HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


Your favorite dinner spot in Pasadena?

My husband and I will be in Pasadena on Friday night so we thought we'd grab dinner after our appt. We are going to a wine bar that serves tapas on Saturday, so we don't want to do Vertical Wine Bistro. Any other suggestions? Top consideration is quality of the food. I might have tried Bistro K--not really looking for anything that formal but given all the good reviews I was really hoping to go soon--alas, my timing was bad. We will be eating on the late side - 9 PM - if that matters.

The places I have dined in Pasadena that are still there are Crepe Vine (not bad but I was not a big fan), Barcelona (did not like at all) and Arroyo (just ok). We also tried Shiro, and were disappointed. The food was fine but seemed a little pricey for the quality, and the atmosphere was odd.

Any suggestions? I have not kept up on the openings in Pasadena so maybe there is something new? Or perhaps an oldie but a goodie I have yet to try?

Thanks in advance.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I like Derek's as well, but the times my husband and I have been there, I almost feel like we are the only ones there. Not in terms of service, which is a good thing, and they do have very good service...but we are essentially the only people in the restaurant, and I feel like everyone can hear what we are saying, which makes me feel uncomfortable.

      I also have really liked the Raymond when we have gone there...haven't been in a while even though we could easily walk from our house!

      I also really enjoy Cafe Bizou, Mike & Anne's and Bistro 45.

      We are trying Briganti in a couple of weeks...I am so excited!

      1. re: Spiff

        Derek's has consistently disappointed, especially for the price.
        Fave of the moment is Maddeleine's on Green Street not far from Lake. I am also one of the few who remains a fan of Bistro 45.
        But the consistently best dinner in Pasadena is the Arroyo Chop House. Steaks are often not quite right on and the prices are high, but the service is so professional, the ambience so well done, and overall product is such that this is the only place in Pasadena that can claim "big city" status. There is even a rare bargain on the highly overpriced wine list. Stay away from the Californias and try the 2004 J Drouhin Gevrey Chambertin for $60 - less than 2x discounted retail - one of the few really good affordable Burgundies these days.

        1. re: Griller141

          Yes, truly enough, while OP did not feel Arroyo was all that good, the Chop House may still be one of the 2 or 3 best restaurants in Pasadena, along with its sister next door, the Parkway Grill.
          Cafe Bizou warrants no further comment.
          btw - byo and pay the corkage at either the Chop House or Parkway and you will be fine, even though the initial reaction might be outrage - still your best value.
          Other that those two, Bistro 45 still delivers the goods, has a good wine list, and has been there for around 16 years for a reason, similar to those referred to above.

    2. Have you tried Maison Akira? They serve a fusion of French/Japanese dishes. You can check out the menu at maisonakira.com and located at 713 E. Green st.

      1. A bit formal, but certainly "oldies" that are still good, are Parkway Grill and Arroyo Chophouse. :)

        1. For me, it's gotta be Red White + Bluezz. Yes, it's a wine bar, but it's not a tapas bar, offering great renditions of American faire. The Kobe burgers are monstrous (and intimidating) but my favorite there is the short ribs.

          1. I just checked the website of Parkway Grill, and that's actually where I ate, not Arroyo. I had them confused.

            1. It doesn't get much love on this board, but I had a wonderful dinner at Madre's (in spite of it being owned by Jennifer Lopez, ha ha). It's Cuban style food, very filling, wonderful service, very nice ambience - kind of shabby chic - cozy and comfortable. They serve dinner til 10pm and the bar is open til 11pm. most nights they have live music - really lovely string trio singing in Spanish. I highly recommend the empanadas and any of their meats. I had a great steak and my friend had a great chicken. Nice desserts too. I don't live nearby but I get back there as often as I can. Always yummy and relaxing.

              5 Replies
              1. re: LisaStitch

                I'll add some love for Madre's. It's good ol' fashion Cuban food served up in a cute, quasi-fancy restaurant setting. Had many a great birthday gathering here. It's sort of a party restaurant.

