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Dec 27, 2007 07:42 AM

Paseo Cantina, Pasadena (a review)

On Christmas Eve, my friend and I stopped in for a late lunch around 2-ish. This restaurant is in the space where Border Grill used to be in Paseo Colorado in Pasadena (next to PF Chang’s). It has been renovated and is a very lovely space. The west and south walls are mostly floor-to-ceiling windows. They have Mariachis and Folklorio dancers from Wednesday through Saturday and Sunday for brunch. We were the only ones there when we walked in, but by the time we left (at 4) there were several tables that were filled.
They brought us a platter of four-colored chips and two delicious salsas and there were cheese quesadillas on that plate, too! YUM! We each ordered the house margaritas (on the rocks, with salt, thankyouverymuch!) and got down to deciding what we wanted to eat. They have two soups which are permanently on the menu (albondigas & tortilla) and one soup of the day. That was Mariscos on this particular day. My friend ordered this. I ordered the chicken flautas. They have some very delicious-looking items on the menu, which I will try next time (see attached link).
Our waiter, the Winona, MN transplant, and very gracious and professional, Steffen, brought us freshly made HOT tortillas with butter. We were all over those. My friend made them up like she used to do in Merida when she was little – a little butter, a little salt and a squeeze of lime (dipped in salsa if you want) and quickly eaten! So good! I think when all was said and done, he had brought us fresh tortillas 4 times!!
Our food arrived and her soup had so much seafood in it – scallops, shrimp, etc. She loved it. Mine came with the two flautas cut in half and standing up on the plate – nice presentation. Chicken was good, but was made much better with the salsa slathered on! Service was friendly and very attentive, but not overbearingly so. It was perfect.
The owned stopped by to see how we were doing and we chatted for a while. He stopped by a couple more times. He is very gracious and is obviously proud of his establishment. He said that this is his first restaurant venture. I think he got it right. We were so comfortable there that we both agreed that if she did not have to go back to work, we would have sat there for more than the 2 hours we did!
Steffen brought us more quesadillas stating “here are some just-off-the-grill quesadillas”. Then the owner came by again and told us that he was going to buy us dessert and would send over the tray. We looked at each other and laughed since we were so full, we thought (read: thought) we could not eat any more.
Well, here comes the dessert tray: 3 choices: Fresas con crema, Coconut Flan and Crepas con Cajete. I said that we could share one, but the owner said that we each had to get our own. Nancy got the strawberries and I got the coconut flan.
When the desserts arrived, they were beautiful. Her fresas con crema came in an edible bowl made of an almond-brittle-type mixture and was delicious, sticky, sinful. My flan was one of the best I have ever had. All of a sudden, surprisingly, we had room!! Imagine that!! ;-) We agreed that the flan was the best and ate it all.
I would definitely recommend this restaurant. Definitely. Service is wonderful and the food is great. Wonderful space and atmosphere. Go!
They have happy hour from 3-6:30, with botanas and drink specials.

Paseo Cantina
260 E. Colorado Blvd., Suite 203, Pasadena, CA 91101
Paseo Colorado on Upper Fountain Court, next to P.F. Chang's

Monday: 11am to 10pm
Tuesday & Wednesday: 11am to 11pm
Thursday: 11am to 12midnight
Friday & Saturday: 11am to 1am
Sunday: 10am to 10pm (brunch)

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  1. thanks for a nicer review. i walked by the day since it's right next to my gym and was glad it wasn't another "islands" thype of restaurant. what are the prices like? i try your link to their website but all i get is a page with a marachi lady on it.

    10 Replies
    1. re: trolley

      A little more than La Fiesta Grande and Mijares, but definitely reasonable as this is more of an upscale type place. The prices do not show up on the website, but they do have their menu there.
      Maybe this link will work?

      1. re: WildSwede

        Their website does not seem to work if you're using Firefox. I was having the same problem until I tried Exploiter.

        1. re: Jack Flash

          Sorry Jack!
          I went again today for lunch and since their coconut flan was so fantastic and I knew I wanted it again - along with their piping hot & delicious freshly-made tortillas, I ordered the Chicken Tortilla soup today. A little history, for the past 7 years, I have been searching for a tortilla soup as delicious as the one I had in Cabo San Jose, and have failed miserably in finding it - until now. Paseo Cantina's was dead on - they hit the nail on the head. I was in heaven as I was slurping down every last drop of it. Fantastic! I will definitely be getting that again. My friend ordered the Chicken Flautas and really liked them.
          We requested Steffen as our waiter and he was just as good and attentive as last time. We arrived around 1:30 and the place was hopping pretty good.
          I really hope that the word gets out about this restaurant and that it stays around for a long time. It is a wonderful space with great service and good food.
          Happy New Year!

          1. re: WildSwede

            Thanks for your review of this place, and your follow up about the Chicken Tortilla soup. That sounds really good! Will have to try it, and the coconut flan.

            1. re: slacker

              The soup, fresh tortillas (be sure to ask for them) and the coconut flan is going to by my staple order there from now on.

