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Aug 12, 2009 07:35 AM


Why is the food here so lukewarm. I have lived here for twenty years and all but given up.
Except for the insanely wonderful chinese food of the greater San Gabriel valley, and some really great mexican, it's a wasteland. There's Europane, Pie and Burger, Foxes, and some other good burger, funky places, but for cutting edge, new dining I just have never found it.
Has anyone else?

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    1. re: PurpleTeeth

      I love little flower and Daisy Mint is good. It is true there are good lunch spots, I love Nicole's.
      But dinner is just not happening, unless we go downtown, Silver Lake or Eagle Rock.

      1. re: mendogurl

        True for that high end stuff you do need to travel a bit.

    2. You might want to check out what Voltaggio is doing at The Dining Room (@ the Langham Hotel)

      25 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        I have been there and it's great. It's a beautiful, formal setting.
        I guess I am just ranting my frustration, where are the kind of restaurants of Culver City or Beverly? Pasadena has started catching up in other areas, the population is definitely getting younger and hipper, but the food is generally so old school.
        The hip chefs are willing to set up chef in Eagle Rock but not ten minutes to the east in Pasadena. Maybe it's the cost of rent.

        1. re: mendogurl

          I feel like it's a combination of a lot of things (as things usually are). The crowd is older, rent is more expensive, but also, the cities you mentioned are surrounded geographically by a younger and more affluent crowd. Culver City is close enough to WeHo and the westside; Eagle Rock is closer to downtown, Silverlake, and Glendale; whereas, Pasadena is next to South Pasadena and San Marino (stuffy white folks), Altadena, and SGV (cheap asians).

          It's hard to see Pasadena turning into a food destination anytime in the near future.

          1. re: andytseng

            I have to say that Pasadena, and definitely south Pasadena has been rapidly populating with other than stuffy white folks for a really long time. People priced out of the west side who could find fab craftsman's on enormous lots for a quarter of the price. I see the young hipsters in the neighborhoods, at the farmers market.
            But they have no where to eat, unless they drive 15 minutes downtown. If I were a chef looking for a hungry market, I'd set up shop here.
            Throw a rock here in Altadena, and you will hit a writer or artist (like myself and my husband). Lots of film folks have moved out here over the last ten years.
            No shortage of money that I can see, way more affluent than Silver Lake or Eaglerock, Glendale.

            Oh well, I will continue to cook at home.

            1. re: mendogurl

              Well in the surrounding areas like Glendale, Silverlake, Eagle Rock, etc., there certainly are some places making a culinary mark -- e.g., Three Drunken Goats, Bashan, Palate, Domenico, Barbrix and Reservoir, just to name a few.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Absolutely. Much, much, much better food just 15 minutes west or south.

                Glendale is a very interesting example. Not exactly the last bastion of cool. There have been quite a few good restaurants to open there recently.
                Pasadena...nothing. I would have to argue that the population of Pasadena is definitely more affluent and hipper than Glendale.
                Obviously those are enormous generalizations I am making.

                1. re: mendogurl

                  I think alot of it has to do with the rents in Old Town and the surrounding environs (e.g. Lake Ave), including the Mission St. area in South Pas.

                  The rents are really too high to attract innovative new chefs and there really aren't other locales in the city that are viable for commercial restaurants. I think the rents in places like Glendale are more diverse and reasonable. Just a guess, on my part, however.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I think you hit the nail on the head ipsedixit

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I think that's got to be it. (the rents) It's really a shame.
                      One can only hope that a strange beneficial aspect of the bad economy is that the corporate giant restaurants aren't doing so well. Maybe Old Town
                      will change back to an area that those of who live here, can enjoy.

                      1. re: mendogurl

                        By the way, mendogurl, have you tried Restaurant 561?

                        When they are on, it can be quite a treat ... when they are not on, well, then you realize they're only students.


                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I did try it. It was an off night, but I am game to go again. I love the idea.

