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5 Meals 2 Days in Pasadena Area (Best of...)

We're traveling to Pasadena for a quick weekend trip and want to eat well.

We want to feel and taste LA.

After a search on Chowhound there seems to be a dearth of posts on Pasadena (and area). Lots of discussion about a particular food but no Best of Pasadena area.

We have 2 days and 5 meals (2 dinners, a breakfast and a lunch). We don't want to spend tons of time in the car but are more than willing to get out of Old Town.

NO CPK OR Cheesedate Factory. No need to break the bank either, but can be included in the mix. All types of food would be considered.

Many folks suggest South Pasadena? What's the scoop on that?

SO what would you suggest if you were visiting the Pasadena area?


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  1. I'm rather surprised about your comment that there is a "dearth" of posts on Pasadena when in fact hardly a day goes by that there aren't multiple posts that mention some type of place in Pasadena, as well as the "area" (which includes South Pas, Eagle Rock, Arcadia, Alhambra, San Gabriel...really, the entire San Gabriel Valley).

    What kinds of food are you looking for? How many in your party?

    For a good Pasadena breakfast, I heartily endorse Cafe Verde on Green St. or Julienne in San Marino (closed on Sundays).

    Pasadena dinner: for something on the nicer end of things, Parkway Grill. Not cheap. But probably the best in town. I also recommend Madeleine's.

    For something a bit hipper, check out Red, White & Bluezz or Vertical Wine Bistro.

    South Pasadena also has a couple of real gems. Shiro is probably the town's flagship restaurant (if you've never had a crispy whole catfish, this is the place that started it); other solid choices are Bistro de la Gare (classic French Bistro) and Mike & Anne's (California/American). Briganti is a very good Italian restaurant, with hit-or-miss service (I've probably been there 8 times, & had good service on six, bad on one, and middling on the other).

    There are probably dozens of posts extolling the vices and virtues of these places; search this board for those names.

    Red White & Bluezz
    70 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

    Vertical Wine Bistro
    70 N. Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103

    1423 Mission St, South Pasadena, CA 91030

    2649 Mission St, San Marino, CA 91108

    Mike & Anne's
    1040 Mission St, South Pasadena, CA 91030

    Parkway Grill
    510 South Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena, CA 91105

    Cafe Verde
    961 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91106

    Shiro Restaurant
    1505 Mission St, South Pasadena, CA 91030

    Bistro de la Gare
    921 Meridian Ave, South Pasadena, CA 91030

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jack Flash

      Jack Flash

      Thanks man... great post.. you answered our question - what defines the Pasadena "area"

      South Pas, Eagle Rock, Arcadia, Alhambra, San Gabriel...really, the entire San Gabriel Valley.

      This gives us more to search.


    2. Let's see what we can add to the list. For breakfast/brunch I would suggest: Marston's, Europane Bakery, and Peach Cafe.http://www.thepeachcafe.com/

      For other meals I would suggest:
      Azeen's Afghani Restaurant, Daisy Mint (Asian fusion), Sinbala (Taiwanese), Din Tai Fung (dumplings are famous but it's always crowded), and the Crepevine

      Azeen's Afghani Restaurant
      110 E Union St, Pasadena, CA 91103

      Euro Pane Bakery
      950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91106

      Marston's Restaurant
      151 E Walnut St, Pasadena, CA 91103

      4 Replies
      1. re: crystaw

        Second the Marston's (Pasadena) and Peach Cafe (the great little town of Monrovia - an easy 15 minutes east of Pas) for breakfast. Europane is also good, but it is more of a bakery-style place where you place your order and they call your number (or is it name) with no table service.
        Daisy Mint is so good. I think you cannot go wrong there. The Daisy Salmon is fantastic as is the Spicy Spaghetti (hell, everything here is good, although I was not impressed with their Pad Thai).
        Jac's reqs are more on the high end, but very good as well. Maybe if you could let us know where you are coming from and what types of food you would like to try it may be easier to steer you in the right direction.
        PS - welcome to Pasadena!!
        http://www.thepeachcafe.com/ (you will see a post I did on CH for them in their reviews section). I would get their Peach Benedict - SO good! Or their Monte Cristo.

