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In Pasadena with a Car

taiga Mar 19, 2013 06:27 AM

Coming from Miami in early June and used to tasty, simple, but stylish and funky. Extra props for inexpensive as I melt amid pretense. Ethnic all good. Coffee character also requested. Antiseptic not necessary.

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  1. ipsedixit RE: taiga Mar 19, 2013 08:12 AM

    Racion - small plates Spanish tapas

    Settebello - pizza

    Mother Moo - ice cream

    Bulgarini - gelato

    Shaanxi Gourmet - hand pulled, hand patted or hand pulled noodles

    Beijing Pie House - Chinese northern style meat pies

    Din Tai Fung - xiao long bao

    Dean Sin World - dumplings

    Intelligentsia Coffee

    Sea Harbour - dim sum or seafood dinner

    Mei Long Village - Shanghai food, get the pork pump (call 24 hours ahead)

    Cloverleaf - coffee

    Nha Trang - Vietnamese bun

    Banh Mi My Tho - banh mi

    Sushi Kimagure - omakase

    Enjoy your visit.

    13 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit
      taiga RE: ipsedixit Mar 19, 2013 11:17 AM

      Perfect. I've been reading a lot of your Pasadena ideas. If you wouldn't mind, can you break it down further? Which of these places are on your A list. Which are aesthetic, stylish, coolest, funkiest, freshest, indoor, outdoor, etc. I only have a few days.

      1. re: taiga
        ipsedixit RE: taiga Mar 19, 2013 11:57 AM

        In Pasadena proper, I would definitely hit up Racion, Kimagure and Settebello.

        There aren't really any hip or restaurants with a cool vibe like you would find in South Beach, but Vertical Wine Bistro and Dog Haus and Noir are worthy checking out as they are sort of in that vein. Sort of. But the food isn't all that spectacular.

        Since you have a car, I would head down south to the San Gabriel Valley (or what we here colloquially call "SGV"). It is by all accounts the mecca of Chinese food in the United States. That's no understatement, merely one of fact.

        If you are at all a frozen dessert fan, you should check out Bulgarini for gelato or Mother Moo for ice cream. Good stuff. Not familiar with Miami's ice cream scene so can't compare for you.

        Just north-northwest of Pasadena is Echo Park and Highland Park, which have some cool offerings. The Hermosillo is good for drinks and people watching and The York has a nice vibe to it (sometimes).

        In SGV, given that you only have a few days and will be dining solo (right?), I would try and hit up Sea Harbour for dim sum during the day (10 am. to 1 p.m. on a weekday), try some Xiao Long Bao at either Din Tai Fung or Dean Sin World (you should also try the dumplings at Dean Sin World as well).

        Another meal in the SGV you should consider is Beijing Pie House for meat pies, it's really something that you find outside of major metro areas that do not have a large Chinese/northern population. Same could be said for Shaanxi Gourmet.

        Pasadena, despite all of its character and "old" money, really isn't a culinary destination to speak of. It's fine, but it's not going to "wow" you. You could spend weeks, if not months, exploring SGV and go through about 10 bottles of Zocor, and still not be satiated.

        1. re: ipsedixit
          taiga RE: ipsedixit Mar 19, 2013 06:03 PM

          You are all over it. I'm coming with my wife and we lived for years in Asia, so these obscure Chinese ideas sound wonderful. Miami's ice cream scene is virtually nonexistent, so that sounds good. One of my good friends lives in Highland Park so good to go there as well. Last, the South Beach places are not our best. Miami, compared to LA, is small, with the Latin joints cornering most of the unique category. I've got Crestor instead of Zocor. I can't find Shaanxi Gourmet on Google maps.

          1. re: taiga
            ipsedixit RE: taiga Mar 19, 2013 07:07 PM

            Shaanxi Gourmet
            8518 Valley Blvd
            Rosemead, CA 91770
            (626) 288-9886

            1. re: ipsedixit
              taiga RE: ipsedixit Apr 29, 2013 05:34 PM

              Thought you might enjoy this given your expertise: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/29/us/...

              Taiwanese recs? Shave ice? Bubble Tea and style?

              1. re: taiga
                ipsedixit RE: taiga Apr 29, 2013 06:53 PM

                What are you looking for?

                Shave Ice - Old Country Cafe or PaPa Walk
                Shaved Snow - Class 302
                (*Snow and Ice are different)

                Taiwanese foods range far and wide, but a good start would be Four Seas (breakfast), Huge Tree (breakfast), SinBaLa, Old Country Cafe, Why Thirsty, Taipei Bistro and MonJa TaiKe (with the last 3 being "nouveau" Taiwanese street food).

                For boba, try Tastea.

