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pasadena recs, please?

Hey all,
I'm a Bay area hound meeting 3 friends in pasadena this weekend and hoping for some great recomendations. Here's the parameters:
*I'm in grad school and the other 3 are public school teachers , so $10-$20 each per meal would be great, with or without a glass of wine or dessert to split
*We'll be around the playhouse district/old town mostly and would prefer to walk, though could drive
*We're looking for a saturday lunch, saturday dinner, and sunday brunch or breakfast, maybe coffee/smoothie/some sort of afternoon pick me up
*I've got the most adventurous palate of the 4--I love crawling the Mission/Excelsior/Richmond neighborhoods in SF and discovering hole in the wall places that serve things i've never tried before--octopus balls, charcuterie, Zante's Best Indian Pizza, chicharones pupusas, whatever fruit is in season at farmers' markets. The other three have more mainstream tastes (pastas salads, chicken dishes, nothing too spicy), so anyplace that has a mix of at least some safe and some adventurous choices is ideal
*we're looking forward to spending time catching up with each other, so nothing too loud or too scene-y

thanks so much in advance

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  1. Daisy Mint should be perfect for you, it's a very short drive from the Playhouse district. It's Thai-influenced but not spicy, just different enough to be interesting for them but also tasty for you. Very reasonable prices, pick up a bottle of wine from a store to take with you if you like.
    La Grande Orange would also fill the bill, with a more American menu.
    Many if not most of the restaurants right in Old Town are very touristy, overpriced and corporate, so it's better to get off that part of Colorado blvd. if possible.

    Daisy Mint
    1218 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA

    La Grande Orange - duplicate
    Pasadena, CA, Pasadena, CA

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chowpatty

      Directly across Central Park from La Grande Orange is Central Park, the restaurant. The prices at both places are similar, but the menu at CP has many more offerings over a wider range - LGO is basically a bar with a dining room, à la Dalt's or TGI Friday's. CP's flatiron steak and their sand dabs are big favorites with us.

      Central Park Café
      219 S. Fair Oaks Ave.

    2. If you are in Pasadena, you need to go to Europane Bakery either for breakfast or lunch. It's the best place in Pasadena and maybe the best bakery in LA. You'll find alot of posts on it at chowhound. Get the egg salad and a fruit-containing pastry. It's 2 blocks East of Lake on Colorado. Easy walking distance.

      Daisy Mint is a good choice. Next to the playhouse is a decent coffee shop, Zona Rosa whch has great Mexican chocolate drinks.

      Pasadena is not great for adventuresome eating so your friends will be fine.

      Anything else you'll have to drive to. You and your friends might like Zelo Pizza which is a 15 min drive East of Pasadena on the 210 in Arcadia.

      1. Yep, Daisy Mint will fit that bill nicely, good Thai-influenced fare with a good selection of safer choices (noodle soup, fried rice, pad see ew); Saladang and Saladang Song will also work for that price point if you're looking a heavier Thai hand.

        For breakfast, I have a fondness for Marston's a little north of Old Town, but that place gets packed often on the weekends. If you don't mind a little drive to the South, Mike and Anne's in South Pasadena is pretty spiffy too.

        I also like the CrepeVine (crepes and other French fare), though can be loud if it gets packed.

        Another possibility for a pick-me-up may be the tea houses around Pasadena, where you can get afternoon teas with the scones and finger sandwiches, etc. The cheaper ones are Chado Tea Room and Tea Rose Garden, both costs slightly under $20/pp.

        Euro Pane is good too for lunch and sweets.

        And of course, there's the King Taco :)


        1 Reply
        1. re: AquaW

          You might want to maximize your al fresco dining if the weather is nice. With that in mind you could try Julianne's in San Marino (inches away from Pas) for b'fast and Mike & Anne's in South Pasadena for b'fast or lunch. I also like Cafe Verde on Greene Street just outside Old Town for b'fast. It's a tiny place, charming and not too $$. I've never been for lunch/dinner but others might have an opinion.

        2. If you guys are driving, you might want to go a bit north to Montrose, a little community north of Glendale, about 10 mins. from Pasadena- I would highly recommend the Black Cow Cafe for breakfast or lunch. They make the BEST bean soup- Rockerfeller Bean Soup they call it- on Saturdays. They have a coffee bar attached to it and they can make green tea ice cream shakes as well for dessert!

