Food of the Gods

Greater Pasadena restaurants provide the best cuisine of all possible worlds 

By Sara Cardine 10/10/2012

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No sooner does the sun move out from under the shadow of the moon than you experience of intense flash of neon white light. For a moment, it’s as if you are blinded, but slowly you begin to make out the figure of the Mayan shaman in front of you. In his outstretched hand is something you recognize instantly — a golden corn stalk, tall and glowing, as if by its own inner light. Maize was more than a food staple to the ancient Mayans. It sustained the culture for many months, and its cultivation and harvest were overseen by a great Maize God.  
 
It was to this deity that the Maya made ritual tamales, called noj waaj in the native language, which were filled with chilis and beans or meats on special occasions. This food of the gods is still an integral part of modern celebrations by cultures along the Yucatan, and its enticing qualities are thought to charm the spirits that make vital rain. 
 
By contrast, in Pasadena, there is no one food that could ever adequately represent the many diverse dining options available to citizens. In August, an estimated 1,000 eating establishments within the city limits were inspected by local health officials, and many more exist to tempt palates in the surrounding communities of Arcadia, Sierra Madre, Glendale, Eagle Rock and Altadena. 
 
Whatever food you cherish, you are likely to find it here, being prepared by talented chefs from myriad cultures and upbringings. From barbeque to Vietnamese, and from tea and coffee to Sunday brunch, there must be a million flavor combinations exquisite enough to make your mouth water with anticipation.

…The last thing you remember as your consciousness returns is the face of the Mayan shaman — you recall his wisdom and understand that time has no beginning and no end, but rather moves through seasons and cycles. The waking world returns, bringing with it sounds of Pasadena life bustling outside. You smile, comforted by what you’ve seen and ready to face another day in the place you know as home.
 
 
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BEST RESTAURANT

Parkway Grill 

510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 795-1001 | www.theparkwaygrill.com

Parkway Grill has been influencing the direction of the city’s fine-dining scene since 1984, mixing classic French techniques with the seasonal wonders of Southern California. The Smith Brothers were all about local before it became fashionable, maintaining their own vegetable and herb garden. The restaurant also makes its own bread. But best of all, they’ve been able to take American classics and make them upscale, sometimes by way of an Asian fusion, like their tiger shrimp corndogs and ginger-fried catfish. Yes, there’s something for just about everyone: fish, steak, duck, pasta and pizza. Just save room for dessert — chocolate lava cake, cannoli, artisan chocolates and s’mores (with raspberry sauce and crème anglaise).

 

Reader Recommended

Houston’s 

320 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 577-6001

www.hillstone.com/#/restaurants/houstons

 

redwhite+bluezz 

70 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 792-4441 | www.redwhitebluezz.com

 

Scarlet Tea Room

18 W. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 577-0051 | www.scarlettearoom.com

 

Smitty’s Grill 

110 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 792-9999 | www.smittysgrill.com

 

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

Abricott

238 S. Lake Ave. Pasadena

(626) 796-1613 | www.abricott.com

Lake Avenue has become much livelier since Abricott opened with its eclectic menu of California cuisine with a French-Vietnamese taste. You can have pho noodle soup (stewed beef brisket) or yellow curry with chicken. You can also have a spicy Korean-style pork belly with a kimchi sandwich. Try a French classic, such as croque-monsieur and croque-madame, or salad Nicoise. For beef lovers, there’s a sesame marinated flank steak salad with avocado, and for vegetarians there’s tofu delight, a smooth tofu with micro greens.

 

Reader Recommended

Big Daddy’s Fire Grill 

2122 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 796-1266 | www.bigdaddysfiregrill.com

 

Real Food Daily 

899 E. Del Mar Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-8900 | www.realfood.com

 

Trattoria Neapolis

336 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 792-3000 | www.trattorianeapolis.com

 

 

BEST BUSINESS LUNCH

Smitty’s Grill 

110 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 792-9999 | www.smittysgrill.com

Visit Smitty’s Grill for that warm, friendly vibe and, as always with the Smith Brothers, really good food. Smitty’s is great for business get-togethers, maybe because its foundation is comfort food, like homemade chicken pot pie, pot roast with root veggies and Smitty’s famous meatloaf. There are also some gourmet offerings, such as Carolina-style pulled pork sandwiches, Panini press sandwiches and sautéed shiitake and domestic mushrooms. Leave some room for desserts like crème brulee, apple walnut bread pudding, hot fudge sundaes and Fosselman’s ice cream.