                But if you're heading to South Pas, NOT Pasadena, why not Bistro K? They're open until 10:30 p.m. and will probably take a 9 p.m. rez. It's our local favorite restaurant. If you're looking for something different, this is the place.

                1. re: LisaStitch

                  I'd love to try Madres! How expensive?

                  1. re: midwest1

                    It's on the upscale side of the spectrum, but I don't remember it being *that* bad. That being said, I went years ago when it first opened, so my memory might not be serving me correctly.

                    1. re: midwest1

                      If you go to the website (link above) you can view their menus. It's not cheap, but not too expensive either, and the food is sooooo good. Most of the entrees are in the $20s. Chicken dishes start at $14, lobster gets you up to $42.

                      The beef empanadas appetizer is $10 and really good, but you only get 2-3 smaller-sized ones. They have a happy hour 5-7pm that I've never been to, but at the bar all the apps are discounted.

                      The website also has some nice photos, so you can get a feel for the place. It's a really relaxing place and they don't rush you at all. Would be a nice Mother's Day place actually - I think they have a special menu for Mother's Day but I'm not positive .

                  2. Smitty's on Lake Ave. - great atmosphere, wonderful food.

                    1. I missed out on Bistro K too--

                      I like the wine & dine Red White + Bluezz and the Japanese-French fusion of Maison Akira.

                      If you're looking for something creative, check out 561 Restaurant -- the students at the "cooking school restaurant" can really whip up some creative courses. If going on a Friday, I'd definitely check out the tasting menu--which changes weekly (you can see the menu that day @ www.561restaurant.com



                      1. Love Parkway Grill, Bistro K and Briganti. Honestly, Briganti is so consistent- we were there last night (one of the few restos opened on Mondays) and husband had the pumpkin gnocchi w/ browned butter & sage special- it literally melted in my mouth.....amazing. The beef carpaccio is stellar as are all of the pastas, particularly the parpadelle w/ boar ragu which is on specials menu often. Good wine selection too.

                        Tuna Toast: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/

                        1 Reply
                        1. For something different from standard bistro fare, try Shaab on Raymond. Very good shabu-shabu, plus fresh (but standard assortment of) sushi/sashimi. It's easy on the pocketbook too!

                          I definitley recommend Madeleine's on Green if you want to stick with new american. Warm & romantic atmosphere & elegantly plated dishes, but a bit pricey.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: zinFAN

                            I loved Madeleine's the last time I was there, as well. Ambience is really nice all throughout the establishment. There is an outdoor patio off the bar that's great as well...
                            Food was fantastic and the wine recommendations were all good matches.

                            1. re: slacker

                              TTV definitely has its following here, but I would state my humble opinion that it is extremely overpriced in comparison to other places that are equally good. The apologists point out that you are paying for the authenticity of the Venetian cuisine. If you're into authenticity for its own sake, maybe it isn't as bad a deal.

                              1. re: Griller141

                                I guess I never could understand that "overpriced" statement. It's not that expensive.

                                1. re: slacker

                                  Although food value is obviously a wholly personal matter, some other posts have detailed what they mean by expensive: $9 per "medium" shrimp, $16 per ounce of cheese, etc, one with pictures detailing the issue. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/370720
                                  Another thread goes so far as to use the term, "rip off" (even I think that's a little unfair).
                                  There are other threads that disagree, but for what you get, the price does seem to some to be out of proportion.

                                  1. re: Griller141

                                    Have you actually eaten there? It really is not crazy expensive. I didn't apportion the cheese ounces, and I guess just like at any other restaurant, it depends on how you order, but we had an excellent dinner there and didn't get sent to the poor house.

                                    1. re: slacker

                                      We have eaten there twice - once shortly after it opened and once after S Irene's three star review, feeling sure that we had misjudged the place. Both times left wondering what the raves were about and with a vaguely uneasy feeling of being shortchanged. We have not been back in the past two years. I am sure it is a matter of personal preference, as many seem to like the place.

