HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


Dinner in Pasadena on Dec. 31?

I just won a trip to the Rose Bowl and will be flying down on Dec. 31. I haven't been to that area in 30 years and haven't a clue where would be a good place for an early (7pm or so) dinner that night.

Any thoughts? I live in San Francisco and will eat just about anything. My sister is from Escondido and is less into the pricy meals I'm used to.

I looked on Open Table for places with availablity and cross-checked Zagat as a starting point. Any input on these places...all are on OT and rated 20 or more for food in Zagat. Or better suggestions? Help!

Arroyo Chop House
Parkway Grill
Ritz Carlton Dining Room
Smitty's Grill

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Arroyo, Parkway & Smitty's are all under the same ownership. Food is certainly the most interesting at Parkway. Smitty's is reliable for things like steaks & pot pie. Arroyo (I've never been) is, as the name implies, a steak place. I would guess that the meats are probably a notch better than Smitty's, given the prices. RW&B is a fine choice. I also like Vertical Wine Bistro, which is somewhat similar in concept. The food is more interesting at Vertical; the wines at RWB are more affordable.

    1. From your list I would rank in order of preference this way:

      1. Ritz
      2. Parkway Grill
      3. Celestino (tie)
      3. Smitty's (tie)
      5. Arroyo
      6. red, white and bluezz

      Dunno if they are open on NYE, but also consider (in no particular order)
      -Shiro www.restaurantshiro.com
      -Madeleine's www.madeleinesrestaurant.com

      2 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Red white and Bluezz is having their NYE party on the back patio. I haven't seen it- is it cold (sitting for 3 hours)? Is it nice? Is it noisy?

        1. re: CookieEater

          They have heat lamps, and the space can be charming. Noisy? I'm sure it'll be quite lively.

      2. Fabulous for you! However, keep in mind that this is also the night when 1/2 the world gathers for the parade along Colorado Blvd. And, this year, I understand from a couple of city employees, will have a heavier crowd than last year. (It rained but who knows so far in advance?)

        Unless you want to be mixed in with the crowds, I would stay clear of any place near Colorado. Smitty's is on Lake just eat of Colorado-You might be safe there but I'd surely make reservations if possible. The Ritz is nice. I've brought in the New Year there a couple of times. What about going to: Saladang 363 S. Fair Oaks. 626.793.8193. Awesome, innovative Thai. I sit outside but, Dec 31 might be too cold. Then in S. Pas there's Firefly Bistro http://www.eatatfirefly.com . Never been to Bistro K but, many hounds like it.
        For some ice cream fun, don't miss Busters on Mission at the railroad tracks.

        Happy New year and enjoy the game.

        (If float touring interests you prior to the parade, they're are available for viewing late in the day on the 31st and will be on display inside hangers at the park area across from the Rose Bowl in Brookside Park.)

        1. Used to be we'd cruise Old Town on NY eve and get an early dinner. We could've just walk into a restaurant if we were early enough. I don't know if that's the case. Yes it's going be a mad house in that area, but that's the whole experience right?

          Parkway Grill is very very good and it's away from the maddening crowd. I have not been to the Ritz for dinner, but be aware that you have to valet park.

          1. Arroyo Chop House I think can be a hit and miss. The first time I went there it was really amazing and was like one of the best steaks I've ever had. Second time around it was mediocre.

            Celestino is good. They have good pasta dishes, but I think their meat and fish are okay. Also excellent there are their eggplant parmiggiano appetizer and the mushroom souffle. The orange ricotta cheesecake is also amazing.

            The Ritz Carlton is good, in the tradition of Ritz Carltons.

            Might also consider Bistro 45 if it is open.

            If you don't want to go pricey, you should also consider going a bit down to Arcadia or Alhambra for Chinese food :)


            1. In terms of your sister's preference for less pricey, you might consider venturing a couple of miles south to Alhambra/San Gabriel/Monterey Park for Chinese.

              Here is something that will give you an idea of what Arroyo Chop House would be like:


              1 Reply
              1. re: ChinoWayne

                Live to Eat: I live in Pas and dine out frequently and would rate the restaurants this way but not in this order.

                Ritz / many rate this as the best rest in Pas. I think it may be but you will have a more authentic Pas dinner somewhere else.

                Bistro 45 / very local, very good, pretty cool room, seasonal menu that is inventive and ever changing, excellent service. Rated very highly. I go here pretty often and have never had less than a great meal.