                For stinky tofu, I sitll like Lee's Garden. Can't get the real stuff in the U.S. (and if you could, and if I knew where, do you really think I would post it on a public forum?)

                1. re: ipsedixit
                  taiga RE: ipsedixit Apr 30, 2013 02:21 PM

                  You are a national treasure.

            2. re: taiga
              happybaker RE: taiga Mar 24, 2013 09:26 AM

              If you have a friend in Highland Park then you are right by the latest location for Scoops ice cream. It's easy to miss (not huge signage) but so good, flavorful and light, it's worth looking for.


            3. re: ipsedixit
              taiga RE: ipsedixit Mar 23, 2013 03:19 PM

              Last request. Are any places near Old Town capable of handling a massive crowd of 75 or so around Happy Hour on a June Saturday?

              1. re: taiga
                mc michael RE: taiga Mar 23, 2013 06:02 PM

                Maybe AKA Bistro but you'd have to reserve in advance.

                1. re: taiga
                  ipsedixit RE: taiga Mar 23, 2013 07:05 PM

                  Happy hour? On a Saturday? 75 people?

                  That's going to be kind of tough and sort of limit your options.

                  Two places that I know that have HH on Saturdays and can accommodate a large crowd are Magnolia on Lake and Bodega Wine Bar.

                  Magnolia: http://www.magnoliaonlake.com/
                  Bodega: http://www.bodegawinebar.com/

                  Probably best to call either place in advance to make arrangements so that they can at least pardon off part or all of the room for you.

                  1. re: ipsedixit
                    mc michael RE: ipsedixit Mar 23, 2013 11:16 PM

                    Yes, I can't see any place you want to go cordoning off that kind of space on a Saturday night. I guess maybe you could get the back area at Mijares. Maybe. But you need to drink a lot. And reserve.

            4. re: ipsedixit
              revets2 RE: ipsedixit Mar 19, 2013 10:13 PM

              Great list, ipse. We also like the pizza at Luggage Room...especially on Mondays and Tuesdays (pizza specials). Al fresco is preferred in good weather. Grab a beer at Stone Brewery first. Good vibe.

            5. p
              PattyC RE: taiga Mar 20, 2013 10:54 AM

              To add to ipsedixit's excellent list, I also like Vol 94 if you'd like to stay within Pasadena. Vertical is worth going to for the LQ pop-ups if there is one while you're here and is probably about as cool/hip as Pasadena gets.

              9 Replies
              1. re: PattyC
                ipsedixit RE: PattyC Mar 20, 2013 10:59 AM


                Have you been to Vol94 recently?

                I really thought the place had promise when it first opened a little over a year agoi, but my recent visit there (about a month ago or so) was just god awful. Pains me to even type about it.

                1. re: ipsedixit
                  PattyC RE: ipsedixit Mar 20, 2013 11:09 AM

                  No, I haven't been in a few months. That's a real bummer to hear. Pasadena needs more places like that. What happened?

                  1. re: PattyC
                    ipsedixit RE: PattyC Mar 20, 2013 11:11 AM

                    Dunno. That's why I asked. Maybe it was just an off-night.

                    1. re: ipsedixit
                      linus RE: ipsedixit Mar 20, 2013 05:25 PM

                      ipse, if you please, when's the last time you have been to racion? would you say they've stayed the same or improved as time has gone by?

                      1. re: linus
                        ipsedixit RE: linus Mar 20, 2013 07:16 PM

                        Right after Xmas. At that time, I thought they were as good as when they opened a year ago.

                        1. re: linus
                          PattyC RE: linus Mar 20, 2013 07:29 PM

                          I was there a couple of weeks ago and think Racion has been consistently good over the past year.

                          1. re: PattyC
                            ipsedixit RE: PattyC Mar 20, 2013 07:32 PM

                            One of the true gems of Pasadena, if not all of LA. Probably the latter me thinks.

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              taiga RE: ipsedixit Jun 12, 2013 05:43 PM

                              Thanks for your recs. We ate at Yoma Myanmar in Monterey Park and Dean Sin World -- both were great. Also went to Racion and loved it. Finally, ate breakfast twice at Europane and loved it deeply.

                              1. re: taiga
                                ipsedixit RE: taiga Jun 12, 2013 07:07 PM

                                Great. Glad everything worked out for you. And appreciate the report back.

                2. Local RE: taiga Mar 20, 2013 09:10 PM

                  I'd also add Carmela (ice cream) to ipse's list - great lemon sorbet, love the salted caramel ice cream, and if you like unusual flavors the Guinness fits the bill.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Local
                    Ernie RE: Local Jun 12, 2013 05:45 PM

                    Yes, Carmela is fantastic. Excellent artisanal ice creams with top-notch ingredients

                    1. re: Ernie
                      stravaigint RE: Ernie Feb 21, 2014 07:11 AM

                      Get the mint at Carmela. They steep mint leaves to make it, and it actually tastes of real, fresh mint, not the radioactive green "stuff" you get elsewhere. Here's a pic from a recent visit, chocolate in front, mint at the back.