        1. re: WildSwede

          We're based in SF and have lived in numerous places around the world. We're looking for a classic L.A. experience (or better yet a classic Pasadena experience if there is one). More taste than noise. More long conversation than drinks. Again, more walking than driving.

          What's the scoop with South Pasadena?

          1. re: Seconds Please

            Here's some classic L.A. joints in Pas that you can do as "snacks". The food is ok, but it's all about the experience...

            Zankou - It's ok but the vibe of the place and the yellow shirts that are part of the experience

            1296 E Colorado Blvd
            Pasadena, CA 91106

            Tommy's - I still don't get this place. It seems like the people who rave about it are those people who ate at Pink's or Tommy's after a night of partying in college or high school at the original locations.

            Tommy's - "If you don't see the shack, take it back!"
            170 N Hill Ave, Pasadena

            King Taco

            45 N Arroyo Pkwy
            Pasadena, CA 91103

            Fair Oaks Taco Truck and Caltech Ernie's Taco Truck - Sorry - I tried to search where these roach coaches park but I couldn't find them on the net.

            Happy Eating!

            1. re: misseatalot

              If you want an absolutely fantastic taco or burrito, head to my favorite place on the northwest corner of Summit/Hammond north of the 210. Fernando and Isaura will hook you up. They are there til 8pm in the back (and during lunch, in front) of a small neighborhood market. Their Al Pastor is the best I have had and all their other offerings are wonderful as well. Tacos $1, Huge Burritos $4. Much better than any of the taco trucks promise!

      2. While Briganti has great food they can have awful service and i wouldn't recommend it. mike and anne's ditto on the service. below is a link to my bad experience.

        In SF you have plenty of places that can own Mike and Anne's. No need go there. In south pasadena i would only suggest Shiro. South Pas is a cute little town. worthy of going there and walking around. there's an old fashioned drug store/ soda fountain i forgot the name but is worthy of a trip for a milkshake.

        I like Bistro 45 in pasadena but then again if you're coming from SF you might be better off going to the SGV and eating chinese food.


        Bistro 45
        45 S Mentor Ave, Pasadena, CA 91106

        1. Good list thus far.

          By the way, I don't really consider Alhambra, Eagle Rock, San Gabriel as part of Pasadena. I think "Pasadena Area" is best described as Pasadena proper and South Pasadena. In no way should "Pasadena Area" be construed as the entire San Gabriel Valley -- that would, literally, mean that Pasadena Area would include cities like Rowland Heights?? And even Covina??

          By I digress, back to Pasadena and South Pasadena. Some notables that have yet to be mentioned:

          Gerlach's Grill [1075 South Fair Oaks Ave. Pasadena (626) 799-7575]
          Bulgarini's Gelato http://www.bulgarinigelato.com/index....
          561 Restaurant http://561restaurant.com/
          Tonny's [843 East Orange Grove Blvd Pasadena (626) 797-0866
          ]Los Primos [951 North Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena (626) 304-0538]

          5 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Ten minutes from my Pasadena home gets me to Alhambra, San Gabriel or Arcadia, Eagle Rock and La Canada. So keep it west of Santa Anita Ave. and north of the 10.

            1. re: Jack Flash

              And east of what? The Arroyo Seco?

              And south of what? The 210? Angeles Crest?

              But that's not the point, when people say food in Pasadena (or Pasadena Area), I don't really think they are referring to areas like San Gabriel or Alhambra, or even La Canada and Monrovia.

              I mean 10 minutes from Pasadena city hall could get you in the middle of downtown LA.

