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Cheap and good in Pasadena

Looking for something interesting in Pasadena, for a cheap, quick bite to eat. We're talking very low-end here; already done The Hat, Zankou, Roscoes, Hawaiian BBQ...
Any other ideas?

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  1. How about McCormick's for happy hour? Cheeseburgers, chicken wings, and many other appetizers starting at $1.95 with drink order. You can order soda with that.

    1. If you're willing to drive a little west to Eagle Rock, I'd recommend Oinkster for fast and pretty relatively cheap.

      1. Try Father Nature's on DeLacey between Union and Colorado... they serve all kinds of great lavash wraps...

        1. In Old Town, there's not much that fits the bill anymore. You could go for Lucky Baldwin's or Saladang, just south of Old Town. If you can get a seat at the bar (only 9 seats), the Shabu Shabu at Shaab (on Raymond, next to Xiomara) is pretty good, and cheap.

          Wait, a couple more:

          All India Cafe on Fair Oaks south of Colorado is good. So is Kansai, the noodle house across the street.

          And if Kuala Lumpur is open (Green Street, just east of Delacey), they have nice Malaysian food in an uninspiring room.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ruddy

            RIP Kuala Lumpur...(sob!). Gone over a month now.

            Central Park Cafe isn't DIRT cheap (for dinner at least) but it's reasonable and 'way pleasant. 200 block of S. Fair Oaks, across from Central Park. And Thaitalian (on Colorado between Raymond and Arroyo), despite its slick look, too-bright room and kinda weird concept has good food and drink for a lot less than we expected, for sure.

            For the kind of good oldfashioned diner/coffee shop where everybody would be smoking cigarettes if it were allowed, The Reyn at North Lake and Earlham is darned comfy. Cash only.

            But there ain't NOTHIN' better than Tonny's!

            1. re: ruddy

              I second All India Cafe. Arguably the best naan in the entire region. When I worked in Pasadena, I was there at least once a week. Their WLA restuarant has a lunch buffet so they might have one there.

            2. Mexican joint on Colorado Blvd at the front of the parking lot for Plummers. Close to Rosemead Bl.

              1 Reply
              1. re: robertpasadena

                I think you mean El Super Burrito. Been there forever. Really good, esp. chile verde.

                I'd add for Old Town:

                Tortas Mexico
                90 N Fair Oaks Ave
                Pasadena, CA 91103

                The Japanese place next to Tibet-Nepal house is cheap and not bad (though not exactly filling!). I used to get the salmon teriyaki with rice.

                I've never had a good slice of pizza in that area, so that's out. Many of the Thai places (e.g. Thai Dishes, Patakan) have really cheap lunch specials which are fine.

              2. It begins and ends at Tonny's on Orange Grove and Lake. Open 24 hours. Authentic, cenaduria style Mexican food. Fresh juices, etc - and cheap.

                1. I had another idea --- Tibet Napal House. They have an all-you-can eat buffet lunch Tues-Fri for $6.99 and a weekend champagne brunch for $8.99.

                  36 E. Holly St.
                  (N. Fair Oaks Ave.)
                  Pasadena, CA 91103

                  1. Second the Tonny's, Father Nature, and Plummers Mexican (El Super Burrito) recs ---

                    here are some other ideas:
                    * Burrito Express (Washington in between Hill/Allen) - about $5 for a huge burrito (stay away from their chips)
                    * Burger Continental does a $1.99 cheeseburger/fries/soda deal on Mondays & Tuesdays (do a search on the place for the very expressive 'hound comments on the place and enter at your own risk)
                    * Magnolia (south lake) does 1/2 priced appetizers til 7pm on the weekdays (about $4 each - you could definitely make a meal out of certain ones (chili bowl, mac n' cheese) - and it's really good!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: The Oracle

                      Oracle! I owe you a report on La Estrella. I went last month to the location on Altadena and Foothill, and those fish tacos are pretty much what I remember them used to having at the Fair Oaks/Villa location. Very large - not one of those tacos that you can devour in 2 bites. I have not been to the Fair Oaks location since seeing your report, but this place was good. The Altadena/Foothill location also has an indoor seating area, which the other one does not.

