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Best Pasadena Lunch

I live in Silverlake but work in Pasadena, and just about every day I go out to lunch. It's not the most economical decision, but a nice meal and time out of the office is well worth it to me. That being said, I was wondering if I could get any new suggestions for some new lunch spots here in Pasadena.

Here are a list of my go-to's so far (in no particular order):

-Lee's Hoagies: Great Jersey-style hoagies, with even better service. I give this place an extra recommendation for the lack of East Coast style delis I come across in LA.

-President Thai: Authentic Thai fare. Very reasonable price. My favorites: BBQ Beef or BBQ Chicken.

-Daisy Mint: Bistro-style Thai fusion. Jonathan Gold recommends the Curry, but I say get the Steak Salad.

-Tonny's Restaurant (on Orange Grove): Very good hole-in-the-wall. The Wet (Pork) Chile Verde Burrito is so good I don't mind that my pants don't fit after I'm done. They've got freshly juiced vegetables too if you want to convince yourself you're eating healthy.

-Gourmet Cobbler Factory: Would love to eat here more than I do, but the lack of a dine-in option defeats the purpose of "going out to lunch" for me.

-Fu Shing Chinese Restaurant: Won Ton Soup for 4 = $8. Come on, that's pretty good.

-Fuji Japanese Restaurant: Lunch specials are competitively priced. Slightly above-average sushi, sashimi, and teriyakis.

-Lebanese Kitchen: Surprisingly good kabobs, tabbouleh, and hummus.

-10th Hole Bar & Grill at Eaton Canyon Golf Course: Small bucket of golf balls + sandwich/burger + soup or fries for $10. Although it's more about the activity than the food itself, I think it's an ideal lunch destination for a stressful work day or lazy Friday.

-El Metate: Everything here is pretty good. My favorite is the Ceviche tostada. I eat a lot, and trust me, you only need two.

-Pita Pita: Average Mediterranean plates, wraps, etc. I usually order whatever the daily special is. Great value, decent food. $6 for a filling wrap and soup.

-Saladang/Saladang Song: A Pasadena staple for Thai food. Great food, but not exactly ideal given the popularity (wait) and distance from my office.

-Lucky Boy: More of a breakfast spot I guess. I couldn't believe the size of the breakfast burrito I ate. Only been here once and I still think I'm full.

-King Taco: Also popular (and okay), although I prefer to eat at this chain after midnight. Lengua definitely tastes better at night.

-Zankou: You know what it is. They're everywhere.

There's more I could list, but nothing really memorable to me so far. Please feel free to add your thoughts, recommendations, and warnings.

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  1. Befriend someone who belongs to The Athenaeum Club at Caltech. The $9.95 buffet lunch is the best around.

    9 Replies
      1. re: wolanin

        I'm not a member, but some friends are.
        Lot's of Caltechies hang out at Europane...you might meet some there.

        You're list reminds me of the days when I worked in Pasadena.
        We'd go to Tops, Original Panda Restaurant on Foothill, The Boat and Northwoods Inn, Robins, Kabuki, Shogun....

        1. re: burumun

          sweet can i get the hook up for the anahteum ???

          1. re: kevin

            Someone told me the custom at Caltech is if you're a student and ask a professor out to lunch at the Anthenaeum the professor pays.

            If you never get there you can check it out in the movie Beverly Hils Cop....early scene where Eddie Murphy crashes the fancy dining place...that's the Anthenaeum.

            1. re: monku

              Haha I don't think we ever ask a professor out to lunch. That would be ... weird :p

              But Kevin - sure, shoot me an email.

              1. re: burumun

                thank you. what's your email?

                is there a cool secret password i got to proffer?

                and yeah, i remember the country club looking restaurant from Beverly HIlls Cop I, so that's the same place?

                1. re: kevin

                  Just checked imdb and yep it is indeed!

                  email: gourmetpigs at gmail . com

          2. re: burumun

            I went to a wonderful wedding reception at the Althanaeum. One of the best weddings I've ever attended. So gorgeous.

        2. You have most of my regulars on there. I go to PresidenTwo instead of President Thai. You may want to try The Reyn Pho on the west side of north Lake and the street before you get to Orange Grove (and Tonny's). They have very good Pho and other Vietnamese items. There is always Slaw Dogs further up Lake - they have a big following here. There is very good BBQ on north lake before Washington - Bonnie B's BBQ. Andy's a couple stores down from Daisy Mint for just regular old coffee shop fare. On Green and Chester there is a place that does pretty good tacos. Great Pupusas at La Caravana on north Lake before Washington (close to Bonnie B's).
          I love the fish tacos at El Metate. As I come up with more, I will add.

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

          President Thai Restaurant
          498 S Rosemead Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

          Reyn
          635 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

          Daisy Mint
          1218 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA

          The Slaw Dogs
          720 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91104

          8 Replies
          1. re: WildSwede

            Stay away from Pasadena Sandwich Co. Very poor quality meats use; way too much fat on them.

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            Pasadena Sandwich Co
            259 Sierra Madre Villa Ave, Pasadena, CA 91107

            1. re: WildSwede

              Thanks for the list! Funny, on my drives up to Tonny's I've always told myself that I need to come back and check out that Vietnamese place but have yet to do so. I'll look into it (as well as your other recommendations) for sure!

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

              1. re: wolanin

                Try it! It is my second favorite place for Pho. Their spring rolls are also really good - and big! The BBQ pork is my fave with shrimp a close 2nd. They offer another one that I have not tried. I love that they put fried shallots in their peanut dipping sauce. First place for Pho is Pho 79 on Garfield and Main in Alhambra (the char grilled pork version - #36 or 37). Damn, now I am craving it!! ;-)

              2. re: WildSwede

                Tibet Nepal House on Holly - they have a lunch buffet. Wonder Burger on Foothill near the La Estrella already mentioned. Tiffany's on Colorado across from the Paseo for sandwiches. There is a Thai place on that block that a lot of people I work with like - but I am not a fan. The Hat.