            2. re: ipsedixit

              I like everything that I have experienced above. For breakfast, even though I like them all I would like to emphasize Julienne over Marston's, Peach Cafe and Euro Pane for breakfast because: Julienne has the most awesome creme brulee french toast, it has the best atmosphere, is in San Marino and has several stores to window shop (sort of like a laid back mini Rodeo Drive) and the service is excellent. For dinner I would also second Daisy Mint http://www.chowhound.com/topics/476009, Shiro and add Yahira's.http://www.yahairascafe.com/, Smitty's (also a Smith Brothers restaurant as is the Parkway Grill) Almost forgot, even though it is no longer the called The Huntington Hotel or Ritz Carlton Pasadena, you might want to check out the Langham. Oh, one more, maybe not necessarily for the food so much but the Huntington Library has a cafe and they have a tea room that serves a buffet style tea.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Please note that Gerlach's is to go only. I would second the rec for Tonny's. Good Mexican food in a casual environment with table service.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Gerlach's Grill is good, but please note that it is a window at which you place your order (and I do not think that there is anywhere to eat there, either) but their fish is really good.
                  I love Tonny's posole. One of the best I have had!

                2. More on South Pasadena: it's a charming town, with lots of historic Craftsman homes. The hub of activity there centers around the Gold Line Metro station. Easy walking distance (5 mins.) gets you to any of the restaurants mentioned, as well as the Fair Oaks Pharmacy (with the old fashioned soda fountain). They also have a local farmers' market on Thursday evenings. When the weather's nice, it's sometimes fun to get some food from the local purveyors and just have a little picnic right there. I like the tri-tip sandwiches from Robin's BBQ, and a roasted sweet potato from the corn & potato vendor. Get a fresh lemonade either from Robin's or one of the other vendors & it's a fun and informal evening.

                  1. South Pas offers a nice suburban respite to Pasadena, and it might be nice to check out the soda fountain there off of Mission whose name I'm forgetting.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: SauceSupreme

                      Fair Oaks Pharmacy. Def try the soda fountain stuff, like the egg creams, sundaes and such. The food is not good, however, unless you're a teenager (or eat like one).

                      Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain
                      1526 Mission St South, Pasadena, CA 91030

                      1. re: ozzygee

                        If you happen to be in Old Town at breakfast time and want to stay in Old Town, Russell's is my favorite for traditional breakfasts. They have the best bacon I've EVER had and when the hash browns are done right, they are the best, IMO. If you are going on the weekend, it can get crowded so go early. If you do need to park your car, you can get validation for the lot and it won't cost you as long as you are within the 1 1/2 hour limit. I do believe they serve breakfast all day but their hamburgers are pretty good too.

                        1. re: Fru

                          Agreed on Russell's. This place has the best fluffy banana-nut pancakes and their sausage if terrific too. The service is also fantastic. If you're out in Pasadena Christmas-time, Russell's has some of the nicest restaurant X-mas decorations that makes you want to go to Stat's afterwards.

                    2. I would recommend:

                      Julienne in South Pasadena for a great lunch
                      Babita in San Gabriel for the best Mexican in L.A.
                      Hawkins House of Burgers in Altadena for hamburgers.
                      Bulgarini's in Altadena for Gelato
                      Sea Harbor in Rosemead for dim sum
                      Polka in Highland Park for Polish food

                      All are easily driven to from Pasadena.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: martyR

                        Nice, eclectic list, Marty! ;-) I like it! A little bit of everything!

                      2. Firefly Bistro (http://www.eatatfirefly.com/) in South Pas is my absolute fav. On top of the good food, they have one of the best hot chocolate I've had anywhere (and a picky Parisian friend of mine agrees). However, they only serve the hot chocolate for weekend brunch.

                        Crepevine (http://www.thecrepevine.com/) has delicious savoury crepes and good flights of wine. Good service, too. I didn't like their onion soup once, the waiter noticed that I left most of it and asked me. Later, I noticed that the soup was taken off my bill.

