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Jan 27, 2008 02:26 PM

Mexican in Pasadena?

a friend vsiitng from NYC has requested Mexican food on Tuesday for dinner in Pasadena. Any and and all recommendations gleefully accepted.


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  1. For an out of town guest dining in Pasadena I'd recommend El Cholo

    12 Replies
    1. re: monku

      Sorry, Thelonius, but, except for the Margaritas, El Cholo gestinken IMHO. On the other hand, Tonny's (Orange Grove, just west of Lake) be very humbly nice -- especially the costillas and the carnitas, both tender and the latter tender/crisp. I'm sure that everyone knows that Tonny's aguas frescas are luscious! Call for the cantaloupe on your deathbed.

      1. re: sbritchky

        I second. I had the costillas at Tonny's not long ago and wow, is was sure good. Not part of a low-fat diet, however! El Cholo is a nice place but if you want food over atmosphere, I'd go with Tonny's by a mile.

      2. re: monku

        You know, even though El Cholo isn't my cup of tea, I'd recommend it for an East Coaster visiting too. When the folks from my company's East Coast offices are out visiting, it's the first place they want to go - even the ones who don't drink! Go figure. Seems to be a crowd-pleaser for out of towners.

        1. re: garvanza girl

          I recently took an out of town guest to El Cholo, and it was very good. I thought the food had improved since the last time I had been there, and the fresh guacamole was great.

          I still like the Paseo Cantina and El Portal better, though. I would definitely take an out of town guest to El Cholo over Tonny's. Tonny's may have good food, but I do not consider it a place for a nice dinner for a guest.

          1. re: katkoupai

            Tonny's, while very good (LOVE their Posole!), does not have the atmosphere where you can sit and linger (or maybe it is me). El Cholo, I could see why out-of-towners would like it, but I hate it, personally. I completely agree with katkoupai on the Paseo Cantina rec. I think they would love that. On El Portal, they have been a disappointment to me lately, so I have not been going as often.
            Bottom line, I would say Paseo Cantina #1, Mijares #2 or La Fiesta Grande #3.

            1. re: WildSwede

              If based stricly on "out-of-town" criteria, then Wahoo's should be in the conversation.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                ...and so would Baja Fresh and Rubio's, in my opinion.

                My votes are:

                1) Paseo Cantina, for a nice, sit-down dinner.
                2) Rosarito #2 for a quick, cheap, Mexican lunch.

              2. re: WildSwede

                Unless Mijares #2 has had surgery done to their drinks license lately, those "margaritas" they serve are a bottled wine-based beverage. We discovered that just before - thank God! - we'd ordered a thumpin' big dinner. So we bailed out and headed down to Amigo's. Okay, the food's not so hot, but the margs are for real. I guess you have to establish your priorities...

                The bar at Mijares #1 makes good real ones, too.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Where are these locations for Mijares 1 and 2?

                  1. re: omakase

                    I just searched them. Hopefully, these are current:

                    Mijares Mexican Restaurant
                    145 Palmetto Dr, Pasadena, CA 91105

                    Mijares Mexican Restaurant
                    1806 E Washington Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104

        2. Might want to consider El Portal.

          You should also check out Paseo Cantina, which has received some positive reports by chowhounds.

          6 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            El Cholo is pretty but it is NOT representative of good Mexican food IMO. Yahaira's Cafe which is owned by the same family that owns El Portal has an interesting menu. La Nueva Posada is not bad. They have a full bar, just like El Cholo, and El Portal. What ever you do, don't go to Mijares!!! If you want the best carnitas, you'll find them at Mi Casa on Fair Oaks north of Orange Grove but it is very casual. You order at the counter. Dona Rosa is GOOD but again, it is pretty casual as you do order at the counter.

            1. re: Fru

              Dona Rosa is owned by the El Cholo people. Why no Mijares? I think it is very passable.

              1. re: WildSwede

                With regards to Dona Rosa and El Cholo, I know and note the incongruity that the two restaurants are owned by one and the same.I was trying to be diplomatic when I naysayed Mijares. It is AWFUL. I have a viceral reaction to the mention of both El Cholo and Mijares. I think part of it is because I think they represent some of the most mediocre examples of Mexican food yet people flock to them both! But, WidlSwede, I'm glad you mentioned La Fiesta Grande because I do like it and couldn't remember the name to give as a recommendation. To Theo, La Fiesta Grande does have a party atmosphere like El Cholo and Mijares but the food is much better and the price is what it should be.

