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Pasadena Recommendations

I spent some hours last weekend reviewing previous posts for restaurants in Pasadena. I copied many entries and when I went to save, I lost everything. I no longer have time to start over. I'm looking for a restaurant for Saturday night. I'm flying down with a friend to meet her daughter at college and we will spend Saturday in Pasadena (museum, shopping, etc.)

Can you recommend somewhere with great food, semi-casual, mid-price range ($40 - 60 each with salad, entree, wine) and fun. We're doing tapas on Friday so something different and please rule out Chinese.


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  1. Saladang Thai on Fair Oaks Ave. always gets good reviews on this board.

    7 Replies
    1. re: onebite

      "Saladang Thai on Fair Oaks Ave. always gets good reviews on this board."


      It most definitely does not.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        Second ipse. I'll never understand the attraction to that place.

          1. re: WildSwede

            I make the schlep to Krua, Renu Nakorn or Jitlada more often than not, but Saladang is one of those rare restaurants that does exactly what it sets out to do: light, fresh, California-influenced Thai cooking with decent ingredients. Enough with the haters.

            1. re: condiment

              Yes, but it still doesn't taste very good.

              1. re: condiment

                It has no soul. It tastes toooo clean, which of course is another way of your stating that it is "light, fresh, California-influenced Thai cooking"
                It could be referred to as the PF Chang of Thai food, and there is definitely a market for both types.

                1. re: carter

                  Well stated, Carter. I also agree with WildSwede and Ipsedixit.

      2. Several options come to mind. Celestino, Red, White & Bluezz, Vertical Wine Bistro are a couple of options; Cafe Verde is another; La Grande Orange & Central Park (these are a bit less expensive than the others mentioned above); Smitty's Grill. If you venture down to South Pas, Mike & Anne's, Gus's BBQ, Briganti come to mind.

        1. Since you mentioned fun, you should stick to either Old Town, (meaning Colorado Blvd., Fair Oaks or Raymond). Food will be okay, but fun to walk afterwards:

          Cafe Bizou (Raymond Ave)
          Il Forniao (Miller Alley)
          Cafe Santorini (Miller Alley)
          Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant‎ (Miller Alley)
          Kabuki (not high end, but decent and affordable sushi and Japanese fare)
          Sushi Roku (decent and EXPENSIVE - great atmosphere - Miller Alley)
          Cheesecake Factory (always good for jeers on this board, but it's still more than okay)
          Mi Piace (haven't been in a LONG while, but have enjoyed it in the past).
          Louise's Trattoria (Colorado) dependable Italian fare

          On Lake Ave.:
          Smitty's on Lake Ave.
          Crocodile Cafe (casual)

          On Arroyo Pkwy:
          Parkway Grill (California fusion at it's finest - or was the last time I was there).

          Good luck

          1. Daisy Mint on Colorado, east of Lake - good Thai, nice atmosphere

            2 Replies
            1. re: Selter Head

              I'd agree - Daisy Mint was pretty good. More Thai-influenced than straightforward Thai, but good quality ingredients, nice service, and a pretty room.

              1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                I was going to suggest Daisy as well. I had two people take me there two separate times for my birthday recently (my choice) and everyone always loves it (I usually go at least once every two weeks for lunch). You will get out with way less than $40/pp. Do they have wine? Definitely casual. Get the Crab Wontons for apps. Steak salad, Garlic Green beans, eggplant, wings, Spicy spaghetti, Daisy Salmon (great), Tom Yum with sizzling rice, etc. Everything is very fresh. Stay away from the Pad Thai - this is the only thing I have had there that I did not like at all.

            2. I strongly second the previous suggestion of Red White and Bluezz-- it's always a great time, and live jazz plays in one half of the restaurant.

              Else, Villa Sorriso for Italian-- I think they're friendlier than Mi Piace.

              1. I second Vertical Wine Bistro. I also like Gus's BBQ on Fair Oaks. Has anyone been to Green Street Tavern or Madeline's? They both look interesting.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bosanova99

                  I like Madeleine's quite a bit. It might be pushing it on the price range, though.

                2. i LOVED Siena. Best Tuna Tutare i've ever had. Also, i ordered this amazing squid ink pasta dish. i keep meaning to go back here.

                  1. I agree, most of Pasadena's offerings are mediocre. But here are the standouts:

                    -Siena: really authentic Italian food, great wine list
                    -Bar Celona - now that Josef Centeno has completely renovated the menu, it's a winner.
                    -Vertical Wine Bistro - the food is always excellent and you can't beat the service
                    -Celestino's - another great, authentic Italian resto
                    -Mike & Anne's in South Pasadena - great bistro food
                    -Briganti, South Pasadena - Italian, great pastas (pizzas are just OK)
                    -Daisy Mint - one of my favorite places for Vietnamese fusion (BYOB)
                    -Pie 'N Burger - for one of LA's best

