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Mar 19, 2013 06:27 AM

In Pasadena with a Car

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. 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

      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

        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

          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

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

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Thought you might enjoy this given your expertise:

              Taiwanese recs? Shave ice? Bubble Tea and style?

              1. re: taiga

                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?)

            2. re: taiga

              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

              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

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

                1. re: taiga

                  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.


                  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

                    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

              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. 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


                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

                  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

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

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      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

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

                        1. re: linus

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

                          1. re: PattyC

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

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              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

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

                2. 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

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

                    1. re: Ernie

                      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. 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

                      Mike & Anne's for breakfast

                      Umami for lunch

                      Intelligentsia for coffee (already mentioned above)

                      Azeen's for dinner

                      1. re: zack

                        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

                          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

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

                          1. re: JAB

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

                            1. re: ipsedixit

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

                              1. re: JAB

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

                                Esp. if one were to order a whole pie.

                          2. re: Rapini

                            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

                              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

                                Love Tonny's.

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

                                1. re: Rapini

                                  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

                                    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

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

                                      1. re: set0312

                                        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

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

                                          1. re: revets2

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

                                            That said, it's awesome.

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

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: flowergirl

                                        Totally disagree.

                                        Well, ok, not totally.

                                        Julienne is a pleasant place to sit.