                  2. r
                    Rapini RE: taiga Feb 19, 2014 09:38 AM

                    I'm reviving this thread to see if SoCal 'hounds have any updates, or new suggestions. We'll be in Pasadena at the end of the month, and will need at least one dinner suggestion, and a couple of lunches and/or breakfasts. [Also interested in a good coffee/espresso bar].

                    From this post, and Yelp, it seems that Racion is still a good recommendation. We plan to go to Zelo, because of past connections with the founder, and our young niece will probably like it.

                    Any suggestions you can offer will be appreciated.

                    22 Replies
                    1. re: Rapini
                      zack RE: Rapini Feb 19, 2014 09:54 AM

                      Mike & Anne's for breakfast

                      Umami for lunch

                      Intelligentsia for coffee (already mentioned above)

                      Azeen's for dinner

                      1. re: zack
                        ipsedixit RE: zack Feb 19, 2014 10:49 AM

                        Instead of Mike & Anne's one should instead go to Fiore Market Cafe.

                        It's like about 1 gillion times better, give or take a billion here or there.

                        Fiore doesn't have breakfast, but I would just hold out until lunch, so that I would have the appetite for both a roast beef sandwich, as well as one of their homemade poptarts.

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          trolley RE: ipsedixit Feb 20, 2014 07:58 AM

                          I don't know if they've improved but Mike and Anne's has terrible service. The food doesn't make up for the wait time. Fiore is much better and if you truly need breakfast, there's Heirloom Bakery down the street or LaMonarca Bakery which I highly suggest. Neither are sit down wait service types of places but have good pastries.

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            Savour RE: ipsedixit Feb 20, 2014 09:15 AM

                            Fiore's is so wonderful. But not open on Sundays, NB.

                        2. re: Rapini
                          JAB RE: Rapini Feb 19, 2014 10:28 AM

                          Pizza at Settebello.

                          1. re: JAB
                            ipsedixit RE: JAB Feb 19, 2014 10:49 AM

                            Yes, Settebello definitely. But not to the exclusion of Zelo.

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              JAB RE: ipsedixit Feb 19, 2014 10:50 AM

                              Yes, so different that there should be room for both.

                              1. re: JAB
                                ipsedixit RE: JAB Feb 19, 2014 10:56 AM

                                Zelo isn't so much pizza, as it is a challenge.

                                Esp. if one were to order a whole pie.

                          2. re: Rapini
                            ipsedixit RE: Rapini Feb 19, 2014 10:50 AM

                            In addition to the suggestions up above, if the weather continues to hover around the mid-70s (or even if it doesn't) you should get yourself to Bulgarini's Gelato.

                            For breakfast, you could do a lot worse than Tonny's.

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              stravaigint RE: ipsedixit Feb 21, 2014 07:07 AM

                              Leo has pistachios in (or he did two weeks ago). That alone is worth the drive. Here's a pic of it hiding behind some goat's milk.

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                happybaker RE: ipsedixit Feb 21, 2014 07:38 PM

                                Love Tonny's.

                                Sweet folks, great down to earth food - you leave with your tummy and heart full.

                                1. re: happybaker
                                  ipsedixit RE: happybaker Feb 21, 2014 08:03 PM

                                  And your arteries too.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    happybaker RE: ipsedixit Feb 21, 2014 08:20 PM

                                    Well sure. It's a given!

                                  2. re: happybaker
                                    mc michael RE: happybaker Feb 22, 2014 06:08 AM

                                    And it's not antiseptic.

                                    1. re: mc michael
                                      happybaker RE: mc michael Feb 22, 2014 09:41 AM

                                      Builds up your immune system ; )

                                2. re: Rapini
                                  indigirl RE: Rapini Feb 19, 2014 04:11 PM

                                  I wasn't crazy about Racion. It wasn't bad, but when paying those prices I want something better than "not bad".

                                  Agree with Fiore Market! Yum :)

                                  1. re: Rapini
                                    revets2 RE: Rapini Feb 19, 2014 11:43 PM

                                    Lots of new coffee options in Pasadena. Two newish multi-roaster concepts, La Copa Vida and Home Brewed Bar with LCV having good food at breakfast/lunch.