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Clare K

                      Pie 'N Burger is good for burgers, pie & breakfast but I wouldn't consider it a destination. It is a hole in the wall with a few tables and counter service. At Cafe Bizou, in the heart of Old Town http://cafebizou.com/ you can get an entree, salad and wine well within the price range you are looking for. It doesn't get a lot of love from Hounds but I like it a lot. Daisy Mint is good as well! But, it is primarily Thai. It is 1 room, you can make reservations but it is LOUD when busy. You can hardly hear yourself talk and it is not within walking distance of anything interesting. Not the prettiest part of Colorado Blvd. I also like Smitty's. It can get loud but it has several seating areas. http://www.smittysgrill.com/ Parkway Grill also owned by the Smith Brothers is a destination restaurant and I think you can do it for less than $60/per person. They have a piano bar and very clubby feel. Excellent service, extensive wine list, full bar and great desserts as well. www.theparkwaygrill.com/

                    2. If you are a fan of Houston's, there is one at Arroyo Pkwy and Del Mar.
                      Smitty's as mentioned is fun, and fits the requisites you outline, yet is noisy like many others mentioned so far. Make reservations for Smittys.
                      I believe Houston's still has a no-corkage policy for wine, so you could save a few bucks by bringing one of your own, or going up to 155 N. Raymond to the Heritage Wine shop (under new ownership, btw) and getting one of theirs to BYO.

                      1. While this waaaay out of date, but in case you come by Pasadena again, I really like Azeen's on Union. It's an Afghan place, around 15 for and entree, 5-10 for apps. They have wine but you don't really go there for the wine, it's a comfortable casual place with excellent food. The chicken kebab had some of the juiciest, most flavorful chicken I've ever had. The Qalabi Palaw (seasoned rice pilaf with shredded carrots and raisins on top of incredibly tender lamb ) are excellent, as are the Mantu -- like potstickers but filled with ground lamb, and chickpeas, topped with yogurt and chutney.


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: guseats

                          I second the Azeen's rec--even their vegetarian options are great! The staff is super friendly and attentive as well-- a big plus in my book.

                        2. Kateats, in case you refer back to this post (or visit the area again):

                          My wife and I have really enjoyed "The CrêpeVine" (Bistro and Wine Bar) on Mills Place Alley. They offer a wide selection of wine to accommodate every palate.

                          Don't let the name fool you, it isn't just crepes; they offer many other dishes... Hope you get to try this one day!

                          The CrêpeVine
                          36 W Colorado Blvd.,
                          Pasadena, CA 91105
                          (626) 796-7250

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: BCM

                            I agree - Crepe Vine is very good. I usually split the steak tartar and a salad and a pizza with a friend. It's the perfect light but decadent meal with a couple glasses of wine.

                            1. re: Clare K

                              I've been wanting to try this because of CH recommendations. I finally got the chance when my hubby and I had lunch there Friday. We will definitely return. I had a hard time deciding what to order. He had the steak and mushroom pizza and a salad. The salad was a simple green salad with tomatoes and olives and the dressing was a balsamic vinaigrette with shallots. The salad was easily enough for 2. The "pizza" was on a very thin crisp crust (cracker?) I had the Croque Monsieur and a cup of cream of asparagus soup. Portions are very generous besides being delicious.

                          2. Having been underwhelmed with Pasadena in the past two years, here are my best recommendations (they are in many of the other posts in this thread, too):
                            Red, White, and Bluezz - amazingly good food for a place that calls itself a jazz bar. Venison in a cherry sauce that may currently be the best dish in Pasadena. Lots of interesting cheeses and charcuterie - a rarity in these parts. Wines that are inexpensive and out of the ordinary. Lots of interesting menu choices. Service can get overwhelmed, but an on premises managing partner makes up for a lot.

                            Madeleine's - romantic, firelit very comfortable main room. Also has a lot of wines but not as good a bargain as R, W, B. Limited menu, but consistent preparations (pork chop in honey lavendar sauce is a standout), great service. You can keep your price point with a little thought and forbearance.

                            These are the only two places of this type that I currently look forward to returning to in Pas. Other places can be and have been good, but these are consistent. You might also consider Cafe Beaujolais in nearby Eagle Rock.

                            1. Houston's for prime rib or Roy's for Hawaiian fusion might be nice.

                              If you like Mexican food, the outdoor patio at El Portal is a nice place for dinner. This might be a cheaper option than Houston's and Roy's, as well.

                              El Portal
                              695 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91101

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

                              Roy's Restaurant
                              641 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91101

                              1. anything in old town has always been pretty funny. there's a place called bar celona that has great sangria's and sushi

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: casualcat

                                  I went to BarCelona a year ago and it was horrible and then I went two weeks ago--they have a new chef consulting, and even though were were just there for happy hour, we tried several of their tapas dishes--the server was well versed in the menu and made some great suggestions. The good thing is that the plates are small so that you can experiment on things you normally might not try.

                                    1. re: dreamprfct

                                      I agree, went here for a quick lunch. All I can say is yum! Not quite authentic to real tapas, but very very good! Try a bunch of the stuff and you shouldn't be disappointed.