 

Reader Recommended

Green Street RESTAURANT

146 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena

(626) 577-7170 | www.greenstreetrestaurant.com

 

Houston’s 

320 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 577-6001

www.hillstone.com/#/restaurants/houstons

 

BEST CHEAP EATS

Dog Haus

105 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena

(626) 577-4287 | www.Doghausdogs.com

93 E. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 683-0808

410 E. Main St., Alhambra

(626) 282-4287 (HAUS)

Calm your growling stomach, or those of your little ones, with delicious and inexpensive hot dogs at Dog Haus. Here, there’s a definite German influence, only by way of Hawaii. You get your dogs not on an ordinary bun; they come on King’s Hawaiian bread. Like your greens? Try the Sooo Cali, mixed greens with diced tomatoes, tempura-fried onions, basil aioli and avocado. Then there’s the Little Leaguer with chili con carne, diced onions and shredded cheddar. For breakfast, try the Grand Slam: smoked bacon, egg and tater tots. Sausage lovers will want to try a quarter-pound of bratwurst, Italian chicken, tri-pepper kielbasa or spicy Italian, with two toppings on a French roll.

 

Reader Recommended

Bobby’s Burgers

680 E. Walnut St., Pasadena

(626) 844-3510 | www.bobbys-place.com/

 

Lucky Boy 

640 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 793-0120 | www.luckyboyburgers.com

 

BEST OUTDOOR DINING

La Grande Orange

260 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 356-4444 | www.lagrandeorangecafe.com

What better way to celebrate our sunny way of life in SoCal than by eating outdoors in the spring, summer, fall and winter? Do it with style at La Grande Orange, housed at the Del Mar Gold Line Station. If you’re up early, enjoy the soft morning light by eating brunch here. Try their lemon ricotta hotcakes (with blueberry compote), the prime rib and short rib hash or the smoked salmon Benedict. For lunch there are burgers and tacos, and dinner offerings include Moroccan roasted half chicken and prime rib. La Grande Orange also has special promotions, such as reduced pricing on a second entrée on Monday and Tuesday nights, Saturday brunch with bottomless mimosas, half-off wine Wednesdays and happy hours Mondays through Fridays.

 

Reader Recommended

Cafe Santorini 

64 W. Union St., Pasadena

(626) 564-4200 | www.cafesantorini.com

 

Mike & Anne’s 

1040 Mission St., South Pasadena

(626) 799-7199 | www.mikeandannes.com

 

BEST RESTAURANT STAFF

Scarlet Tea Room and Fine Dining

18 W. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 577-0051 | scarlettearoom.com

The Scarlet Tea Room is a cozy place to dine with a boutique feel. Here, it’s all about relaxation, conversation, lovely little eats are participating in the ceremonies of tea drinking. Enjoy the ambiance, fragrances and tastes, as well as being pampered in a friendly but not overly intrusive way. Slow down from the fast-paced life of the modern world with black tea, flavored black tea, oolong, green tea, white tea and naturally caffeine-free infusions. Scarlet Tea Room offers lunch and dinner, so if you’re looking for a little luxury any time of the day, stop by for a cup or two.

 

Reader Recommended

Bonnie B’s Smokin BBQ

1280 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 794-0132 | www.bonniebssmokin.com

 

Smitty’s Grill 

110 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 792-9999 | www.smittysgrill.com

 

BEST SPECIAL OCCASION DINING

Parkway Grill 

510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 795-1001 | www.theparkwaygrill.com 

If you’re looking to splurge a little, try a Maple Leaf Farms duck breast (with a dark cherry reduction) or bee pollen-dusted Alaskan halibut. Or keep it simple yet delicious with Parkway’s Kobe burger (with Maytag bleu cheese, tomato aioli and sweet potato fries). For salad lovers, there’s Parkway’s Caesar with brioche croutons, white anchovies and shaved reggiano. For a truly decadent meal, go for dessert only with chocolate bread pudding with espresso ice cream or the crème brûlée Napoleon.

