellent tea selection and inventive vegetarian lunch menu tonfairfax.com)
IMHO, the most dependably delicious restaurant in Pasadena is Saladang on Fair Oaks. I've been going there for over 8 years and I've never been disappointed. Very relaxed, prompt service, set in a warehouse filled with orchids.
My favorite eat in Pasadena, however, would have to be 21 Choices on Colorado at De Lacey, 21choices.com, frozen yogurt with mix-ins (try the express items) that you seriously can't beat anywhere else.
Search Chowhound for posts on breakfast places, other ethnic spots, holes-in-the-wall etc. Pasadena has grown exponentially in the past 10 years, so you will find plenty of spots to try! (parking spots excepted)