                1. re: Fru

                  I had a horrible experience at Mijares once. It had more to do with the service and the wait for a table than for the food; but really, there is no reason to wait more than 5 mins. for what you're getting at Mijares. I'd much rather to go Margarita's on Rosemead, about a block south of Colorado. They even have handmade tortillas.

                  I'll have to try Fiesta Grande one of these days.

                  El Cholo...yuck.

                2. re: WildSwede

                  Dona Rosa may be progeny of El Cholo, but it is to El Cholo what Arnold and Willis were to the Drummonds.
                  The food is just so much better than the stuff they serve at El Cholo.

            2. There is a nice, new restaurant in the Paseo Colorado called the Paseo Cantina. I just ate there this weekend, and I thought the food was very good. They have mariachi music most nights after 7PM. Parking is free in the garage for 90 minutes with validation.

              I also like El Portal. La Fiesta Grande is another option, just one block away.

              If you just want really cheap, fast Mexican food, my favs in Pas are King Taco and Rosarito #2. Rosarito #2 has a nice salsa bar.


              Rosarito #2
              720 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91104

              King Taco
              45 N Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91103

              El Portal
              695 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91101

              2 Replies
              1. re: katkoupai

                King Taco= Yum! Do you know if the Rosarito #2 you speak of has any relation to the Rosarito #2 that used to be in Arcadia around where Sinbala is now (on Duarte)?

                1. re: crystaw

                  I don't know, but I think it is related to Rosarito (#1), which is also in Pasadena. If you click on the link to the menu that I posted above, you will see both Pasadena addresses (for Rosarito and Rosarito #2). :)

              2. By far, our favorite Mexican place in Pasadena is La Nueva Posada, on Foothill, close to where the 210 crosses over (next to McDonald's and across from the Avon Building), say hi to Peter!

                2 Replies
                1. re: Michelle

                  My friend likes this place a lot too, but when I went I was not impressed. But then again, I have only been once.

                  1. re: WildSwede

                    Oh how I wish Merida was still around.

                2. I'll just chime in, having grown up there and eaten at most places mentioned.

                  I'd say most places still in business there aren't awful in the way that a Mexican place in the Northeast can be awful, so you're probably ok with anything. The OP mentioned dinner, so quick lunch places (King Taco, which I'd avoid at all costs anyway) don't seem to apply.

                  For bland, mediocre/unmemorable meals, I'd say Mijares, Margaritas, Nueva Posada, Fiesta Grande, Ranchero all sort of run together in my brain. I've been to all of them and wouldn't go more than a couple minutes out of my way for any. They remind me of Thai places in L.A. - predictable, not bad. No one's got homemade torillas, things like posole are rare, and most sauces will taste canned. But if you just want combination plates and margaritas, all are fine. I've heard bad things about El Cholo's outpost in Pasadena, and see no reason to go in.

                  My two favorites are actually like Lupitas in east Pas. (NE corner Colorado/Sierra Madre) and El Toreo in Old Town (Fair Oaks just south of Colorado), but both lack the giant booth/costumed waitress atmosphere you may be trying to find, and no one's going to make guacamole at your table! Still, they have table service and are a notch up from the Rosarito #2 type lunch places others have suggested (which I wouldn't bring out-of-towners to for dinner!).

                  El Portal has been my top pick but it was closed for remodeling or something the last time I went by it and I haven't been in about a year so don't want to vouch for it.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: cant talk...eating

                    El Toreo is great.

                    Everytime I'm there, I want to scream at all the people waiting in line to get into Cheesecake Factory and tell them that they can get much better food right next door.

                    No ambiance, but they've got the cool TV ...

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      and the even cooler jukebox!

                      Feel the EXACT same way about the CF. Totally bizarre. Let 'em wait.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        What do you get at El Toreo? I have never been but can see it in my mind. What is good there?

                        1. re: WildSwede

                          I usually get one 2 things there -- either the enchilada (beef or chicken) or the carne asada burrito.

                      2. re: cant talk...eating

                        Hate to nitpick, but Margarita's does serve homemade corn tortillas, which is one of the things I like about it.