                2. re: mendogurl

                  More money, but also kids in school, more debt, etc. And as film production has moved out of California, people don't have as much disposable income. When the Smiths started Parkway Grill (with Spago vets working there), there was NO place to eat in Pasadena.
                  But Pasadena and South Pas. types are pretty cheap--they'd rather eat at home or drive downtown.

                  1. re: mendogurl

                    BTW, the ``other than stuffy white folks'' have some pretty good places, c.f. Tonny's, El Taquito Mexicano, Roscoes, Lebanese Kitchen, La Caravana, the late Hawkins Burger, etc. What there isn't is hipster restaurants like Canele or Auntie Em's. This is generally okay with me - Silver Lake may have a lot of restaurants, but none of them are good.

                    1. re: condiment

                      "Silver Lake may have a lot of restaurants, but none of them are good."

                      have you been to VIET NOODLE or BAR BRIX?

                      1. re: revets2

                        Indeed I have. At the moment in Silver Lake, probably only La Mill has the chops to thrive in a more challenging neighborhood. The dining scene in Silver Lake reminds me a lot of the one in Cobble Hill. Pasadena, unfortunately, is at this point closer to Connecticut.

                  2. re: andytseng

                    If by "food destination" you mean $100+ per-plate trendy joints, I certainly hope not. More than enough of those elsewhere, and they can stay there. I wouldn't mind paying more if that meant the staff all made a living wage, and I'm not knocking the Fine Dining category as such. Culver City is the one example cited that I wish we could emulate here, brilliant food that normal people can afford, but as you point out the Pasadena demographic will support no more than one or two such efforts, and they'll have to be really good and smart ones. What I object to is the definition of "good" as "formal". Mendogirl dismisses Daisy Mint as "a good lunch place"; I consider it above all a dinner place. It's friendly and the food we've had was excellent, and not expensive. I'd like a larger room, but so I think would the proprietors! I didn't walk in suddenly wishing I'd worn a tie, nor were patrons conversing in murmurs, but it wasn't the collegiate beer-bust that Cafe Beaujolais seems to have become. Madeleine's is another place we need to investigate further; several friends are passionate about it, and we enjoyed our several drinks in the bar, especially the two female bartenders engaging in intelligent conversation with patrons instead of the usual coarse banter.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Sorry, I didn't mean to dismiss Daisy Mint, I think it is a great place and I was really glad when it opened. I was refering more to Little Flower, a favorite, as a "lunch place". I am definitely not talking about super expensive places. I am talking more about easy, relaxed, casual places that serve really good, fresh, local, maybe even innovative, or at least somewhat passionately prepared food.
                      Maybe the economy will chase away all of the corporate spots in "Old Town", and make some room for some new blood.

                      I have heard mention of Madeline's. Where is it?

                      1. re: mendogurl

                        On Green St., I'm pretty sure between Catalina and Wilson, south side of the street. There's just a tiny little sign, and an iron garden gate with no "Entrance" sign on it, but you go through that, turn left, and hope there's someone at the hostess station. There are several dining rooms, and the wine bar is a tiny room back to the right. It has its own menu. We joined some fellow volunteers there after our big Humane Society fundraiser a couple of months ago, and wound up staying after they left because it was such a pleasant place to be, and agreed that when we had money to spend on something fancier than Amigo's (don't go there!) we'd try it more thoroughly. We had already eaten, but two friends that had come with us had some food and pronounced it very good.

                        The Smith brothers like to think they're doing what you're looking for, and what they've supplied to the above-mentioned fundraiser over the years has been interesting and mostly good, but I have not felt the earth shift in its orbit with any of it. Firefly in South Pas has similar aspirations; don't know, haven't tried them. Mike & Ann's is quality stuff and a nice room, again a little pricier than it deserves to be, but they're paying South Pas rent. I keep hearing about Gale's, and actually met her some time back and she had THAT attitude, both cheerful and intense, that I've observed in my favorite cooks, so maybe...

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Are you talking about Tre Venizia? Right off of Pasadena?

                          Where is Gale's ??

                          1. re: mendogurl

                            Gale's is on Fair Oaks - btwn Del Mar and California. Italian. Very good.
                            I have never been to Little Flower. What do you order there... may have to hit it for lunch today.