                                      1. re: Griller141

                                        Tre Venezie is a bit on the expensive side (overpriced? dunno), but regardless of how high the prices are (or how high YOU THINK the prices are), the food there just isn't all that great, esp. recently.

                            2. I have tried all the restaurants mentioned with the exception of Crepe Vine and find that through the years, the food has gone down hill and definitely overpriced. I recently went to 750 ml in South Pasadena and was pleasantly surprise. If you like cheese, order the chef's special cheese plate (it's not on the menu you have to order it) and was very good. My vote is 750 ml.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ladybythebay

                                Surprised at your recommendation, esp. after noting the other restaurants are overpriced. I've heard quite a few reviews that noted that portions at 750 are miniscule, and consequently - overpriced, themselves.


                              2. Why not The Dining Room @ the Ritz?

                                1. Some of my favs are:

                                  Cafe Bizou'
                                  Mi Piace (Burbank Location is better)
                                  Saladang Song
                                  Parkway Grill
                                  Holly Street Bar & Grill
                                  "Old Town Bakery" *However, this has now become an italian/Cal Restaurant-Never Tried.
                                  The Raymond Restaurant *Classic Place! One of the best. Been awhile since ive visited.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: smak34

                                    Has the Burbank Mi Piace re-opened??? If so, where? I know that the old location in that little area where In N Out is has been closed for over a year.

                                    1. re: jazzlover

                                      I don't believe that it has reopened anywhere, but I may be wrong...

                                    2. re: smak34

                                      The Old Town Bakery is now Villa Sorriso. Nice atmosphere and passable food (at least to me.)

                                      I also love Song...but I can only get the Pad Thai for some reason :) ...had it once and can't seem to order anything else!

                                      1. re: Spiff

                                        The trick to Song (and almost anywhere) is to take enough people with you so everyone can get a taste of several things. And under any circumstances you gotta try their corn fritter thingies...talk about addictive!

                                        1. re: stacyface

                                          Whatta shame....the food & service was by far the best of the 2....thanks for the update...

                                      2. Last night the best restaurant in Pasadena by far was in South Pasadena--Shiro. It presented a multi-course meal and I mean multi (no catfish tho) with excellent virtually nonstop champagne and wine pairings for $120 per person plus tax and tip and you got a 20th anniversary t-shirt. They did not make money on this meal. And they also had a jazz combo. But clearly this was to thank old customers and encourage comebacks. Best restaurant deal I've encountered at an upper mid priced place in greater LA in over 25 years. Amazing.

                                        1. Thanks for all the great suggestions! They will provide us lots of options going forward. For tomorrow night though, I think we are going to eat at Saladang Song. I last went five years ago with a large group and really liked it. We meant to return but completely forgot about it until it was recommended by smak34 and spiff. Any suggestions on what to order?

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: meganinlosfeliz

                                            Like I said...I have honestly only had the pad thai. And everyone I've gone with (actually the same group of 3 friends for "girls' night") has only gotten the pad thai too. I guess we are all pretty unadventurous, but we all really love it!

                                            1. re: meganinlosfeliz

                                              If I recall correctly, one of the better of our dishes was this hot clay (?) pot of clear noodles and I think crab...

                                              1. re: meganinlosfeliz

                                                I personally love their green curry (has eggplant and i believe basil) -- goes great with shrimp & scallops.


                                                1. re: meganinlosfeliz

                                                  Love the red curry w/beef (comes w/bell peppers and bamboo shoots).

                                                  1. re: meganinlosfeliz

                                                    the song salad is really good - i've never had a problem ordering from the regular saladang menu at song, btw.

                                                    1. re: meganinlosfeliz

                                                      Guys! What about Saladang?? Seems like every food restaurant I run across completely neglects the first of the two restaurants owned by the same person and raves about Saladang Song. Yes, Song is delicious but please let's start showing the "mother restaurant" a little love it really deserves. Saladang is the restaurant on the north side of Song's parking lot.