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

                Wonder Burgers
                2584 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

                La Estrella Restaurant
                330 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104

                1. re: WildSwede

                  I actually got a coupon on Restaurant.com for the Tibet Nepal House but have yet to use it. Looking forward to giving it a try! Any recommendations?

                  Here's the link if anyone wants to save some $ (enter promo code "plate" for 80% off): http://www.restaurant.com/microsite.a...

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

                  1. re: wolanin

                    That is great! Thanks! I have only been for lunch and have only had the lunch buffet. It is pretty good. Hope you enjoy it!!

                    1. re: WildSwede

                      If you like Indian food, their food will be okay. This might be simplistic, but the food there reminded me of Indian and Chinese food--mostly Indian food. I guess that being on the crossroads of India and China would account for that. I didn't really like it, it wasn't bad but I just wasn't enthusiastic about it.

                2. re: WildSwede

                  Is Bonnie B's a takeout place? I've noticed it driving by. Hard to find good reasonably priced bbq. Hub is from Houston, best thing about going to Houston is the bbq! I guess I need to check this place out.

                3. If you like Lee's, you'd probably also like Luigi Ortega's. They do a very good, authentic Philly cheese steak. I also like their hoagies (served on Amoroso bread).

                  Other recommendations, not all that different than your regular spots, but still:

                  Sahara (kebabs & such)

                  Lupita's (Mexican)

                  Viva Tacos La Estrella (I go to the one on Altadena & Foothill)

                  -----
                  Luigi Ortega's
                  1655 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

                  Viva Tacos La Estrella
                  2525 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Jack Flash

                    And here I thought the only tempting thing from driving by Luigi Ortega's were the beer specials....

                    Yea, I like both those Mexican spots. But what's with the salsa Nazis in Pasadena (i.e. Viva Tacos La Estrella )? Why am I being charged more for wanting my food spicey at a Mexican restaurant? That would be like charging me to use napkins (or the bathroom) at Pink's hot dogs!

                    I know where Sahara is at, but have yet to go. That'll definitely be on my list.

                    -----
                    Luigi Ortega's
                    1655 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

                    Viva Tacos La Estrella
                    2525 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

                    1. re: Jack Flash

                      I also like Luigi Ortega's but I wouldn't go there for lunch, during the school year. No parking, too much traffic, just a hassle.

                      -----
                      Luigi Ortega's
                      606 N Ventura Rd, Oxnard, CA 93030

                    2. Been a while..."Margaritas" on Rosemead used to have a good lunch buffet.
                      http://www.margaritasmexicanfood.com/...
                      155 S. Rosemead Boulevard(few blocks south of Colorado

                      )

                      Golden Palace Mongolian BBQ
                      3681 East Colorado Boulevard (corner of Rosemead Blvd.)

                      Connal's (50's kind of diner place?....lots of sandwiches and burgers are good
                      1505 East Washington Boulevard

                      The Hat on N. Lake
                      Roscoes on N. Lake
                      Avanti Cafe on N. Lake....wood fire pizza and decent pasta.

                      Some will say Wolfburgers and Pie & Burger (Pies yes, burgers....there are better)

                      Lee's Hoagies...."word of warning"...heading east on Colorado don't cross the double yellow line into the driveway at Lee's, use the side street entrance on Roosevelt. Our lunch entertainment was watching people getting tickets from the Pasadena PD waiting in the parking lot.

                      -----
                      Avanti Cafe
                      111 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: monku

                        At Pie 'n' Burger you get anything from a so-so burger to an excellent burger, depending on who's at the griddle and some other intangible factors. (Phase of the moon, maybe?)

                        1. re: Peripatetic

                          Perpatetic,

                          I'm curious, at Pie N Burger what did you find was the difference between a good versus bad burger?

                          I ask because essentially the burger is pretty basic, nothing fancy, just the patty, lettuce, onions, pickles and what's essentially their housemade thousand island dressing. It's sort of like the grandfather of an In-N-Out Burger. You either like or you don't.

                          I know that sometimes the breakfast items can be "off" depending on how busy they are. Worst offenders being the eggs, french toast and hash browns.

                          But the burgers have generally been pretty constant -- whether that's a good or bad thing will really depend on your perspective.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            ipse, note that I never said "bad", just so-so. And I'm probably being a bit harsh with "so-so" -- maybe "merely decent" would be more accurate.

                            In any case, I think the difference lies mostly with the beef patty itself. It's hard to describe exactly, but sometimes the patty exhibits a range of complex flavor characteristics, and sometimes it's more one-dimensional. I don't know what's responsible for the difference -- freshness of the beef? Some admixture of residual flavors of what's been on the grill before it? Minor differences in the amount of seasoning? I wish I knew.

                            1. re: Peripatetic

                              Gotcha. I think the variance may arise from the fact that the patties are hand-formed. Or maybe how they cleaned that part of the griddle where your burger was cooked? Who knows.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Well if they are hand formed then maybe you need to take into account whatever they were touching before they made your burger, too. :)

                                1. re: monkuboy

                                  Gross but yeah, supposedly the secret to NY Pizza, is the pizzamakers hands on subway car holds and poles, etceteras

                                  1. re: apple7blue

                                    As they like to say in the UK: it doesn't bear thinking about.

                      2. Best Pasadena lunch in typical SGV summer weather?

                        Bulgarini Gelato
                        http://www.bulgarinigelato.com/index.php

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                        Bulgarini Gelato
                        749 E Altadena Dr, Altadena, CA 91001

                        3 Replies