                Parkway Grill/ an outstanding restaurant that if it were located on the West Side, you couldnt get in. Very comfortable room and with a fairly priced wine list. Super solid American cooking. LA Magazine called this "Spago Beverly Hills" East. The only bar in town where you can get Bordo'''' by the glass. Thats a nice treat.

                Arroyo Chop House/ I agree..it can be very good or not. As a local, let me take those chances. Smittys, Arroyo Chop and Parkway are owned by the same fam but they are very different. Parkway is the Flagship and they treat is as such.

                Tre Venezia / a fav of Mario B and mine too. You will also see Hollywood here pretty regularly. Super creative Italian with a Euro-Hungarian twist. Its the only Italian restaurant that I have been to that features not one thing on the menu that is familiar and I love learning and exploring new things. Roasted red beet and fresh ricotta stuffed poppyseed ravioli? who knew....
                They also have an outstanding Italian based wine list full of opportunities.

                Smitty's/ good for a local night out (and I do) but....nope, not for something important.

                Dereks/ Rated by LA Magazine as one of the top 10 rest in the LA basin one year ago. I agree. In an unlikely locations and small but very comfortable and with a professional staff. Derek is an Englishman who takes his dining very seriously and his menu reflects it. Californian with a Continental twist. He will also do a special menu just for your table, if you plan ahead. The unusual thing in this case...he will design it around your personal fav things. That doesnt happen very often. I have been a part of a few of these and they are always winners. I love the place.

                Celistino/ a year ago I would have told you to go but after two really poor meals there recently (seriously) I would definately pass on this one. ( I read that Wolfgang loves the place ) but its off "the boil" for sure. Resting I suppose. When its your business and you are supposed to be a serious Italian restaurant: how do you screw up pasta and simple seafood dishes.... Dunno....

                The Raymond House/ a definate sleeper and a gem. Creative Californian food served in an original Pas Bungalow. They have a new chef, attentive staff and the cooking is on the money. Lighter in style than the others but great none the less.

                You honestly wont miss with any of these. But......if it were me....and what you have for dinner matters....and its important.....I would put them in this order....Parkway Grill, Dereks, Bistro 45, Tre Venezia.

                Zagat rates all of these really well and they are also all within a mile of each other so you dont have far to go no matter what you decide. The best of luck and let us know how it goes please.


              2. I am considering the same places. Another question to add:

                Do these places only have early dinners, or do they actually have late seatings and let you stay til midnight, toast champagne, etc?

                5 Replies
                1. re: CookieEater

                  I am uncertian, but I bet all of them have New Years Eve festivities. In fact, I am sure they do.

                  1. re: thomtompkins

                    And you probably better call them, yesterday! Don't plan on driving a car on Colorado Boulevard around midnight or later.

                    1. re: ChinoWayne

                      And why not (drive down Colorado on NY eve)? In fact it's one thing we liked to do when we live in LA. OK not the nice car, but certainly I don't mind driving my 10 yr old Honda and take a look at all the campers along that street.

                      1. re: PeterL

                        Don't the cops shut it down to cars at about midnight?

                2. Do you see a trend among my fellow chowhounds? Make a reservation at Parkway Grille, make sure you get a table in the main dining room, on the parameter if possible and don't miss their flatbreads or anything made with lamb. My late father was always fond of their crabcake too.

                  1. The others I would toss in the ring are JJ's Steakhouse (if you want to be on Colorado. They also have a patio where you can look down on Colorado after dinner (or at least they used to, the building was recently revamped)) and Maison Akira in the Playhouse district.

                    1. Also, if you want a whole package affair (e.g. dinner, music, etc.) Twin Palms has something going on for a flat rate.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mbh65

                        Parkway Grill, for sure. My sister and I have done New Year's at least twice there, and it always feels comfy and classy. The other posters are also right that it is away from the Colorado madhouse - you can always cruise Colorado later, if you're so inclined.
                        Another thing I like about Parkway Grill, they have their own little garden out back, and their salads are so yummy and fresh. Wonderful food.

                        1. re: aurora50

                          Does anyone know if Parkway Grill's menu for NYE is pri fixe or regular? How much does it run?

                      2. Congrats on the trip!

                        Will you be staying the night in Pasadena (on the 31st)? I'm thinking that if you've a hotel room downtown, then you might want to be looking for places within walking distance to avoid the chaos of the party people combined with the parade people (I just don't drive that day).

