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Mar 19, 2007 05:52 PM

Cheap Dinner on Saturday night in Pasadena

Some friends are coming from OC to have dinner with me in Pasadena this Saturday night. I would like to get recs for a cheap but nice restaurant, that is also vegetarian friendly, in Pasadena. We will be a six-person group, and a rate of $20-$30 per person total (including food, drinks, tax, tip) should be okay. Suggestions in Old Town are especially appreciated.

I am thinking about going to Cafe Santorini. I like the idea of dining on the roof, and the menu and prices look good. Plus, I have heard good things about Cafe Santorini here on Chowhound (

I also thought about the Vertical Wine Bar (, but I think this group prefers beer to wine, plus it might get expensive. So I looked at Lucky Baldwins, but it seemed a little too informal for the occasion ( I also thought about Red, White and Bluezz (, but there are no prices listed on the online menu.

Anyway, please post suggestions. This will be a belated bday dinner, and I would like it to be nice, without being too expensive. Thanks. :)

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  1. Firefly Bistro maybe? I've only been there once, and it was pretty good food in a cool and funky atmosphere. Which is more than I can say for my one visit to Santorini.

    Also if you're in the mood for drinks afterward head to Magnolia (East side of Lake, between California and Del Mar) - delicious pomegranate mojitos, tasty bar food, and the best crowd and atmosphere in Pasadena IMO.

    Hope you have fun!

    3 Replies
    1. re: trojanhorse

      Firefly in South Pasadena? Not one of my favorites at you would have to drive to get anywhere super entertaining for out-of-towners on a Saturday night.

      Lucky Baldwins is very casual.

      Magnolia is good, and closer to more nightlife...

      Good luck!

      1. re: Spiff

        Hmm, nightlife around Magnolia? Do tell?

        You don't mean Madre's do you?

        Aside from Madre's, Magnolia is on a pretty desolate stretch of Lake ...

        1. re: ipsedixit

          I just meant more bar-type Smitty's, Magnolia, not nightlife per se...

    2. Magnolia's a good choice. Or, La Maschera Ristorante for Italian -- service is great, and you can probably take up its lounge area.

      If you really want to stay in Old Town, Cafe Santorini should be good -- the patio factor gives a relatively different take. You might also consider Villa Sorriso for a more upbeat place, with a bar/music and cabanas at night. CrepeVine might also be a contender; they have vegetarian crepes and entrees, plus a bar.

      A little bit south of Old Town is La Luna Negra, for tapas.

      Happy Belated Bday!

      4 Replies
      1. re: chica

        All good recs, but I think those places are out of range for the OP's budget, e.g. 20-30/person with tax, tip, drinks, etc. included.

        Or am I missing something?

        1. re: ipsedixit

          La Maschera is more expensive, but pizzas and pastas at Villa are $12-16 at most, and CrepeVine crepes are within that range, too. I guess it really depends on how much the person wants to drink, too, because that can add up really quickly, especially when celebrating a special occasion.

          1. re: chica

            Yeah, it's hard to do all inclusive for 20-30/person, even in Pasadena.

        2. re: chica

          Thank you for the bday wishes, chica. :)

        3. Thank you to everyone for the replies. I walked around Old Town tonight, and really nothing stood out to me. Somewhere off Lake might do, and also may be less crowded, which is okay. I really appreciate all the recs. I know the budget is low, but I think it would be rude to have friends splurge for a very expensive place.

          I actually have wanted to go to Madre's-- forgot about that one. The drinks at Magnolia sound really good. I also have thought about La Luna Negra and Villa Sorriso, but I was worried about crowds at Villa Sorriso.

          Firefly Bistro I had not thought of. That might be good.

          Thank you, again. I will post here later about wherever we go. :)

          5 Replies
          1. re: katkoupai

            don't boo me off the board, but Buca di Beppo could work. (please hold your groans). Pricewise it's cool, you can have lots of shared salads, pastas, veggies...and a fun atmosphere....

            1. re: TastELA

              I've been to the Buca di Beppo in Pas with my sister. I thought the food was decent, and I would go back. For this occasion, I'm hoping to go somewhere that is unique to Pasadena. Thanks for the rec. It definitely fits the specifications above. If I don't find something, I may go with a chain. I am hoping to try something new. :)

              1. re: katkoupai

                Unfortunately, you will not be able to go to Madre's, Villa Sorriso, La Luna Negra, Vertical Wine Bistro or Red, White and Bluezz or Magnolia and stay within your budget unless you stick to tap water and an appetizer. All of those places are more like $50-75 per person, including tax, and maybe including tip. I had three glasses of wine and two appetizers at Vertical last week and it cost $50 with tip.

                I would recommend Cafe Santorini as well, as you can get one entree and maybe two glasses of wine for $30. And Lucky Baldwin's is casual and cheap and you'll have no problem staying within your budget there.

                There is the Kitchen Italian,, which is on Union Street (across from Forever 21) that has the checkered tablecloths and affordable, basic Italian food. Cute and cozy atmosphere too. I also suggest Buca, as it's one of the few places that meet your requirements in that area. Or try Cafe Bizou,, as they have a $2.50 corkage (check with them first, in case it's changed) and affordable food in a nice atmosphere, though it's nothing unique.

                If you really want something different, try the Tibet Nepal House, It's cheap, vegetarian but offers a wide variety of flavors. You don't have to be a veggie to love it. La Fiesta Grande on Colorado might be a fun option as well - you can see their menu here:

                Good luck, and give us an update afterward!

                Clare K.

                1. re: Clare K

                  Actually, Tibet Nepal House has meat and vegetarian options : - good food and interesting atmosphere.

            2. re: katkoupai

              Madre's will not be cheap -- FYI. I've never eaten there, but I recall the drinks being very expensive.

              If you are willing to get away from Old Town - Briganti in South Pas is good Italian, in a refined setting - however, if they are adventurous eaters, go to Bistro K (it's BOYB) - so perhaps you can supply the drinks (and not feel so guilty about them treating you for food!) If you want more casual Italian - I like Gale's in Pasadena (between Del Mar and California on Fair Oaks -- so closer to Old Town if you want to go up there afterwards).

              Your price point is really difficult - unless you'd go on an ethnic route. Would the group be into that? Mezzaban Indian in Old Town (Fair Oaks) is quite good.

              Other Old Town spots - Cafe Bizou usually appeases my budget minded friends for special occassions - I think it might be a good option... and I probably would have suggested Cafe Santorini as well.

              Keep in mind that your friends want to celebrate you! It's very nice you are being sensitive to budget, but don't worry about it so much that it dampens the experience -- they are expecting to celebrate... plus, they are paying a small fortune in gas costs to do it! Enjoy and Happy Belated!

            3. How about Crepevine Bistro? I had a pretty good meal there.

              1. Vegetarian? Like "only eats salads?" Or will eat Indian food?

                It's tough to do "cheap" in Old Town. At $30 total you have to be under $23 for food and drink since the tax and tip will fill out the rest. You will be very limited in what you can order at Santorini. Vertical is NOT cheap. Nor is Red, White and Bluez.

                For Indian vegetarian, I would recommend All India Cafe on Fair Oaks/Green.
                For nice dinner salads, I'd recommend Twin Palms (Green/DeLacey).
                Almost every other restaurant in this area is very meat heavy. Your poor vegetarian friend will be limited to a pasta with a tomato/basil sauce or a salad almost everywhere.

                FYI, Santorini is very crowded on Saturday nights. It's loud inside and out. The balcony is enclosed in plastic this time of year (it's too cold at night). Better wait until summer if you like the balcony.