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Restaurant for meeting of the families in Old Town Pasadena?

Hi all -

My BF and I are heading back to California from Boston and for a very rare occasion both of our families will be together. We'd love to pick a nice restaurant for us to all get together in - something not super expensive, but not too casual either. Great food and service are a must, while wine/cocktail list is less of a priority. We'd love to go somewhere a little more on the unique side and less on the chain feel side.

Any suggestions?

Thank you in advance!


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    1. re: JAB

      I was thinking that - I went there when I was home last time and liked it. It's on the short list.

      1. re: laurenmurf

        Your comment about looking for something on the "unique" side leads me to think that you should investigate Racion as a venue for your get together. One of the LA board's most prolific contributors (ipsedixit) has recommended it here several times. and the menu and the food photos shows a very unique place to dine from what I see.



        1. re: Servorg

          Warning, there have been down hill alerts since Ipse's recs.

          1. re: JAB

            Thanks both of you for your recommendations. Hoping to get a few more suggestions so if you can think of anything else, definitely let me know!

            1. re: laurenmurf

              Does it have to be in Old Town? I like La Grande Orange nearby for this type of thing - they have a very nice patio, and it's casual but the food is pretty good (Not particularly unique, foodwise, but well-prepared and it doesn't feel chainy to me.)

              A/K/A Bistro might also be a good alternative - it is in Old Pasadena proper. The Portobello mushroom fries are very good.

                1. re: laurenmurf

                  If you're looking for nearby, you might also look into Maximiliano HP in Highland Park.

                2. re: Savour

                  I'll second the La Grande Orange recommend. It's only two blocks from Colorado so I consider it in Oldtown. It's a good atmosphere for a get together and good food. Also, though it's a little farther down Colorado, how about Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana? Very good pizza, nice atmosphere as well. We just did Mother's day there with 7 people and they were very helpful.

      2. How big is your party?

        In Old Town, Cheval Bistro comes to mind. Parkway Grill actually came to mind first, but since you specified Old Town, their sister restaurant would be fitting for your gathering.

        1. Some ideas:

          MIke & Anne's
          Vertical Wine Bistro

          Re Racion: I hesitate to recommend Racion -- not so much b/c some of the recent negative reviews as mentioned by Servorg -- but I don't think the atmo is necessarily conducive to a family get-together, if that's something important to you.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            "...not so much b/c some of the recent negative reviews as mentioned by Servorg..."

            No mention of negative reviews was made by me.

            1. re: Servorg

              sorry, you're right.

              It should be JAB.

          2. In spite of some things about the place that bug me, I think Cheval Bistro is the best place for such a get-together. Both La Grande Orange and Maximiliano tend to be hideously loud, with hard surfaces seeming designed to amplify the clamor. Cheval's food is very good, the service friendly and competent, and the prices are probably the most reasonable of all the Smith Brothers establishments. It's a comfortable dining room, too. Just be warned that the bus guys are trained to snatch away any plate that looks like you MIGHT be done with it, in case you're in the habit of going after sauce remnants with a bit of (excellent) bread.

            1. AKA Bistro is a strong choice...I visited recently with out of town guests and the food and patio dining were quite enjoyable

              1. The dinner is a Friday night and will be for 8 people. Definitely don't want anywhere that will be too loud or cramped (one of my family members has slight mobility issues).

                What are thoughts on Cafe Bizou? My mom said she went and really liked it. I checked out Gales and immediately thought it would be too small

                1. Anyone have any thoughts on Cafe Bizou?

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: laurenmurf

                    Inexpensive moderately good food with very cheap corkage.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        What specifically don't you like about it? Would love to hear your opinion

                        1. re: laurenmurf

                          The food is mediocre, not really French, not really anything, sort of a mutt-ish type of execution.

                          For the same price point I think you can do better, and with certainly more interesting food like the aforementioned suggestions, esp. AKA, Vertical, Shiro, etc.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            "...not really French, not really anything, sort of a mutt-ish type of execution."

                            What used to get loosely labeled "Continental" cuisine.

                        2. re: laurenmurf

                          Cafe Bizou feels really dated if that matters to you and as already noted the food is much better at "AKA, Vertical, Shiro".....

                          1. re: laurenmurf

                            Cafe Bizou was a go-to back when there really weren't very many options around (think 10+ years ago). It's definitely has the space and would satisfy most palates (people used to chain restaurants would think it's fine dining - but people used to fine dining would think 'meh'). It just depends on what you are going for, ultimately. I know a few friends who have picked it for family events (or rehearsal dinners) because it appeases many palates across the board. It doesn't really scream 'great food', IMO... that said, it's been at least 8 years since my last visit (not because I didn't like their food, but more because I never think to go there/there's always somewhere else I'd rather go).

                            1. re: The Oracle

                              It's the "safe" (Middle of the Road) choice...

                              1. re: Servorg


                                My mom-in-law (and I loved her dearly) was a VERY conservative eater. Not too spicy, all american. To her, Cafe Bizou felt very french, she loved it (she felt SO adventurous!) and the lobster pasta.

                                So for old fashioned eaters, it is a great resource.

                                I have cousins who love it for the fish choices and cheap corkage.

                                Is it wildly inventive? No. Is it handy for many palates? (as The Oracle observed) Yes.

                          2. UPDATE: Hi all -

                            Thank you SO much for your input. After going over a lot of these suggestions, none felt quite right because they didn't really have any meaning to me personally. After talking with my own family, we decided we really wanted to show my boyfriend's family where we lived and where I grew up - which is actually Sierra Madre, not Pasadena. We've decided to go to Wistaria in Sierra Madre as it's only a few blocks from where my parents live, where I grew up, etc. Thank you all again so much for your help - and should I ever need a restaurant in Old Town I'll be sure to reference this thread again :)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: laurenmurf

                              Glad you figured out a spot to dine! A long time friend and resident of Sierra Madre has been hounding me to try Zugo's. Apparently, it's his favorite place in town (if you need a back-up spot!).

                              I've only had brunch and lunch at Wisteria and enjoyed my meals each time. It's more on the casual bistro side of things - dark/espresso stained tables/chairs, bar on one side of the restaurant (where you walk in) but definitely casual (nothing like the upscale vibe at Vertical (for comparison)).

                              Hope it's a great trip and meeting of the families (exciting!).

                              1. re: laurenmurf

                                Wisteria is very mediocre, however, it seems there is sentimental value. Pass on dessert there and cross the street to Mother Moo's for Karen's excellent ice cream. Some of the best in the Southland.

                              2. I might be responding too late but here are some thoughts. First, consider yourself lucky you didn't book Gale's. They have good food but the service is horrible. It used to be good but not anymore. Cheval is good but my tops for an event like yours would be Smitty's on Lake. We go there often. The food is consistently good (nothing bad on the menu and I think we've tried it all!) and the service is excellent. The Raymond is also excellent. I saw where you mentioned Wisteria in SM. Also a great place but very casual.