                      1. re: kotatsu

                        They also have a new building right across the street from where their old location was on Orange Grove. That is the one that I normally used go to, but now that I have found my other little taco place, which is so much better, I really never go to LE anymore. My new taco place is in the back of a neighborhood market on Summit/Hammond (1 block east of Raymond, 1 block north of Mountain). Best Al Pastor, ever. But other posters have heralded their carnitas and carne asada. Chicken is also good. Tacos $1; HUGE burritos $4. Open til 8pm M-Sat; 2pm Sun.
                        Also, Carmines (in my opinion, the best pizza in town) on Fair Oaks at the north end of South Pas does great, cheap happy hour (bambino pizzas, which are actually pretty good -$3.75 (w/2 toppings), reg. $7.25, mozz sticks $2.75 (reg $5), bruschetta (very good), calamari rings (like onion rings) all happy hour foods are really cheap. Also, they have lunch specials - eg. bambino pizza w/2 toppings, with soup or salad and soft drink for a little over $7.
                        Sitar Indian Cuisine does a good lunch (I think they do a dinner one, too) buffet for $7.95.
                        Go China on Lake has cheap lunch and dinner offerings. Try their Kung Pao which I think is really good. Also, I love their Hot & Sour soup.

                        1. re: WildSwede

                          Go China? I do hope you are kidding. I went once with people from work and was amazed how poorly they did everything especially the hot and sour soup. Not one person out of the four of us finished their lunch and no one wanted to take any of the food to go. I had the lunch Kung Pau chicken and it was disgusting. Small fatty pieces of overly soft chicken and almost raw vegetables..I rate this as one of the worst Chinese places in L.A.....

                          1. re: monkey

                            That's surprising. Maybe an off day. Every time I have taken people there they love it and go back on their own.

                    2. Burger Continental on Lake. Hamburgers and a large Mid Eastern menu. Foods fair to good, big portions, but a real interesting unique place. A lot of outdoor dining, live music, free salad bar.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: LuigiOrtega

                        eek - i have ot disagree on the Burger Continental. for good lebanese food, i HIGHLY recommend Pita Pita on Colorado. cheap, counter order, TASTY. i love their pinto beans with their rice. also, they make great falafel. i also like their vegetable curry. baba ganoush is nice and smoky.

                      2. Mediterrean Cafe fits the bill. $7 for a very nice plate of kebabs, rice, hummus and a salad. On South Lake, around the corner from Shoe Pavillion. Blue awning, next to dental office. Closes at 7pm, tho, so one of those places that has to enter your brain before it's too late in the evening.

                        I'm still going to plug Teri & Yaki (Himeko) on Arroyo, altho there are wildly varying opinions about this place. I think it's very reliable food that is freshly made with healthy side dishes.

                        Just want to say that I tried Gerlach's Grill in the past and liked it, but went recently and everything tasted bad. Anyone else noticing a similar experience at Gerlach's, or did I just go on a bad day?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kotatsu

                          Yes, I posted about my bad experience at Gerlach's earlier this week. I was disappointed. I am craving a good, cheap meal in Pas, today, which is what brought me back to this thread.

                          Gerlach's experience:

                        2. Nice!!! I popped in there to try it and there was a long line and I was in a hurry - so I left and I haven't been back. I'm more of an asada taco fan than a fish taco fan... but can't wait to try it. Thanks for following up!

                          1. Gerlach's Grill
                            1075 S Fair Oaks Ave, (626) 799-7575
                            Kebabs, grilled fish and meats and most orders come with enough rice to feed a small group of chowhounds.

                            El Toreo Cafe
                            21 S Fair Oaks Ave, (626) 793-2577
                            How does beef enchilladas for 5.95, sound?

                            And, of course, the aforementioned Tonny's, esp. if you like goat.

                            1. I think Top's would fit what you're describing. They have a huge selection of burgers, Mexican food, and various other items for really affordable prices. I go the the one on Colorado right by the entrance/ exit to the 210 at Rosemead/Michillinda, but I've seen one on Walnut and Allen near PCC

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: crystaw

                                I'm sure the two were related at one time - they both deny it now, but they have not only the same name but the same logo! I've never been to the Colorado one, just the one at Allen and Walnut. All my sandwiches have been more than adequate, never great, but their onion rings and fried zucchini are to die for - literally, if you were to eat a full order every day! But now they offer a "small" order, which I tried: enough food for three people instead of six. Really good, though.

                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  My friend and I got a small order of fried zucchini and although we worked hard at it-it seemed like we barely made a dent. She was eating a bacon avocado cheeseburger though. Have you been to Jim's Burgers in Arcadia? It's similar to Tops and I think they have a slight edge

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    Also, Tops has a great chicken tostada salad. Great! I think it comes in at a little over $7 also, as mentioned, their onion rings and zucchini are great (especially with their delicious ranch and their pickled carrots). Yum! Their burgers aren't half bad, either!