                              1. re: WildSwede

                                I just had a fantastic lunch at Gales. Was my first time. Service was friendly and pro. Food was great. The stand out was the carbonara, was the best I can remember.

                              2. re: mendogurl

                                Tre Venezie was superb up until a few months ago, when they replaced chefs. It's pretty pedestrian now - and still expensive.

                                1. re: condiment

                                  They replaced their chef ?

                                  I was really sad when they got rid of all of their home made liquers. Those were outstanding.

                          2. re: Will Owen

                            And if Culver City didn't have the studios to support the lunch businesses, some of those places wouldn't be as successful as they are. People work in Culver City, and might live elsewhere. Pasadena just doesn't have that same type of business crowd.

                        2. re: mendogurl

                          Hey, be thankful you're not in the dining wasteland of the Palisades. For what you pay for for a house here, you should get a chef with it!!! And there's NO place here I would rec to any chowhound!!! It's disgraceful, and anytime something new opens, it's the same pasta, pizza, salad type of place, it makes me wan to scream!!!!! At least you have chain restaurants to fall back on!!!

                      2. While not exactly "cutting edge," Cafe Verde and Malbec, both on Green Street, offer good, affordable food in comfortable yet sufficiently modern settings.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Jack Flash

                          I thought i'd heard good things about Cafe Verde. I want to try that.

                          Look, I am a huge fan of Pie and Burger, Ricks, Foxes, and the eating dream that is Alhambra, Monterey Park and San Gabriel.
                          I probably should have said innovative, or passionate instead of "cutting edge". That description is too loaded.

                        2. The Smith Bros. win the high end award, largely by default, as no one else is trying to do it. Parkway Grill and Arroyo Chop House are very busy, every night of the week, even in this economy. So, they are satisfying one segment of the marketplace.
                          Since nearly every restaurant in old town is for sale, or should be, it points out that not enough people like the food being offered at the price points being asked.
                          Rents are but one issue. But nowhere on the east side of I-5 is doing really well - some individual places, yes, but as to an area, NO.
                          That will not change until the economy does, and we have no crystal ball to discuss that issue on this thread.
                          Even with cheap rent, the 626 area code Chinese restaurants are dying one after another, so even less expensive rent is not necessarily the answer. People are just not going out to eat as often as they used to, so fewer dollars spread among more places equals a BIG problem.
                          And with Gary Menes having already left Palate in Glendale, that place needs to inject a big name, and sooner is better.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: carter

                            well said carter.
                            I am always astonished at how many people go to Parkway Grill and the Chop House.
                            Interesting to hear everything is up for sale.bland.

                            Like I said maybe the economy will level Old Town and put it out of it's neverending misery.

                            1. re: mendogurl

                              If the economy truly tanks, it will make Old Town even more corporate. It's not Buca di Beppo and the Cheesecake Factory that are shutting down, it's the even modestly quirky places, like Siena, Maschera, Kuala Lumpur or Huasteca. Old Town is a toxic environment for restaurants.

                              Not even Joachim Splichal could make it in Pasadena, not even Jerry's Deli, and those guys are the kudzu of the restaurant world.

                              1. re: mendogurl

                                While I'm not a fan of the chains in Old Town, I lived there when it was largely pawn shops and empty storefronts. Even though I think the development hasn't been as careful as it might have been, I'd rather see businesses and commerce succeed than go backwards.

                                Same with the area around Vromans and the Laemmele. If you don't know what this area was like, 10 or 15 years ago, you might not be quite so dismissive.

                                1. re: Ideefixed

                                  I've lived in Pasadena for more than 20 years. I liked it better before.
                                  There were a lot of artists that were able to get cheap studio spaces, and I kind of like pawn shops. I will be really sorry when I see the one on Colorado and Fair Oaks go down. I don't know how they manage.
                                  Once "Old Town" was put in for the 3rd street promenade crowd, every local I know steered as clear as they possible could. I make an occasional stealth mission to Sur La Table at 9:58 on a Tuesday morning, but otherwise I avoid Old Town like the plague. It's easier to shop online. That's the problem when you cater an area to an out of town crowd. Eventually they go home, and the locals have been staying away for years. Except the 15 year olds, of course.