          1. Elements Kitchen would be a good choice for a Saturday lunch.

            For dinner on Saturday I would suggest Malbec for Argentinian cuisine.

            1. Some of the places recommended are a bit pricey for what you're asking. I'd second the Daisy Mint recommendation, and the EuroPane for breakfast/lunch/coffee/pastry, and add a few good ethnic places:
              -- Tonny's is a sweet and very good neighborhood Mexican restaurant with low prices. No beer, but wonderful fresh juices and smoothies.
              -- La Caravana is a nice little Salvadoran restaurant with wonderful pupusas and chicken dishes that aren't too spicy/weird for your friends.
              -- We have some very good taquerias in Pasadena. For a great, cheap lunch, go to Taquito Mexicano #2, home to fabulous sopes, tacos, menudo and daily specials. Really great, really cheap. A dive in the best sense of the word.
              -- In Old Town, Crepe Vine may be your best bang for the buck. Or, if you can get them to be more adventurous, Tibet-Nepal House. It's not spicy, and it's fun to try.

              Tonny's Restaurant
              843 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104

              Tibet Nepal House
              36 E. Holly Street, Pasadena, CA 91103

              Crepevine Bistro
              36 W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA

              La Caravana Restaurante Salvadoreno
              1306 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91104

              El Taquito Mexicano 2
              467 N Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103

              1. Oh yes, and ipsedixit is right, Malbec is a very good value Argentinian place-- most of the hearty entrees are well under $20, and it's a fun atmosphere with tasty and modestly priced Argentinian wine.

                1. Daisy Mint and Europane, definitely.

                  A couple of doors down (west) from Europane is Tutti-Frutti, which makes fresh fruit salads - my new "habit" is stopping at Europane for a couple of macarons (and other necessities), then a fruit salad from Tutti Frutti, and then I sit out front and luxuriate in the southern CA weather. Oh, and they also offer smoothies.

                  A few blocks further east, along Colorado, is Zankou Chicken - hopefully someone will chime in on whether it's one of the "good" ones (just search on Zankou on the LA board for those discussions).

                  There's a couple of indie coffee places - one's attached to the Vroman's bookstore and the other is next to the Pasadena Playhouse, I believe - I've no idea if they offer food, though.

                  I've read lots of recs for Green Street Restaurant (http://www.greenstreetrestaurant.com/ ) but haven't been myself.

                  Enjoy your time in Pasadena! (And do check-out Vroman's - as a grad student and meeting up with teachers, you need to explore it - it's the most marvelous bookstore.)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ElsieDee

                    I just posted a link to a review of Tutti Frutti to the Food and Media Board, here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/589974

                    Personally, I like the fresh waffle topped with vanilla frozen yogurt, a couple of fruits, and a drizzle of blackberry syrup (or chocolate or caramel).

                  2. Go to Burger Continental on Lake Street. The cross street is California. You can park in back in the Von's Pavillion parking lot. BC is a Pasadena landmark; an institution. Go there and all your problems will be solved, my friend. You will never be a Sad Tomato again...

                    12 Replies
                      1. re: otisdog

                        I hope so, omg, of all the places to choose in this town, this would go at the bottom of most any list.

                      2. re: cinematicgoddess

                        Be kind to Burger Continental. It is gourmet, anybody who has been there can attest to that. But, they do make messy burgers that go perfect with a tasty, hoppy beer. But, if you are in the area, I would rather head to Pie and Burger, right around the corner on California. Now that place has a mean burger.

                        1. re: cinematicgoddess

                          We have lived in the Pasadena area for the past 5+ years and BC is the single worst dining experience we have had in all of Pasadena.....

                          1. re: monkey

                            Before we moved here, every time we visited we'd find time to drop in to BC. Loved it, treasured it. Moved here in 2000, and started noticing that it was getting grubbier and smellier...and finally, one night after the sole waitress had spent half an hour gabbing with a table of friends, and all but took my head off when I suggested we might want some food or something, that was it.

                            1. re: monkey

                              ditto; BC has greasy, nasty food!

