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Bistro-ish in Pasadena Area

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I've been tasked to find a restaurant for a small (4 or 5 of us) birthday dinner on Saturday night. Birthday boy has stated that he wants something "Bistro-ish" (though that seems to be somewhat flexible). We'd like to stay in the Pasadena / South Pasadena / Eagle Rock area, if possible.

What we're looking for:
Nothing too formal / dressy (someone will invariably show up in jeans)
Under $75 pp, before drinks
Decent wine choices (but since we normally drink swill, that's not essential)
Someone wants steak frites
Someone else wants some sort of seafood
I want French onion soup
Souffles for dessert would be marvelous, but also not essential
Willing to take reservations for such a small group

I've been perusing the archive and looking at menus and have narrowed the search down to the following - please note that we've not actually dined at any of these places and so any advice is welcome - and if you have any other suggestions, please offer 'em up.

Initial List:
Mike and Ann's
Bistro de la Gare
Derek's Bistro
Cafe Bizou
Cafe Beaujolais
Madeleine's Restaurant & Bistro
Le Petit Chateau (a bit further afield)


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  1. I would definitely go with Cafe Bizou. Nice bistro atmosphere, consistently good food, $2 Corkage fee if you're so inclined, AND they have many of the items on your list.

    1. Cafe Bizou and Cafe Beaujolais seem to be the best fit, Mike and Anne's is also good too -- others not on the list to consider are CrepeVine (great wine selection, and good french onion soup) and Bistro 45.

      But if you can do $75/pp for a bistro-ish atmosphere, I'd say go out of that area and check out Comme Ca in Culver City.


      1 Reply
      1. re: AquaW

        The CrepeVine in Old Town Pasadena was the first place that popped into my mind when I read their post. They had a kitchen fire not too long ago apparently so their menu has changed. Here's their site: http://www.thecrepevine.com/

      2. i vote for cafe beaujolais -- they do great halibut. the filet is always good. the soups rule and the waiters are cute and french.

        went to the sherman oaks bizou last weekend. "prime rib" was chewy and swimming in thick, brown gravy. nasty.

        1. From your list, I would go with Madeleine's.

          I would nix Derek's because the food has gone down hill recently. Mike and Anne's is fine, except I think the menu would be a bit too limited to meet your needs.

          1. Thanks for all of the recommendations - we had to delay the celebrations for a month as the birthday boy had a nasty cold virus and didn't want to waste his special dinner celebration (we took him some pho, instead).

            Anyway, celebration is set for this weekend - we've narrowed down the choices to Cafe Bizou and Madeleine's Restaurant and Bistro (need to stay in Pasadena for the evening).

            We're definitely looking for more casual than formal (I'm wearing jeans).

            Comments on the two choices? Anything special (menu-wise) that we cannot miss?

            1. You know what: I agree with just about everything that has been said here about Mike and Anne's, Cafe Bizou etc: but......heres an idea and you may not like it....everyone pile onto the Gold Line in Pasadena/ South Pas and take the train downtown and eat at Kendalls Brasserie. I do this pretty often and it saves driving. They have everything you are looking for and more and it is as authentic experience as you will find in So Cal.

              1 Reply
              1. re: thomtompkins

                Thanks for the idea - we didn't make it to Kendall's on Friday night, but I've added it to our list and we're talking about taking the Gold Line into the city next weekend and trying the Brasserie. I've not tried any of the Patina Group restaurants, and have heard some negative reviews, but that menu looks very good.

              2. We ended-up at Cafe Bizou for dinner on Friday night - warm and cozy and the food was very good. Biggest hit was the lobster bisque, though the halibut was also excellent - french onion soup was piping hot and rich, but a bit on the sweeter end than I prefer. Steak frites were great, the bouillabaisse good but didn't taste as goulashy as the orderer likes (he wanted the flavors to be more melded rather than distinct components). Apps. of crab cakes and chicken-stuffed mushrooms were pretty meh and we'd likely not order them again. Desserts of creme brulee, flourless chocolate cake, and something applish were all devoured.

                Two apps., three soups, four entrees, three desserts, one cocktail, several wines, two after-dinner Irish coffees came to about $160.00 - extremely reasonable. Service was friendly, professional, and efficient (except for one server knocking over a 1/2-full wine glass, which was promptly replaced and comp'd). We'd gladly return to try more of the menu.

                Thanks for the recommendations!