                                2. I can't believe it hasn't been mentioned yet, but Brit's on Colorado, just east of PCC, has the best British pub food in the area. Their fish'n chips are hands down the best the Pasadena area has to offer.


                                  And what about Pie'n Burger?


                                  1. Lee's Hoagie House on Colorado, west of Sierra Madre, on north side of the street (hoagies, burgers, etc.)

                                    Luigi Ortega's on Colorado, couple blocks east of Hill, on north side of the street, parking behind building (http://www.luigiortegas.com/home.html


                                    Pataya Thai on Colorado, two or three blocks east of Hill, on north side of the street (across from PCC) - haven't eaten there myself, but heard it's respectible and inexpensive

                                    Milano's Deli on Colorado, in strip mall at intersection with El Nido (same strip mall as Fu Shing) - Mom and Pop place with fresh, good, inexpensive sandwiches and some Middle Eastern/Mediterranean plates

                                    Big Mama's and Papa's Pizza on Colorado, west of Allen, south side of the street - not great, but okay pizza by the slice

                                    Fuji Sushi and Korean BBQ on Colorado at Sunnyslope, north side of the street - hit or miss both in terms of food/freshness/cleanliness and service - I've had excellent food and service and downright bad food and service (to the point of leaving during the middle of the meal); that being said, it's close to where I live and somehow we keep going back - you've been cautioned.

                                    B-Man's Teriyaki and Burgers, not quite in Pasadena, on Huntington at San Gabriel in shopping center with How's, Starbucks, etc. - haven't been myself, but the place is always busy and smells good (http://www.bmans.com/ ).

                                    1. If you want interesting, my vote's with Tibet Nepal House. That place is fabulous. I like the vegetarian steamed momo's and any of the grilled skewered meats are delish (i.e. Himalayan Chicken). Tibet Nepal is one of my favorite restaurants in LA regardless of price.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: swisscharred

                                        I'll be the third to vote for Tibet Nepal House. $6.99 for a lunch buffet?!?! Good times. Zen atmosphere. Unlimited sodas and flat bread! yum.

                                      2. This is my stomping ground but I don't have alot of suggestions. I like the premade (in deli case) sandwiches at Claros, they are CHEAP and very good. On Huntington neat Santa Anita (really Arcadia).

                                        1. Puebla Tacos No. 2 for decent fish tacos and a great seafood burrito. The take-out adjoining the restaurant is fairly flexible on making modifications (i.e, more salsa, crema, etc.) if you become a "regular". Friend speaks highly re the carne asada tacos and buys the same meat from Linda Rosa market next door for grilling at tailgate parties. Tacos are less than $2 each.- ask for hot salsa and/or green salsa. Combinations, etc., you can eat plenty for less than 7 bucks.

                                          Tip Tum - mostly Thai/some phillipino menu items. Located in the Allen Center (296 N. Allen, s/e corner Allen and freeway frontage road). Great shrimp with lime salad, simple, but nicely prepared... sometimes a bit slow on service, minimal ambiance but the owner is friendly. Used to be "Georges" (phillipino food) - now run by his daughter.

                                          1. On the east side there's Lupita's mexican restaurant on Colorado & Sierra Madre.
                                            I'll second the recommendation for Mediterranean cafe on South Lake, especially since Lebanese Kitchen in Washington Heights is now hit or miss (but it's still worth a stop for their falafels).

                                            1. Let me second the rec for Tup Tim in the strip mall at Allen just below the 210. We got takeout from there last night - larb, shrimp salad, pad kee mao and mixed vegetables. The 4 dishes with a side of steamed rice came to just under $30 and provided dinner last night and a generous lunch today for two of us. We asked for "American spicy, not Thai spicy" and that worked out just right. The larb nearly blew my head off (but it was delicious and DH gobbled it up), the veges had no spiciness, the other two dishes were in between and just right.

                                              They don't serve alcohol, so if you need a beer with Thai food, best to do takeout. It's not as good as Salamluang or I'm sure other places in Thai Town, but it's local and great for what it is.

                                              1. I like going to Noodle world or is it Noodle planet on Colorado inld towne Pasadena. It is right next to The Cheesecake factory. If you like Asian food, they have a wide variety of noodles, stir frys, rice dishes. Great food, large portions, and great prices. They also have boba drinks there too. Dishes that I enjoy there. Pad see yu (wide, flat, rice noodles, stir fried with beef and veggies), Thai style fried rice, their hot wings, spring rolls, and their wonton noodle soup. I remember dining with a friend there and we ordered like 4-5 different items along with drinks and bill came out to be around $30 or less.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: karynx78

                                                  I had lunch there once, and it was good. :)

                                                  Here's the address and a link, with more info.