                        1. Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. Unfortunately I don't know where the hotel is going to be...they won't send me the specific details until they receive some paperwork, which I'm returning this week.

                          Good points about Colorado though. I wouldn't have even thought of that.

                          My sister and I are of a certain age, and we're thinking of a really early dinner, like 6pm or so. We aren't planning to be out in the middle of it at midnight, so hopefully that will help a little.

                          Also thanks for the tips about the floats. We thought they could be viewed the day after...didn't realize it was the day before.

                          Guess I'd better start checking out Rose Parade web sites, too.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Lives to Eat

                            My vote is Parkway Grill- NYE will be a great dining experience- they decorate beautifully for the holidays and the food (esp. fish and vegetables) has never been a disappointment imo...my SIL is the consummate carnivore- she raves about the petite filet....

                            it's located far enough off the Parade route to not have parking issues, has valet parking,...definitely avoid restaurants along Colorado at all costs- parking is impossible and the crowds start vying for camping spots legally at noon (actually well before then...read 6:00 a.m NYE). Re floats- you can also see them after the Parade up at Victory Park location- go to the Tournament of Roses website for more info.

                            1. re: Local

                              My sister and I are of a certain age also - 50ish - and the Parkway Grill is perfect. If I recall correctly, they have 2 seatings that night, an early one and a late one. We've always taken the early seating ourselves, because of the very same issues you bring up. I believe it might be a little cheaper, also (not paying for the champagne, noisemakers, etc.). I think the earlier seating is also less popular than the later seating, so you should be able to get a reservation. You really can't go wrong.
                              Yes, the floats can be viewed the day before, but also for 1-2 days after. If you've only seen them on tv, they're quite something to see up close -
                              Have fun!!!

                            2. re: Lives to Eat

                              "Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. Unfortunately I don't know where the hotel is going to be...they won't send me the specific details until they receive some paperwork, which I'm returning this week."

                              You are sure this is a legit contest? In terms of the Rose Parade, there are bleachers set up at various points along the parade route, but you have to buy tickets in advance. Hotels and motels are booked long in advance. Otherwise you can try and find a spot to stand along the route for free, but you have to get there the night before to get a good spot.

                              Please check all of this out before you send anyone any money or credit card information.

                              1. re: ChinoWayne

                                Thanks for the concern. It was a sweepstakes through our ABC affiliate here in SF. It was sponsored by American Airlines and ABC. The paperwork came from ABC in New York, and they called my phone number (not a spam email) to let me know I had won. There is nothing in the prize about the parade...it's was only for the game. I figure we'll just watch it on TV like usual.

                                They haven't asked for any money or a credit card. But they made sure I know that I'm responsible for taxes on the prize value! I've won a couple of contests before and this is generally what they require. And the taxes are always quite a shock.

                                We'll see...

                                1. re: Lives to Eat

                                  Lives to Eat, have you decided where you're going to eat?
                                  : )

                                  1. re: Lives to Eat

                                    Glad to hear it is on the up and up, I wouldn't want a fellow 'hound to get burned. Please do report back on your eating adventures after the trip.

                              2. If I may make another suggestion, The Raymond Restaurant would be an excellent but more intimate restaurant for the 31st. It has an old-cottage feel with fire places and quaint booths. It is VERY Pasadena.

                                If not, I would get in at the Ritz ASAP, they will be changing ownership in 2008 and this will be one of the last times you will see it as the traditional Huntington Ritz Carlton.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: TheMachine

                                  Ritz Dining Room is sold out, Terrace is still available

                                2. For some additional info to make your trip more enjoyable, the floats can be viewed (and you can volunteer to help build) at several sites until NYE night. They can also be seen on NYE on Del Mar Blvd. as they are being driven to the start point on Orange Grove Blvd. Then, they are available for viewing right after the Parade and the next day at Victory Park/Pasadena HS for an admission fee (usually around $7). I live close by and walk down there, but I think there are shuttle buses from a couple of locations. The Rose Bowl/Rose Parade organizations have a GREAT website with a ton of info on all the events (which really go on most of the week prior to the game--it's not just the game and parade. The school's marching bands play concerts and other fun things too).

                                  1. I would stay away from your list above. For a food and wine experience you must try Madeleines Restaurant & Wine Bistro:
                                    1030 East Green Street, Pasadena, California 91106
                                    (626) 440-7087