              1. re: WildSwede

                Hi WildSwede, I went there for dinner recently, had the chicken tortilla soup--delicious!, nopales salad, their house made tortillas and a house margarita. All of the food was very good; the house margarita was ok.
                I was really up for a good experience, but everything from the time I walked in to the time I paid the bill, felt unprofessional, rushed, and everyone who worked there just seemed sort of in a tizzy. The restaurant was about half full most of the time I was there. Our waitress seemed friendly, but service was bad. I had to try to flag her down for every single thing. Everything. She seemed friendly the whole time until the bill was paid, and then she dropped the fake smile. I guess that show was over for her, and onto the next show. I didn't bother trying to get dessert since i didn't feel like trying to flag her down again, and she never offered. She seemed so frantically busy, like there wasn't enough wait staff for that large space. I just wanted out of there. Too bad, since what I ate was very good.

                1. re: slacker

                  ARGGG! I am so sorry you had a poor experience. Both times I have been I had the same waiter (Steffen - only there during days) and he was very attentive. Please tell me you spoke with Oscar the owner... or at least give him a call and tell him your experience. He will definitely do something about it.
                  I always feel horrible when I make a recommendation and someone does not have the same experience as I did. I'm sorry, slacker!

                  1. re: WildSwede

                    Probably the luck of the draw. Plus I was there between the two holidays, even though the restaurant was only half full...
                    Everything I ate was very good, so I'm sure I'll be back, plus want to try that coconut flan.
                    If I have the same kind of experience next time, I guess I'll have to look for Oscar.

                    1. re: slacker

                      Could be, but still, no one should be treated that way, especially when that person is paying!
                      I am glad that you will be going back. Next time, if you go during the day, ask for Steffen. He will treat you right! AND that flan is fantastic!!

                      1. re: WildSwede

                        We had to try this place based on your great description and it was every bit as good as you said including the service. We started with the tortilla soup which was excellent. It was spicy and clean and not overloaded with veggies. We had the guacamole which was very good and made tableside with the waiter asking which ingredients we wanted as he made it. We also split an order of flautas. They were very good especially with a topping of guacamole on each bite. I ordered the flan with some coffee and enjoyed it to the last bite. The coffee was excellent and I'm not a real coffee drinker but this tasted like the real cafe mexicano my mom used to make. We are looking forward to taking a large crowd to the Sunday brunch to enjoy the mariachis and the buffet which includes menudo/pozole. Thanks Swede for the recommendation.

    2. Awesome! I've been meaning to go since it opened, and I appreciate this review. :)

      1. When I looked in a couple weeks ago, the dessert case was filled with what looked like Porto's desserts. Dead ringers. The place was also empty, with a few people in the bar. Dining room completely empty, though. Let's hope they don't get involved with the same leasing issues the Border Grill did, and perhaps the mall can support it a bit more with advertising. That side of the complex just doesn't do well. Although, Bodega gets a steady stream of business, and PF changs is always packed. I thought the servers outfits were atrocious. Just cheesy. Er, no pun intended....

        3 Replies
        1. re: diningdivala

          Yeah, that side is pretty bad. Kind of an afterthought. I can't wait til the weather warms up and they put chairs and tables on the little patio that overlooks Colorado Blvd. I used to love to go to Border Cafe for happy hour and sip their Sangria and apps and just relax!! The Jazz Institute seems to stay quite busy, too. Yeah, those outfits had me laughing. I asked my friend if Steffen was supposed to be a wealthy Ranchero and she said that that is the outfit of the wealthy (way back). We thought it was pretty funny. Would do better with those gorgeous blouses with the buttons down the front and the details on the left and right sides (not sure what they are called, but I think they are so classy and beautiful!).

          1. re: WildSwede

            Its been a long time since I visited that part of the Paseo I didnt even know something had opened up. I really miss the Border Grill and used to go weekly but it didnt make it. If this place is as good as you say: I need to support it. I think the location is a tough one without good foot traffic and that has hurt every restaurant that has been up in that area.
            I honestly think that when those restaurants were first put in they thought that the residents who lilve above would come down and dine but that didnt happen. The rents are SO high they probably cant afford it. I know that for two friends of mine thats the case. I am going to check it out today.

            Thanks for the heads up.

            1. re: thomtompkins

              Yeah, it is too bad. I hope they make it. When we went for lunch on Friday (after 1) and the place was about 1/2 full. I was happy to see that. I hope you enjoy it. Be sure to ask for the tortillas. My friend and I did a tour of those apartments there summer before last and we were in shock that the cheapest one at that time (a hideous single with concrete floors, at that) was over $1900!!

        2. Thank you WildSwede. You're spoiling me with your well-written reviews. I love Mexican food and usually find myself at Mijares when I'm in Pasadena. Definitely looking forward to trying Paseo Cantina. I also keep wanting to go to La Fiesta Grande, but haven't yet. I need to break the Mijares habit. By the way, a margarita on the rocks with salt - my favorite cocktail.

          2 Replies
          1. re: omakase

            I don't mind La Fiesta Grande, but does anyone else think it's a little too Americanized?

            1. re: kchangambrose

              Yeah, but it is a great neighborhood place to just stop in for a meal that you know is going to be good. I love both of their fish dishes and they serve the best Carne Asada (whole steak, not the chopped-up kind) - although they sometimes cook it less than my medium rare (but it is okay with me). Their all-you-can-eat taco bar is a great deal if you are a big eater, too. Also, their La Fiesta Enchiladas are good as is their Cocido de Res - YUM! Now I am hungry!! ;-) I love their margaritas.

          2. The original comment has been removed