                                                  Noodle World
                                                  (626) 585-5885


                                                  24 W Colorado Blvd
                                                  Pasadena, CA 91105

                                                2. Like the tacos and stuff at Green St. Taqueria. Problem is they close at 5 pm and are not open on Sunday. Green & Oak Knoll.

                                                  1. King Taco, on Arroyo Parkway between Colorado and Union.

                                                    I had the bean and cheese burrito and the beef taquitos-- both were very good. Total = under $8, with a beverage.

                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: katkoupai

                                                      Zomg - love King Taco's red hot sauce. As a hot sauce freak, I kinda wish they weren't so stingy with the stuff. I'd happily pay for extra containers.

                                                      The only place I've found that will sell you large amounts (half pint) of their hot sauce is Burrito Express which is another great/cheap Pasadena joint.

                                                      1. re: spankbot

                                                        I asked for a little extra salsa verde at King Taco. It was sooo good. :)

                                                        I must try Burrito Express.

                                                        1. re: katkoupai

                                                          Don't get too excited about Burrito Express. If you have been to Tonny's I'm afraid that Burrito Express is likely to be a disappointment.

                                                          If you haven't been to Tonny's, then logically you should go there first, try the chile verde, machaca, or fried perch, and *then* if you get bored go to Burrito Express at some later date.

                                                          I live near, and have been to, both. And I have been to Tonny's much, much more. There is a reason for this.

                                                          The true Nectar of the Gods is the green stuff at Tibet House with the momos.

                                                          1. re: ttriche

                                                            I went to Tonny's. They had friendly service, and good fresh juices, but I thought the shrimp tostada was just okay. It was more like shrimp ceviche on top of two hard corn tortillas. I ate the ceviche, but left the corn tortillas on my plate. It was more expensive than I expected too. If I ever return, I would have to try something else. Thanks for the rec though. I know people love Tonny's on this board, which is why I went in the first place. :)

                                                            1. re: katkoupai

                                                              Their ceviche is, uh, not the strong point at Tonny's. Also disrecommended is their sopas de 7 mares. I think that one took the lining off my intestines.

                                                              Tonny's chile verde, agua frescas (real agua frescas, not the bullshit 'Jugos de Mexico' reconstituted with dishwater like you get at most places), and machaca are good stuff, though, and way out of the league of places like Burrito Express.

                                                              I can't believe I'm writing this on a bulletin board frequented by adults, but you really do have to play to a restaurant's strengths if you want to maximize your dining pleasure. If you want ceviche in [South] Pasadena, go to Senor Fish!

                                                              1. re: ttriche

                                                                Thank you for the recs. I actually ordered a shrimp tostada. I was surprised that it was a tostada with ceviche on top. I expected something very different (beans, lettuce, salsa, shrimp, sour cream, etc.). What I got was a cucumber salad with shrimp. When I saw it on the menu, it sounded good to me. I actually thought it was tasty, but not what I was looking for.

                                                                They juiced a whole pineapple for me, and I loved that. I will have to try Senor Fish some day. Thanks. :)

                                                                1. re: ttriche

                                                                  Yeah, I'm not crazy about their ceviche/cocteles, but I order that sort of thing when whoever I'm with really wants Tonny's.. and when I need to keep it light. Another thing I do is ask for my jugo minus any suger, and they are really nice about it. I drink less than half of it, take the rest home, and make smoothies with it the next day. =)

                                                                  1. re: snooze button

                                                                    Yes, even though the shrimp tostada at Tonny's wasn't what I was looking for, I felt good about eating it, because it was very healthy. Also, the fresh pineapple juice made me feel even better about the meal. :)

                                                      2. I totally forgot about the L&L Hawaiian on S. Arroyo Parkway @ E. Del Mar. Good grub for about $4.


                                                        1. One of my favorites for smoked barbecue and authentic soul food is -

                                                          'Big Mama's Rib Shack and Soul Food'
                                                          1453 N. Lake Avenue
                                                          Pasadena, CA 91104
                                                          Phone (626) 797-1792


                                                          Pork Rib Dinner includes 5 large pit smoked ribs with 2 side orders. There are 20 side orders to choose from. All Dinners come with their signature 'hush pupppies'. They offer smoked chicken, links. beef ribs, oysters, snapper, shrimp and 'more shrimp:)

                                                          Their food is to die for:)) Their desserts are just lovely... they offer cobblers, red velvet cake, pecan pie and an all time favorite 'sweet potato pie'.