 

Reader Recommended

Arroyo Chop House

536 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 577-7463 | www.arroyochophouse.com

 

Langham Huntington Hotel

1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena

(626) 568-3900

www.pasadena.langhamhotels.com/restaurants/sunday_brunch_theterrace.htm

 

Melting Pot

88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 792-1941 | www.meltingpot.com

 

BEST FAMILY RESTAURANT

Twohey’s

1224 N. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra

(626) 284-7387 | www.twoheys.com

Twohey’s is perhaps best known for family friendly service and good hearty food that won’t set you back two weeks’ pay. For adults, there’s pasta, hamburgers, roasted turkey and meatloaf. For kids, there are fun foods like pigs in a blanket and banana wraps (sliced bananas rolled in pancakes). There’s even a baby back rib kid’s rack. For the kid in all of us, there’s the soda pop locker with flavors like “Bubble Up,” sarsparilla, orange n’ cream, key lime and peach soda. There are also famous soda fountain treats, like “Bucket of Mud,” a combo of crushed Oreos, chocolate ice cream and fudge with whipped cream and Gummy worms.

 

Reader Recommended

Kabuki 

Old Pasadena

88 W. Colorado Blvd., #103, Pasadena

(626) 568-9310 | www.kabukirestaurants.com

Hastings Center

3539 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 351-8963

 

Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza

311 S. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 405-9877 | www.mammasbrickoven.com

 

BEST LATE-NIGHT SNACK

King Taco 

45 N. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 792-0405 | www.kingtaco.com

After pulling an all-nighter for school or work or seeing a late-night movie, you might get an attack of the dreaded munchies. At times like these, Pasadenans head to King Taco for authentic Mexican food like sopes, nachos, quesadillas, rotisserie chicken and freshly made tamales (chicken, pork, sweet or cheese with jalapeño). If you’re really hungry, try a burrito — meat (carne asada, al pastor, carnitas, cabeza, lengua, chicken, buche, molleja or suadera) with pinto beans and rice, fresh cilantro and onion wrapped in a flour tortilla. Wash it all down with refreshing agua frescas or atole.

 

Reader Recommended

La Estrella

502 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 792-8559 | www.la-estrellarestaurant.com

 

Lucky Boy

640 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 793-0120 | www.luckyboyburgers.com

 

BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH

The Terrace

Langham Huntington Hotel

1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena

(626) 568-3900| pasadena.langhamhotels.com/restaurants/sunday_brunch_theterrace.htm

During Sunday brunch from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Terrace restaurant at the Langham Huntington Hotel, fresh flowers and a pianist soothe the senses as you choose from the omelet station, cereals and pastries, breakfast meats and smoked fish and cheese. Or order from the menu: pumpkin pancakes, a devil’s food waffle with mocha whipped cream, beef short rib hash, breakfast tacos (scrambled eggs and cheese in corn tortillas), flat bread pizza, chicken and waffle sandwich, or have a salad (California Cobb or Caesar). Expect to stay a while to savor the experience.

 

Reader Recommended

Green Street Restaurant

146 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena

(626) 577-7170 | www.greenstreetrestaurant.com

 

La Grande Orange

260 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 356-4444 | www.lagrandeorangecafe.com

 

Mijares Mexican Restaurant

145 Palmetto Drive, Pasadena

(626) 794-6674 | www.mijaresrestaurant.com

 

BEST ARMENIAN FOOD

Zankou Chicken

1296 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 405-1502 | www.zankouchicken.com

Zankou Chicken started in Beirut in 1962, 22 years before finally opening a location in Hollywood. In 1992, new locations started opening, among them outlets in Glendale and Pasadena, and locals have been enjoying great chicken with no preservatives or artificial flavors ever since. Try the garlic-blessed rotisserie roasted chicken served with garlic butter and purple pickles.

 

BEST BAKERY

Euro Pane 

345 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-8804

Look at all the macarons in so many lovely pastel colors. Try the salt caramel, raspberry, hazelnut or pistachio. Then there are the lemon bars and other pastries. Not only is she a master of these taste treats, owner Sumi Chang also knows just how to match bread to sandwich fillings. The ever-so-humble open-face egg salad sandwich is absolutely divine. They also have oven-roasted turkey and roast beef sandwiches. But it’s their egg salad that brings people back for more. For vegetarians, there’s the roasted red bell pepper, roasted spinach, zucchini basil pesto sandwich with mixed greens. For this, you get your choice of breads, including multigrain, sourdough, olive, brioche, rosemary currant and cranberry walnut.