                              1. re: foufou

                                Went there once, was no impressed by the way things seemed to be run. Then I heard an second-hand report of staff "recycling" uneaten bread from cleared tables into "new" baskets. Probably BS or a cranky former employee making stuff up, I have a tough time imagining a restaurant actually doing that. But the fact that it seems plausible in any way...well, that says it all.

                              2. re: monkey

                                no contest...and not anything new (see thread linked below-will owen and I both recount our separate but equally memorable evenings)...we've kicked BC around many times before, but it seems to have the same survivability as a Timex. go figure.


                                    1. re: Local

                                      I know this went on and on on these boards but - but -- but I am one of the oldest fogies that actually went there back since the early 80s into the 90s and experienced the slow demise across that time long frame to the place it was back a few years ago, sorry, I gave up so I may not have a right to say this, and I assure you when it was really at its best it was really hectic, and sometimes a service nightmare, but the food was the basic stuff, and it was good, freshly made and a fun place. I started noticing in the late 80s it changing, I do not know the history to know when or how often it has changed hands or if it it even the same owner or family that has just allowed it to do its thing because of the location and in my mind run it into the ground!

                                      So I have the nostalgia in my mind of how great it was back in the 80s and I miss that. There was also a place called Birdies I wonder if anyone remembers that far back!

                                      1. re: MaryT

                                        Birdies - was that in the space that's now Lucky Baldwins? If so, I loved that place - they had great breakfasts.

                                        And yes, I remember when BC was actually edible. It's been years.

                            2. Not too far east of the Playhouse is Sahara's on Colorado Blvd - just west of Sierra Madre Blvd. It's a great little Mediterranean restaurant that is inexpensive and good size portions. A little further east - a block or two is Tiparo's - it's a Thai Food place that is inexpensive as well. Both places have meals between $10-15.00.
                              Check it out...I've been going to those places for years!

                              1. Euro Pane has the yummiest breads!
                                and if you are willing to go up to Lake: Wolfe Burger is a good lunch spot--more than just burgers
                                --also near the ice house there is Cafe Aun-great little Japanese influenced place for lunch

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: dreamprfct

                                  Gotta agree with Wolfe Burger. If you go, get the fries. You won't be disappointed.

                                2. Pasadena isn't gourmet heaven if you know what I mean. But, there is a lot of comfort food. Pie and Burger on California is big on flavor. Everything there from the burgers to the pancakes are top drawer. Also, you should check out the In N Out on Foothill. It is one of the original stands and honestly one of the best.

                                  1. Oh, I totally forgot about Roscoes on Lake. If you're into chicken or waffles, this is the spot. It has some killer greens, too. I know it is a chain, but it's still an institution. If you don't mind traveling to South Pasadena, you should check out Gus' BBQ on Fair Oaks. Quality food. Solid. If you are into Mexican try Mijares at 145 Palmetto Dr. Go for the brunch, it's all you can eat. Not super authentic, but really tasty.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ohdaylay

                                      Ditto on Gus' BBQ. True excellence. Roscoe's is quintessential L.A. eating, but I wouldn't consider it as a first-choice experience. If you want basics, comfort-type food, I'd consider Smitty's... though I can't recall if it fits within the price range guidelines.

                                    2. Vertical Wine Bistro is great. They have a killer wine list and small plates to share.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: bosanova99

                                        Vertical's nice, but it's hard to get away under $20/person (maybe Happy Hour...) ~ something more budget-feasible is maybe a glass of wine at Vertical then Tacos / Sopes at King Taco?

                                        For reference, Vertical's food menu: http://verticalwinebistro.com/pdf/Mai...
                                        and their wines by glass/flight list: http://verticalwinebistro.com/pdf/Win...


                                      2. thanks all for your recs,
                                        i've mapped out Daisy Mint, Euro Pane, Zona Rosa, Malbec, and Elements, and I figure between those options we'll find something. I'll lek you know how it goes!

                                        1. I'm not sure if it was mentioned but the Peach Cafe in Monrovia would be a great place for brunch (they are closed for dinner). It's about a 10-15 minute drive from where you will be in Pasadena. It's a cozy space (a good catching up place) with a yummy menu.