                                                      Saladang has been my favorite Pasadena restaurant for something around 8 years. Consistently delicious, courteous fast service, extremely pleasant atmosphere. In the many, many times I have been, I haven't once been disappointed with anything.

                                                      Faves: saladang salad (green apple w/ peanut sauce), the noodles with chili and thai basil (forgot the name), any of the curries, sizzling beef, crab pouches (special), the spring rolls, and their incredible sticky rice with mango

                                                      1. re: amandine

                                                        My favorite dish at Saladang is the duck and spinach salad. And when mangos are in seson, mango with coconut sticky rice is a must for dessert. Both restaurants would have this but overall I still like Saladang better than SS. I'm going to have to try Briganti myself! I've only read great things about it but never even heard of it until now. Cafe Verde and Yahira are 2 to put on your list too. Both are small informal cafes with creative menus.

                                                        1. re: amandine

                                                          My favorite dish at Saladang is the beef panang. A little heavy on the coconut milk for some people's taste, but it's got thtat wonderful mix of sweet and pungent.

                                                      2. Rick's Burgers one Walnut and get the Spudarito. :-) That is of course if it is still there. It is said that some morons want to stick another much needed, especially in this economy, luxury condominium on the property.
                                                        On side note, I am not a steak snob in any way shape or form, but for some reason every time I had gone do the Chop House was after coming back from either the mid-West (The "Real" Chop House and also my fav, Gibsons) or Texas (Chamberlains or Del Friscos) or the south (Bone's or Old Mills in Atlanta). Some coincidence. Each time close to 1/3 of my steak was a hunk of fat and though very rare was requested, it came about a medium rare. So whether it was my poor luck or whatever, the Arroyo Chop House would not come close to being a great steak house to me. I would prefer Houston's up the street. Just my opinion.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: mpron

                                                          Rick's in Pasadena is still there and still serving food. I drive by daily. I've tried it once, and it's definitely not my favorite place to go, although I appreciate that it's there.

                                                        2. I went to Celestino on Lake this weekend... I was very very pleased and will be going back soon (and I'm usually not a fan of Italian...pasta etc. really bores me but this was exceptionally tasty and the service was charming)

                                                          1. Arroyo Chop House for steaks and shrimp cocktail. Porto Alegre for upscale Brazilian churrascaria. Sushi Roku for guess what. Tokyo Wako for Benihana style grub. Smitty's for the trout.

                                                            1. Barcelona Tapas in Old Town Pasadena is AWFUL. I have never posted about a place before, but it was so bad that I felt I had to. I have been to multiple tapas places in LA and this should not even count. It is basically a bar that has food. The food was bland and overpriced. I thought it would be hard to screw up tapas, but they found a way. The service was terrible. The waiter forgot our drinks (i.e. never brought them) and messed up our order. We hated the tapas so much we ordered some of the entrees. Big mistake. The Ribeye was grey. PERIOD. Please do not go here.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: NaniD

                                                                The only thing this place is good for is their giant wall-sized screens for watching the game... but don't plan on eating or drinking anything while you're there. I've eaten at Bar Celona twice since it opened and along the same lines of NaniD, I was very unimpressed-- yeah it's food that tastes fine but it's flat, no nuances or unique flavors or presentation that make it worth waiting and paying for. And if you just go for drinks... you will probably never get them unless you go up to the bar and order straight from the bartender.

                                                                And, another matter that needs no elaboration: on weekends the anterior part of the bar is staffed by.... a sushi chef making sushi. Tapas? Sushi? Umm....

                                                                Nevertheless, this place is packed on the weekends, with cover charge to get in. Even if they paid ME to go in, it wouldn't be worth my time.

                                                              2. If you like thai food, try saladangs. I love their beef salad and calamari.