                                                          I have eaten there many times and have ordered take out. They do not deliver. I have never had a bad meal. One thing I respect about their take-out is the portions are the same size as the portions you would get if you were to dine-in and eat.

                                                          The food is fresh and the place is CLEAN.

                                                          I have introduced friends to the establishment and they rave about the place. The meat is fresh and tender and has been smoked and has that old-fashioned smoked taste. I have never suffered with any bathroom surprises after eating there!

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: Bella_Mae

                                                            I've driven by this place and have wanted to check it out. Do you like it more than Roscoe's and M&M Soul Food in Pasadena? I was craving sweet potatoes and other delicious side dishes this week, but I never went to get them.

                                                            1. re: katkoupai

                                                              I like it better than M&M Soul Food... by far a lot fresher tasting... not a heavy soul food at all. Have not had the pleasure of eating at Roscoe's. I have heard wonderful things about Roscoe's and had planned on eating there next month. Have friends coming in for the weekend. I found Big Mama's very resonable. Dinner for 2 with beverages and dessert is under $30.00...

                                                              1. re: Bella_Mae

                                                                More bad news (I feel like I'm pissing on everyone's parade) -- Roscoe's in Pasadena is not nearly as good (or as much of an ''experience'') as the original on Gower. Be warned. (It's by no means Bad, but the original -- well, the original Sco's is Bad Ass.)

                                                                Big Mama's is pretty good for what it is -- ''upscale'' soul food, in Pasadena. M&M is way heavy, lead-in-your-tummy, Soul Food like in Mississippi. Apples & oranges IMO.

                                                                1. re: Bella_Mae

                                                                  Thanks, Bella Mae. Big Mama's is another place that I want to check out for sure. I love the name of the place. :)

                                                                  ttriche, it's okay if you rain on the parade. It's great that you have been to so many places in Pasadena. I appreciate your comments. I still have never been to Roscoe's, and I'm a native Angeleno. I've been to the M&M Soul Food in Lakewood. It was delicious, but yes, super heavy. I think one may have to lay off food for two days after eating there, but it was so, so good.

                                                                  Big Mama's I must try. And Roscoe's I must try too. :)

                                                                  1. re: katkoupai

                                                                    We renovated our kitchen, and we live in Altadena. Not much else to do for dinner during that time besides hit every cheap place within reason for the couple months that took to finish.

                                                                    My folks live near the original Sco's and the first time we went, I'm pretty sure we were the only white people in the place. Good sign. Then my mom (who grew up in Mississippi) started discussing the cornbread with our server and dispelled the fish-out-of-water atmosphere around the table.

                                                                    Also Not In Pasadena is Harold & Belle's. You like soul food (Creole soul, to be exact), you should check that place out. Not cheap, either, but you get what you pay for (try the oyster po'boy).

                                                              2. re: Bella_Mae

                                                                I went there last night for take-out. I will go back. I ordered the pork ribs, which were meaty and had a nice smoky flavor. The sauce was not too sweet and had a slight kick to it. The greens were watery but tasty. The yams were overly sweet for my taste, but still good. It came with 3 little corn bread muffins that I found too dry. I will be back at some point to try the shrimp creole, fried oysters, etc. Last night they also had specials of tri-tip, beef ribs, pulled pork. The place was nearly empty. I hope they are more crowded on the weekend.

                                                                1. re: hpcat

                                                                  I agree about the sauce at Big Mama's - it's got some real character as opposed to many places where it's just sweet. Their Cajun fries are killer and I also really like their cat fish.

                                                              3. Ricks on El Molino and Walnut. Great Burritos................

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: xciceroguy

                                                                  The best is Rick's. My grandparents (80 & 77 yrs old), my parents and I have been going to Ricks forever. I love the Spuderito with Beef!!

                                                                2. Based on the recommendations on this thread, I tried the Tibet Nepal House's all-you-can eat lunch buffet yesterday. It now costs $8.99 and includes unlimited sodas.

                                                                  I really liked it and plan to return and try dishes off their menu.

                                                                  Tibet Nepal House
                                                                  36 E. Holly Street, Pasadena, CA 91103

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: chowhound chloe

                                                                    I went there, it was good, but it seems exactly the same as Indian Food. Is there something I missed. Though good enough that I'd go there again.

                                                                    1. re: LuigiOrtega

                                                                      The buffet food does seem very similar to Indian food. I'm not sure of the subtle differences. That's why I want to try items off the menu. I've heard that momos are awesome.