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best in pasadena

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What do you consider your "best of Pasadena, CA" restaurants? will be there with husband and daughter for 2 nights this week. college drop off. last dinner for a while with our daughter. want it to be delicious!

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  1. What kinds of food do you like? Is there something you DON'T like? And finally, what is your desired price point?

    Parkway Grill is a good standby. If you like something more cutting edge, The Royce at the Langham Hotel is probably the city's top special occasion restaurant.

    Noir Food & Wine is my pick for small plates and a great wine list.

    Vertical Wine Bistro consistently turns out good food along with various theme nights (Sunday is grilled cheese night, Thursday is burger night, and for the month of August they're doing a special "Julia Child"-themed menu).

    1. Thinking in terms of "best" is the wrong way to go about it.

      If I were to be in Pasadena for 2 nights and having never been there (assuming you haven't), then this is the list of dining options that I would choose from (in order of preference):

      1. Racion
      2. Sushi Kimagure and Sushi Ichi (tie)
      3. The Royce
      4. Vol.94 and Abricott (tie)
      5. Tonny's

      4 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        thank you. we eat everything and have no price point in particular. thanks for shing your list. if you ever need my "best of" list for boston, i can help you!

        1. re: kprich58

          You're welcome.

          If there's something you are looking for in particular, let us know, and we can be of more help.

          Enjoy your stay.

        2. re: ipsedixit

          Re: Vol. 94 & Abricott - really? Both places have been on my radar for a while. Sounds like I really should get over to both of them.

          1. re: Jack Flash

            I found abricott below average. some of the puniest, driest, chewist shrimp I've ever had in the shrimp salad which was also exceedingly boring (basically a mountain of lettuce with said shrimp on top and a Thai style dressing). we also had some kind of curry dish and a few app's which ranged from ok to pretty good, but nothing to get excited about. I prefer their sister restaurant, Daisy mint.

        3. College drop off? Caltech?

          It has been too long since I have been a regular diner in the area for good dinner recs, but one of my favorite spots for breakfast/lunch is Julienne's on Mission in South Pasadena.

          If it is Caltech, congratulations and thanks fro sending your daughter - Caltech needs more women.

          24 Replies
          1. re: ocshooter

            sorry...Occidental College

            1. re: kprich58

              Also a fine choice.

              Thought of another dining option: if you like true Neapolitan style pizzas, head to Settebello.

              1. re: Jack Flash

                Definitely agree with the Setebello rec. Every pizza I have had there is delicious. I would also add Daisy Mint, although I have not been there for a while.

                1. re: WildSwede

                  WS, Abricott is the new sibling of Daisy Mint - same inventive chef doing a more mainstream/American menu with plenty of Southeast Asian influences. It's informal, in that you order at the register and take a number to your table, but the food is interesting, very good and not expensive. And Plate 38 can take that ##!*@!! banner down now, because Abricott's burger has theirs beat all hollow.

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    LOL! When I walked into Abricott, the chef (?) recognized me from all the breakfasts that I have had at Andy's where he worked previously. He took really good care of me! I don't think that I knew it was related to Daisy Mint. Thanks!!

                2. re: Jack Flash

                  Love Settebello - try the appetizers, too - arugula & prosciutto, too fabulous!

                3. re: kprich58

                  Don't apologize. Oxy is an excellent school with a great location. In Pasadena, I find myself constantly returning to the Luggage Room Pizzeria. Other than that, I would agree with others that Eagle Rock and Highland Park have a lot going for them. Beyond what has been mentioned already, I can think of the Good Girl Dinette on Figueroa and 56 (billed as Vietnamese comfort food), My Taco on York for informal but excellent Mexican (borrego is one of my favorites there). Or, explore a little with your daughter and go to one of the taco trucks nearby. Leo's on Eagle Rock Blvd is a long-time Oxy favorite (I ate there many late nights when I was a student in the 90's), but my current favorite is a simple taco table on the corner of Avenue 50 on Monte Vista in Highland Park for killer Al Pastor and guacamole spicier than most salsas!

                  1. re: guero57

                    She is not apologizing for Oxy, just that she is not able to fulfill my plea for assistance.

                    1. re: guero57

                      How about Polka?

                  2. re: ocshooter

                    As someone who grew up in the area, Julienne's in San Marino and definitely NOT in South Pas (even though it's so close, it might as well be). ;)

                    Agree that it's a great spot for brunch. Very small-town feel and the food (when I last went to the to-go area several yrs ago) is tasty. I think Marston's is polarizing, but I still like it for brunch, as well. The egg salad sandwich (hope you like protein, b/c there's a ton of eggs on it) from Europane is great.

                    Agree w/ a lot of the recs posted here. I think Parkway Grill is a nice special-occasion restaurant (New American) that's upscale w/o being wallet-busting. Daisy Mint (very casual; Asian fusion) might also illustrate what LA does very well (ethnic) and be a change from what the OP can find in Boston?