                            2. Tommy Tang had a restaurant in Pasadena and it went under within two years. Not a very good success rate in Pasadena. When I think of Pasadena, I think of a lunch city.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: A5 KOBE

                                That's because no restaurant stays open late enough for those of us who want to eat after a play or movie, or just aren't ready before 9:00 or so. My one big beef about SoCal, at least the LA County part, is how scarce late-night options are, especially compared to that little "hick town" of Nashville. One of the most popular midscale Nashville places we used to frequent has a very good late-night menu that kicks in at 10:30 EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK. That's at least half an hour after pretty much any Pasadena restaurant has already closed, and many of those close their kitchens even earlier. Astounding.

                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  Well, I don't think that's necessarily true.

                                  Vertical, Red White and Bluezz, LGO, Tonny's, and Magnolia are all open past midnight on weekends and Fridays, and I believe Malbec is open until 11 p.m.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    We understood that Tonny's was forced to start closing at 10:00 a long time ago, as there's some kind of North Lake 10 o'clock curfew. I'm glad to hear about LGO, though I'm more in love with the space than the food. And I wonder if Central Park has extended their hours... our first time there, we'd just gotten our food at 9:00, seated by the front window, when the manager walked up and turned off the window sign. "Closing already?" we asked. He gave us an odd look and said, "Well, sure - it's nine o'clock!" as though that made perfect sense.

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      The Tonny's curfew was bizarre, especially considering the 7-Eleven and the 24 hour burrito joint across the street. I don't think it was the juice bar that was causing the turmoil.

                                      It is always dismaying to hit the point in the evening when the choices are narrowed to the Yellow Truck and Conrad's. LGO, Magnolia and Vertical are technically open late but are usually dead after 10.

                                      1. re: condiment

                                        That burrito joint could not be operating 24 hrs. As much as I hate to say it, it was my fellow Bungalow Heaven neighbors who put the kibosh on Tonny's, expressing the thought that by doing so they were preventing "undesirable elements" from walking abroad "late at night" - i.e. after they'd gone to bed at 9:00 or so.

                                        This is just a stupidly dead town after 10, when truly happenin' towns are just coming alive. I do not begin to understand it...

                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          Bungalow Heaven is pretty NIMBYish - but weird that they could have influence on the hours of a restaurant at least a couple hundred yards from anywhere in the zone. There are a lot of halfway houses in the immediate area, and Tonny's must have somehow taken the heat for that.

                                          I thought Puebla Tacos was 24 hours - I've certainly been there after 2 a.m. - but I'll defer to your proximity.

                                          1. re: condiment

                                            North Lake Development District, not just Bungalow Heaven. NIMBYs on BOTH sides of Lake are getting into it. First, trying to get all the fast-food joints and car repair shops out, then passing ordinances against eating places being open after the "ungodly" hour of TEN (!!!). Tonny's opened as a 24-hour place, assuming (rightly) that there'd be a lively market for that, and (wrongly) that all they had to do was post the hours and stay open. Never occurred to them they'd have to ask permission! I'm an active Bungalow Heaven guy, but I was seriously PO'd, and still am...

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      What means this LGO? Whither? I find the food at Magnolia variable, but I will say the salads are dependable. Is Bistro 45 any good anymore?

                                      1. re: mc michael

                                        Last time I was their it was really, really bad. That was while back.

                                    3. re: Will Owen

                                      One reason is that film and TV have early calls. When show biz was the dominant force, people had to be at the studio, or on set, very early. Nashville's more of a performance place than Los Angeles.

                                      1. re: Ideefixed

                                        That was a great thing about being in the film business and living in Pasadena.
                                        No one else did, LOL.
                                        That meant that driving into the studios for those insanely early calls was always a piece of cake. NO traffic. I could be at Universal in 15 minutes, Sony in 30.

                                      2. re: Will Owen

                                        That is a problem up and down the west coast. Soooo many restaurants close around 10-11.