Friend of mine from east coast coming to Pasadena (work at Huntington Library). This is not my neighborhood.
Where are some good chinese/mexican/ethnic places there (tasty california vittles for an east coaster)? Any other cool bars/places? My experience is limited to Lucky Baldwins and really don't know the area well.
In Pasadena proper there is Yujean Kang's for good, rather expensive chinese (http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/2008/...
)but good, cheap Chinese are just about 15 mins away in Arcadia for example great chinese noodles and buns at Noodle House in Arcadia (http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/2007/...) or great seafood at Newport Seafood on Las Tunas (very cheap for lunch). The Golden Deli has good cheap vietnamese in the same strip mall as newport seafood.
There are quite a few great ethnic options though in Pasadena, like Azeen's Afghani Rest. on Union, a Tibetan restaurant in old town I can't remember the name of (sorry), and Thai places like President Two, Saladang Song, etc.
Further but still close in my opinion is Monterey Park/Alhambra/San Gabriel area for really food chinese, tons of unique options like yummy chinese hot pot (http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/2008/...), lots of great dim sum places (NBC, ocean star, etc), and other standard Chinese fares.
As far as bars go I think lucky baldwins' might be the 'coolest' but they have yard house for better beer selection. There are also dives like the colorado bar, Freddie's 35er or fancy wine bars like Vertical Wine Bistro...
Check out Ray Tam's reviews here: http://www.geocities.com/raytamsgv/
And this link has menus for the SGV: http://www.sangabrielvalleymenus.com/
Search on the board for San Gabriel Valley (or SGV) and the cuisine you're looking for - there's many threads to peruse.
ETA: I've not been there, but I know other folks who like the Crown City Brewery: http://www.sangabrielvalleymenus.com/... .
I went to Azeen's Afghani Restaurant recently and the food there is delicious-I would highly recommend it. Daisy Mint, also in Pasadena, is becoming a fast favorite on this site for good reason. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/476009
There's a plethora of Asian options in the areas surronding Pasadena. Burumun made a good list. The Golden Deli is definately the place to go for Vietnamese (cash only there btw). When my friend comes back to visit from the East Coast she always wants to go to Sinbala in Arcadia which serves Taiwanese food. Their sausage rice is especially popular. As for bars, Lucky Baldwin and the Yardhouse have quite a beer selection (the latter is a chain though if that bothers you). There's also Magnolia in Pasadena which looks nice on their website http://www.magnoliaonlake.com/
I hope you get the suggestions you need and have a good time with your friend!