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Need Rec for Rehearsal Dinner in Pasadena

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I'm getting married in July, and need help looking for a restaurant in Pasadena to do a Rehearsal dinner (i've lived here for >15yrs so i know most of the good restaurants). We have to seat 18 and we'd like some privacy. Price... well, my parents offered to pay, so I don't want to soak them, but at the same time, I'm pretty sure they are happy to pay for a nice dinner. Let's say <$50 person. (not including drinks)

Help? We like most all kinds of food, but for this occasion we'd like to avoid Mexican and Japanese.

thanks, in advance!


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  1. Happy Trails Catering in Pasadena has a private garden patio which might be what you're looking for. I've never eaten there myself or used the facilities but i was just on their website and it looks pretty cool.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Augusta

      My BF got married there and their food is excellent.

    2. I had ours at Bistro 45. Not popular on the board here but they did a fantastic job. we were about 20 people and we were seated in the side dining room. they paired the dinner with choices of wines and we all had a wonderful time.

      1. Maybe Madeleine's? I seem to remember that they have a couple of private rooms. I haven't been in about a year, but I've always found it very charming, and I think it might come in at your price point, not including wine/drinks.

        Madeleine's Restaurant & Wine Bistro
        1030 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91106

        1. Thank you for all the replies so far.

          Happy trails sounds a bit expensive? Anybody have experience using them?

          We did not have a good meal the one time we went to Bistro 45.

          Madeleine's sounds promising... (uh oh, the banquet room is for 50, and we are only 20...)

          More suggestions?

          (if it helps, we have 6 children and an infant attending. Also we would be happy with an upscale Chinese restaurant in SGV).

          5 Replies
          1. re: FIDO

            Do you have a few out of towners? I had my rehearsal dinner at Cafe Santorini because I wanted to showcase a type of food that not every city may have, and I think people were very pleasantly surprised. Cafe Santorini also has a kids' menu, which sounds like might come in handy in your case. In order to reserve one of their private rooms, they may ask for a room fee. However, I stopped by to say hello to the catering manager and they *might* waive it because I'm hearing that bookings everywhere seem to be much lower this year. If you don't want a room, 18-20 of you would fit quite nicely on the patio, and the patio really is nice. The other thing about getting the patio is that you might be able to use the regular dinner menu, rather than the banquet menu. However, for around $40 per head, the banquet menu includes salad, main, dessert and soft drinks so it's pretty good.

            If you haven't eaten at Cafe Santorini, maybe you want to be a secret shopper and take your fiancee for lunch or dinner, just to make sure you like hummus, kebobs, that sort of thing.

            I have to say, their servers and the catering manager really worked with me and in the end, I was quite happy with how it turned out. This places is such a hidden gem in Old Town. Congrats!

            1. re: kotatsu

              This is on mine and my girlfriends top three restaurants. I never really order off the regular menu and go for whatever is on the chefs specials. They make some wonderful sea bass (when available) there and they know how the fire up a great steak too.

              At one point in time we went there so much the our former waiter recognized us and during our wait he brought over complimentary cappuccinos.

              If you end up going here give the fried smelt a try for your appetizer.

              Cafe Santorini
              70 W Union St, Pasadena, CA 91103

              1. re: kotatsu

                I could not find a distinct thread for Cafe Santorini, so I am using this to mention my recent dining experience there. Since I had never been to this place in old town, and it was on Open Table, I made a reservation for Mother's Day lunch to take my wife there (daughter is on the east coast in college).

                We skipped appetizer (since we wanted a lighter lunch - and they provided warm herbed focaccia to nibble on. My wife had the black martini - Stoli blueberry vodka, Chambord, and Curacao. I had a sip and did not think it was anything special (I am not a big martini fan) - unlike the Jale Berry martini I had at Bazaar!

                She ordered the green curry cilantro risotto with scallops. The flavor of the dish was quite good (I have to make this at home since cilantro is one of our favorite herbs), BUT the pasta was waaay too al dente - we told our server that while risotto should be al dente, this was bordering on inedible. Also for the price (I see it as $15 on the menu, but I think that is an outdated price - it was higher as my wife noted) only 3 large bay scallops was not a good value. No red peppers as stated in the menu.

                I had the roasted boneless half chicken with porcini marsala sauce and roasted vegetables. The portion was generous and the skin had a nice char, but the sauce was underflavored and could have used a little salt to wake up - as did the risotto. I asked for salt and after 10 minutes the waiter (his personal service was good and one of the highlights of the visit) came back and said he could not find a salt shaker! Really?? By that time I had finished eating, so it did not matter. The roasted vegetables were underwhelming - broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes - some seemed parboiled and then slightly oven roasted with no deep flavor.

                We split a strawberry chocolate mousse cake - nothing to write home about, though competently done.

                The upstairs balcony was a nice setting, though we were seated in the corner most table - which felt a bit odd when we sat down. Through serendipity it turned out better than at first impression - because it was quiet, we had good neighbors at the next table, and it was shaded when the sun broke out on Sunday afternoon (they did unfurl the awning).

                Overall it was a pleasant experience with underwhelming food. I think that will be my last visit unless some exceptional reason arises to revisit this mediocre restaurant!