                                    If out towards Zelo, Taza Coffee in Arcadia on Huntington. Also a good multi-roaster concept, but with Sugarbloom Pastries by former French Laundry, Bouchon, & Per Se pastry chef, Sharon Wang only on the weekends (but . Think Spam Musubi Croissant, Pretzel Croissant, Maple Bacon Scones, Brown Butter Madeleines with Dried Raspberry, or my fave, Kumquat Creamsicle Danish. Candied kumquats with cream cheese ganache and almond cream. And if it's not on the weekend, there's a pretty darn good waffle at Taza every day.

                                    Europane is another good choice for breakfast or lunch. Not so much for the coffee.

                                    The grilled ham and cheese at the Cheese Store of Pasadena is amazing. Cheese and sandwiches only.

                                    If you're into sushi, Sushi Kimagure is one of the best restaurants Pasadena has to offer.

                                    For something special and for the sophisticated eater, there is the LQ Foodings pop-up which is sold out on 2/23 and 2/24, but there is a waitlist.

                                    Claud & Co.'s Eatery on Allen is doing a Mediterranean theme this month.

                                    Have a great time.

                                    1. re: Rapini
                                      set0312 RE: Rapini Feb 20, 2014 12:09 AM

                                      Amble into Highland Park at night (you'll be against the traffic) and go to El Huarache Azteca. Shamefully good huaraches.

                                      1. re: set0312
                                        Savour RE: set0312 Feb 20, 2014 09:17 AM

                                        El Huarache Azteca is great for lunch, too.

                                        Highland Park has some really fun options - we had good cocktails and food (though less than great service) at Sonny's Hideaway, and love the coffee at Cafe De Leche (Stumptown). Scoops is great ice cream - totally different beast than Bulgarini.

                                        1. re: Savour
                                          revets2 RE: Savour Feb 21, 2014 12:32 AM

                                          Great tips! Thanks. Didn't know Scoops opened in Highland Park.

                                          1. re: revets2
                                            happybaker RE: revets2 Feb 21, 2014 04:19 PM

                                            But Scoops is not open on Sunday - the day I tend to crave ice cream! : (

                                            That said, it's awesome.

                                            1. re: happybaker
                                              revets2 RE: happybaker Feb 21, 2014 10:56 PM

                                              Good to know. Thanks!

                                    2. f
                                      flowergirl RE: taiga Feb 21, 2014 04:15 PM

                                      Lunch at Julienne in adjacent San Marino. Definitely not funky but very pleasant and everything is delicious.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: flowergirl
                                        ipsedixit RE: flowergirl Feb 21, 2014 06:36 PM

                                        Totally disagree.

                                        Well, ok, not totally.

                                        Julienne is a pleasant place to sit.

                                      2. r
                                        Rapini RE: taiga Mar 2, 2014 10:07 PM

                                        I want to thank all the 'hounds that responded to my inquiry. Here's some of what we tasted.

                                        We found Racion to be a nice space with good service. However, as Indigirl suggested, not quite up to our hopes. Of the two or three tapas and shared entree, only one of the dishes really stood out. Some of the presentations were a tad precious.

                                        Got my caffeine on at Intelligentsia and Copa Vida--both very good.

                                        Had the cornmeal crust pizza a Zelo in Arcadia, and loved it. The owner learned his craft at Vicolo Pizza in San Francisco, where this style originated. Vicolo closed several years ago, so that the only places I know of to get pizza like this are Zelo, and a place in Portland OR--run by former Zelo employee #1.

                                        Lunch today was at Settebello. Good arugula salad, acceptable pizza--a bit soggy at the center, not much char at the crust or elsewhere.

                                        Thanks again...next time we go to Pasadena, we're going to wait for the rains to die down.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Rapini
                                          revets2 RE: Rapini Mar 2, 2014 10:50 PM

                                          Thanks for the trip report, Rapini. Sorry we had the most rain we've had in years all at once.

                                          Wow, you had a lot o' pizza!

                                          For the record, Settebello is done to Neapolitan style and standards. The next time, Luggage room may have a more rustic crust with adequate char if that's what you're looking for.

                                          Again, thanks for the report!

                                          1. re: revets2
                                            Rapini RE: revets2 Mar 3, 2014 09:51 AM

                                            The amount of pizza correlates closely with the presence of our 12 yr old niece.

                                            1. re: revets2
                                              trolley RE: revets2 Mar 3, 2014 01:07 PM

                                              I was "schooled" by someone on CH about the soggy center when I complained about about a soggy pizza I had in Boulder, CO. I had no idea that was the traditional Neapolitan style hence, the small size and served uncut. I prefer Luggage Room style pizza over soggy authentic but it's not "wrong" to serve pizza soggy.

                                              1. re: trolley
                                                revets2 RE: trolley Mar 3, 2014 10:46 PM

                                                Yes, thanks for clarifying my post, trolley.

                                                Neapolitan-style is stylistically soggy in the middle.

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