                    1. re: ilysla

                      I'm sorry but Julienne hasn't been very good for over a year now.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I totally agree that Julienne has steadily gone down hill. Last time I was in there, I kid you not, the waitress actually asked me if they could make my eggs over easy because they were having difficulty in the kitchen poaching eggs.

                        1. re: orythedog

                          That's rather sad.

                          I haven't been there in quite a while. I gather from your comment (and ipse's) that this has been a trend rather than a one-off kind of thing? Everyone can have a bad day now and then.

                          1. re: Jack Flash

                            It's a trend. Actually, more like the norm.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I respectfully disagree. I've been enjoying Saturday b'fast there 2-3 x's/mo. for the last several months, and the food quality has been spot on (with perfectly poached eggs). Whatever kitchen issues they had have long since been resolved, IMO.

                              1. re: The Oracle

                                Hmmm.... Seems like there's some controversy about the current quality of Julienne's. I'm in SGV almost never now, but if I'm there for brunch, I'll do a little review.... ;)

                                1. re: ilysla

                                  Good friend visiting from Oakland had brunch there on Saturday and declared her dish - savory French toast and something (I forget what) topped with two poached eggs - to be delightful in every way. And she knows her grub, as does the guy who took her there. Had the eggs been poorly poached she'd have let everyone know, believe me.

                    2. re: ocshooter

                      "...Caltech needs more women..."

                      Hear, hear.

                      1. re: J.L.

                        For a multitude of reasons...

                        1. re: J.L.

                          Ehh, as a graduate of the Institute myself, I would hesitate to send anyone there, female or no. It's a great place for research, but not always the best *school.* Furthermore, being the pioneer woman is not always a picnic, if for no other reason that people cannot stop remarking on it.

                          Some Pasadena favourites (listed from casual to more dressy/special occasion):
                          Pie N' Burger
                          Tonny's
                          Europane
                          President Thai
                          Smitty's
                          Maison Akira
                          Parkway Grill
                          The Royce

                          1. re: khh1138

                            Oh come on, the split is around 60/40 these days, so I would hardly call the women who attend pioneers. I used to be an alumi recruiter for HS fairs and the only science types to whom I would hesitate to recommend Caltech are those that are not capable of doing the work or those that have their heart set on med school.

                            As for restaurants, I would add Barney's and All India Cafe. Of course, I was living there when the 35'er was still a dive and the Cheesecake Factory housed Dodsworth, a jazz bar.

                            1. re: ocshooter

                              I remember Dodsworth - and when I was at Caltech, Jenijoy LaBelle was the only female prof there...yes, it's been a while!

                              1. re: Kittyf

                                When were you there and what House where you in? '84-91/Fleming for me. I never took Ms. LaBelle's class, but she was a popular prof.

                                1. re: ocshooter

                                  I wasn't there as a student - 1970's, Office of Public Events. Chandler was where we ate lunch - it was awful back then!

                      2. Id add Settebello to the list..had a great pie(margherita w/sausage) there 2 weeks ago...couldnt have been happier...didnt try any other dishes though.

                        1. someone mentioned the parkway grill. thought that looked good. any thoughts?

                          1. Actually, Oxy is not in Pasadena, it's in Eagle Rock. Pasadena generally considered, with a couple of exceptions, sort of a lackluster food destination. Eagle Rock/Highland Park, IMO, has some more interesting offerings. I'm not crazy about Auntie Em's but it has a huge following. Maximilliano is a swell neighborhood Italian joint and right across the street is the very amiable, down to earth gourmet burger place called Fusion. On Colorado, Vietnamese Lemongrass and sister restaurant Halung Bay are very good. Down the street, Cacao has some of the best Mexican around. They should have wine and beer license soon too. Casa Bianca is old school pizza with a huge line unless you go very early. I like it but others are less enthusiastic. The York is cool and reliable. I could go on and on. It's a great neighborhood with a lot of terrific choices. Enjoy1

                            19 Replies
                            1. re: Layne Murphy

                              No one said Oxy was in Pasadena.

                              OP said she would be in Pasadena to drop off her child for college. And if I'm dropping some one off in college at Occidental, I'd probably stay in the Pasadena area as well.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                right on!

                              2. re: Layne Murphy

                                Casa Bianca? Really? I'd skip that line if i were visiting. However, for casual Mexican, Cacao is a great suggestion.

                                1. re: trolley

                                  Most of us prefer the pizza as we first met it - the memory of love at first bite. The old guy who ran Casa Bianca until he died loved the same kind of pizza that knocked my sixteen-year-old socks off fifty-five years ago, and that's how he made it. Do I love the other styles? Yes. But if old-school still blows your skirt up, Casa Bianca is where to find it. Too bad so many people agree, since they're all in the big line in front of me … the only reason I seldom go there.