                Cafe Santorini
                70 W Union St, Pasadena, CA 91103

              2. re: FIDO

                Madeleine's also has a smaller room, technically the bar room (I forget the exact name). It has a few tables for dining, but I suspect that it might be the right size for your group, and perhaps you could reserve that. Worth a phone call, anyway.

                1. re: FIDO

                  My niece had a very nice rehersal dinner at Full House Seafood in Arcadia.

                  Full House Seafood Restaurant
                  1220 S Golden West Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

                2. Couple of suggestions:

                  Bistro de la Gare
                  The Raymond

                  As for upscale Chinese, try Lunaisa in Alhambra (bordering right along south Pasadena). It has a nice upscale dining room, and can probably provide you a private room if you wish should you want additional privacy.

                  Congrats, btw.

                  1. I've done two parties of about that size. One for my mother's 80th birthday and another wedding anniversary party. Both were at Il Fornaio in Pasadena. They have a couple of really nice, private rooms and 50 bucks a head is right on. For an Italian chain restaurant, the food is pretty darn good.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: trimtab

                      This is my Fiancee's choice/suggestion. I too think they are pretty okay food for a chain... and the rooms look really nice. But I struggle with the thought of corporate food and bad parking...

                    2. You have some great suggestions... to add one more to the list - Parkway Grill has a private room off the bar area that would fit your party. I'm not sure what that ambiance in the actual room is, though... as I've only seen it from the bar area - but I'd say it's worth investigating.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: The Oracle

                        Ooh, I didn't think they had a private room. I'll definitely call. (but their prices are a bit on the high side...)

                        1. re: FIDO

                          they have several rooms on the side and from what I understand several different menus to choose from I would definitely go eat there before committing. In fact, I would go eat at all these place before you make your decision. I had dinner at Il Fornaio a few months ago and the food was really bad. I feel like they've slid a few notches in quality over the years. If you're scared of corporate food I would consider the Raymond over Il Fornaio.

                          1. re: trolley

                            True, i just had brunch. And really, how can you mess up brunch?

                      2. We had ours in the library dining room at CalTech. http://athenaeum.caltech.edu/dining.html

                        It was very nice and very private. It was quite formal but I wouldn't say stuffy. The in-laws paid so not sure what the pricing was but worth a call.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: soniabegonia

                          sonia - do you have to be an alum of CalTech to have an event there? i have seen that space it is quite hidden (in a good way) and very nice

                          1. re: kotatsu

                            kotatsu- you have to be an Ath member to use the Ath at all. So not necessarily a Caltech alum, many members are actually Caltech faculty and staff.

                            1. re: astrobabe

                              hmm, my in-laws are definitely not members or alums of caltech but I just checked their main web page and looks like it is a private club... maybe they got a member to sponsor them. sorry to have misled you. fwiw, it is a very nice venue with good food so if you have any caltech connections, it's worth looking into.

                              1. re: soniabegonia

                                We are having our wedding and reception there! Yes, it's a private club for Caltech, JPL, and Huntington Library. We joined only for the wedding, too much for us otherwise.

                        2. You might want to consider the Barkley in South Pasadena. They have a private room - it may not fit 18 though. A fairly extensive menu and reasonable. It's been a while since I was there, went for a "memorial" lunch a year or so ago. Lots of "regulars" with their favorites at the time.

                          1. Thank you everyone! We narrowed it down to Derek's, Parkway Grill, and Madeline's, but then I found through the grapevine that my Mother's budget (she's paying) was originally $1000. She's flexible, but i don't want to soak her. So... with wine and food and tax and tip, all these places run around $90 or more per person.

                            Are there any yummy Chow-friendly places in the area (willing to drive a little farther, say 5miles from Pasadena) that could do our dinner for $75 per person (wine, tax, and tip included)? We're not big drinkers, about 5-6 bottles will be enough. (bonus points for good corkage rules)

                            What about Cafe Bizou? That's always been a safe place to take my non-foodie out-of-towners...

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: FIDO

                              I can't remember if Bizou has a private room, but it would definitely do the trick. I'm wondering whether Mike & Anne's (in South Pas) has a room to accommodate your group; that would be another good choice, within your budget.

                              1. re: Jack Flash

                                At Mike & Anne's you could possible reserve the entire patio area. This time of the year, it would be a lovely place and setting. Privacy would suffer, however.

                              2. re: FIDO

                                A good friend just has her rehearsal dinner at Bizou last month and said the service was horrible. Based on her experience, I wouldn't recommend it (although, like you, I would have thought it to be a safe pick).

                              3. UPDATE: thank you for all the replies. However, unfortunately the wedding is off. I will probably go to Madelines for a family reunion though... so stay tuned.

                                (it's probably for the best, she's not a foodie anyway and actually suggested Round Table Pizza for my birthday...) [sigh]

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: FIDO

                                  that's terrible! or maybe it's a good thing....better to stay happy alone than to marry the wrong one! i think you'll enjoy your time at madelines in the future.

                                  1. re: FIDO

                                    Thank you for the update. Best wishes to you. Chow-girls are out there! ;)