                        1009 El Centro St, South Pasadena, CA 91030

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: swarovskie

                          Firefly is good for a very LA brunch. And I mean the real LA, not Hollywood or sceney in any way. It's just a cute spot and the entire restaurant is pretty much one big patio. The food I've had there has been good and they have some unique items on the menu.

                          Also, if you happen to be in Old Town in the afternoon and find yourself in the mood for a beer, go to Lucky Balwin's on Raymond (just off of Colorado). Nothing beats sitting on their patio having a pint. Their bathrooms, however, leave much to be desired.

                        2. Some excellent recommendations here:
                          I will just add a few that were missed:

                          Arroyo Chop House is one of the best steakhouses in LA. It is a bit expensive.

                          Pie N Burger is Pasadena's breakfast/hamburger/dessert classic. Plenty of posts here.

                          Golden Deli is in San Gabriel and a great place for Vietnamese pho and noodles.

                          Check the boards for dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley. My favorite is Full House in Arcadia. SGV dim sum may be among the best.

                          As chain restaurants go, Houstons is probably one of the best around, I like their roast beef.

                          For great fast food, try Tops, the one on Colorado between Rosemead and Michillinda. There are other "Tops" but they are not all the same. I highly recommend their Kobe beef burger with zucchini fries.

                          Golden Deli
                          815 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                          The Original Tops
                          3838 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

                          Arroyo Chop House
                          536 S Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena, CA 91105

                          Pie 'n Burger
                          913 E California Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

                          Houston's Restaurant
                          320 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105

                          1. This is my first posting ....sort of intimidating :-) Live in Pasadena and agree with everything recommended here. For the home town experience I'd be willing to consider Pasadena, So Pas and Eagle Rock. One possibility not mentioned if you want to walk and browse is El Portal in the Playhouse district. It's Mexican/Yucatan. While not gourmet, is very good. The owner is long time local. Located in a quaint, courtyard building with nice patio in the courtyard. Best margaritas we've ever found. Can walk to Vromans bookstore (recently awarded best independent bookstore in the country), the Pasadena Playhouse (historical building), Jacob Maarse flowers. Can walk west to old town passing the Paseo shopping center (not so great for shopping but nice open air browsing) or east to Lake Avenue. Have fun in our lovely town!

                            1. We have some great interesting restaurants in Pasadena. Parkway Grill is always a favorite "stand by." 561 Green is really great and fun. It's near the Playhouse, so out of Old Town. It's part of the Culinary Institute. I also LOVE Tre Venezie, also on Green, but in Old Town--small northern Italian. Crepevine is small and sort of New Yorkish--people here like it because it's different. It's down an alley and a little difficult to find, fun and casual--kind of Balthazar--sort of--much smaller.
                              As for South Pas--they're trying. Bistro de la Gare is right near the metro and fun on Thursdays because of the farmer's market. It's hit or miss. I'd pass on Briganti and I've never liked Mike and Anne's. 750ml is also on Mission and I've had some good meals there--great wine list. The Raymond House is also in So. Pas. It's very good and in an old craftsman house. Lots of charm. Shiro has great food, but the atmosphere is so miserable, I rarely go.
                              Julienne's is in San Marino. It's best for lunch. Sorriso is also good for lunch--outside.

                              1. Well, I grew up in South Pasadena and it has come a long, long way in the dining arena.... I am surprised at only 1 mention of the Raymond Restaurant - wonderful for lunch or dinner - try to sit outside if the weather permits. Mike & Anne is ok but Julienne is the place to be for breakfast. Have the Diane Salad at Green Street cafe for lunch and stroll it off in the Lake Ave district in Pasadena. For dinner head off to Monrovia - Devon for an awe inspiring meal ( think Black Bear Ravioli! ) or Bella Serra for authentic Italian cooked by mama in the kitchen. I almost forgot to mention the Pasadena Sandwich Company for the BEST ( and biggest - share ) deli sandwich you could have in LA. It's a tiny place but well worth it......