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    I actually enjoy Casa Bianca. I used to live down the street from it and went often. It's one of the only places you can get pizza with canned mushrooms (ok, hold the criticism here please) in the LA area. Although it's not NY pizza it reminds me of it and the only thing i don't like is the wait. it can take an hour or even longer to get a table. that was back in 2007 and don't know if things have improved.

                                    however, i just didn't think it was a destination for someone coming from Boston. This type of food is everywhere in the east coast especially in the Boston area. However, I do think a place like Cacao does Mexican in a way that's very difficult to find back east.

                                    but who knows. some people love to visit a new city and eat the food that's native to the area. but i do know people who travel and want to be reminded of home more than take chances.

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      I like the pizzas at Tarantino's and The Luggage Room, both in Pasadena, both different.
                                      I like Daisy Mint, but I also like the Thai at Chilly Mango, formerly known as Presidentwo.

                                      1. re: mc michael

                                        That's funny, I do not like the pizza at Tarantino's, but LOVE the pasta! Luggage Room is good, there, I always get the chop salad. It is delicious! Chilly Mango is one of my favorite Thai restaurants. Everything I have had there is good. Brenda, the sweet waitress who has worked there forever, bought out the owners and now owns it. Same recipes, different name.

                                        1. re: WildSwede

                                          Thanks for the info.

                                          1. re: WildSwede

                                            I did not realize that PresidenTwo had changed names/owners.

                                            I am perpetually in search of good Thai food in Pasadena. PresidenTwo has probably been the best overall choice, but not so good as to keep me from trying others. Then again, PT is the only one I've tried more than once; none of the others has lured me back for seconds. Sounds like next time I get that itch, I should try cooling it with some Chilly Mango.

                                            1. re: Jack Flash

                                              The owner has redecorated the interior walls, and there is an interesting Thai TV station playing that features some menu items. The menu has the same items, but more photos, I think.

                                              1. re: Jack Flash

                                                Jack: I also like TIparos Thai further down on Colorado - east of Sierra Madre. I do not feel it is as "clean" as P2, but the food has been consistently good. And spicy!
                                                Also nine+nine across from Target is okay for Thai. I have been going to and very happy with Hollywood Thai in Arcadia (I know, the name kept me from going for a long time, but I am SO happy I got over that!) on Live Oak, east of Santa Anita (just before Taco Treat). Spicy, delicious. Also, they have a green chile dip thing on their tables that I adore! Reminds me a little of the serrano chile dip that you get at Spicy BBQ in LA.

                                                1. re: WildSwede

                                                  Hollywood Noodle?

                                                  1. re: WildSwede

                                                    WildSwede- Thanks for mentioning Hollywood Thai! I've been trying to find good Thai in the Arcadia area and coming up short...

                                                    1. re: The Oracle

                                                      Yes! Hollywood Noodle. I hope you like it, Oracle.
                                                      http://www.yelp.com/biz/hollywood-noo...

                                                2. re: WildSwede

                                                  That is good to know about the new ownership of the Chilly Mango.

                                                  When it was President2, I did not like their preparations the few times we got takeout from there for our Caltech lunch meetings.

                                                3. re: mc michael

                                                  We tried Chilly Mango last night. We had the Chicken Coconut Soup, Pad Kee Mow - flat noodles with pork, Prik King - green beans with chicken, Chu-Chi - shrimp and squid in red curry, and mango with sticky rice. That is of course too much food for 2 people, but it serves as an additional lunch (today). It allows a wider sampling of their cooking.

                                                  While we liked it, we found most of the dishes too sweet for our personal tastes. The coconut soup was a bit too thick with coconut milk, too sweet, and did not have much heat from chillies. Once we added some prik nam plaa it tasted much better.
                                                  The pad kee mow was also somewhat sweet with not enough wok hey.
                                                  The Prik King was good, but the seafood dish was again a bit too sweet.
                                                  The sticky rice in the dessert was a bit dry.

                                                  Our overall sense is that the cooking does not balance the flavors - specially the sour and the spicy hot components. Still a good option for being within walking distance of work for me.

                                            2. re: Layne Murphy

                                              thank you. well aware of the town the school is in! thank you for all the wonderful suggestions for eagle rock. we also loved cafe beauujolais in eagle rock.

                                              1. re: Layne Murphy

                                                Eagle Rock...

                                                The Oinkster's pastrami is quite yummy (not Langer's yummy but still quite good), and their ube milkshake is really delicious.

                                                1. re: J.L.

                                                  If you've not yet had your two nights out...

                                                  I ALWAYS have a fabulous experience at Red White and Bluezz
                                                  www.redwhitebluezz.com
                                                  Great food, great Jazz nightly. Great buzzing local crowd too.
                                                  S. Raymond and E.Green