 

Reader Recommended

Aux Delices 

16 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 796-1630 | www.auxdelicespasadena.com

 

Porto’s Bakery

315 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale

(818) 956-5996 | www.portosbakery.com/content/portos-glendale

 

BEST BBQ

Robin’s Woodfire BBQ

& Grill

395 N. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 351-8885 | robinsbbq.com

Just the mention of the place makes local mouths water. All the meats are smoked over apple and oak wood for hours — no gas, propane or steaming allowed. If you’re a meat-lover on a budget, Robin’s has you covered with inexpensive dishes featuring baby back ribs, chicken, Louisiana hot links, spare ribs, beef ribs, shrimp, steak and pulled pork. Try their all-you-can-eat-rib-tips days (after 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays). If you’re going low-carb, Robin’s has a special Atkins lunch. Want something light? Order the thermonuclear (or mad dog) BBQ wings, but be prepared to sweat.

 

Reader Recommended

Bonnie B’s Smokin’ BBQ Heaven

1280 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 794-0132 | www.bonniebssmokin.com

 

Gus’s BBQ

808 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena

(626) 799-3251 | www.gussbbq.com

 

BEST BREAKFAST

Twohey’s

1224 N. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra

(626) 284-7387 | www.twoheys.com

Is breakfast your favorite meal? Working a shift that makes your breakfast time everyone else’s dinner time? No matter. Twohey’s serves breakfast all day long. Their griddle works include a malted Belgian waffle, buttermilk pancakes (short or full stack) and French toast. Here, for a little bit extra, have it your way with extra fruit, nuts or chocolate chips. If omelets are eggs-actly what you’re craving, Twohey’s has the classics (Denver) with some regional combos, such as the San Gabriel (sausage, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and American cheese). Besides their three-egg omelets (you can substitute Eggbeaters), the breakfast menu also includes huevos rancheros, a lox and bagel platter, roast beef hash and burritos. 

 

Reader Recommended

Marston’s 

151 E. Walnut St., Pasadena

(626) 796-2459 | www.marstonsrestaurant.com

 

Russell’s 

30 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 578-1404 

 

BEST BUFFET

Souplantation 

201 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 577-4798 | www.souplantation.com

Does every time you go out to eat seem like a re-enactment of the Hatfields and McCoys, only with carnivores arguing with vegans? Bury the hatchet at Souplantation, where there’s something to please everyone — a great place for families of differing meal time desires and big groups of friends to get together for salads, house-made soups, hot pastas, fresh bakery goods and desserts. For a fixed price, get as much as you want. Vegetarian, vegan, low-fat and gluten-free options are always available.

 

Reader Recommended

Margarita Jones 

541 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 744-1828 | www.margaritajones.com

 

Tibet Nepal House

36 E. Holly St., Pasadena

(626) 585-0955 | www.tibetnepalhouseca.com

 

BEST BURGER

Twohey’s

1224 N. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra

(626) 284-7387 |  twoheys.com

Since 1943, Twohey’s has been the place for breakfast, family dining and burgers. In fact, burgers are the very reason for the restaurant’s “Stink-O” logo, which was inspired by a woman who didn’t like the smell of pickles and onions, which is exactly what the famous Stinko-burger — a quarter-pound of Angus beef on a grilled bun with lettuce and tomatoes is all about. Things have changed little over the years. Your burger still comes with French fries or freshly fried hot potato chips, or you may substitute fresh potato fries for an additional charge. Twohey’s also offers a gourmet burger of the day, a Gardenburger and a turkey burger. Need a bit more meat? Try the half-pounder, which can come with smoked bacon and bleu cheese (the Blues burger) or with other toppings. Ask your server for the day’s gourmet burger.

 

Reader Recommended

Big Daddy's Fire Grill

2122 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 796-1266 | www.facebook.com/bigdaddysfiregrill

 

Dog Haus 

105 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena

(626) 577-4287 | www.doghausdogs.com

93 E. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 683-0808

410 E. Main St., Alhambra

(626) 282-4287 (HAUS)

 

 

BEST BURRITO

Burrito Express

1597 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 798-0844 | www.burritoexpresspasadena.com

It’s all in the name: Burrito Express. This place opened its doors in 1978 and has focused on excellence in burritos ever since. Try their breakfast combinations (chorizo, eggs, beans and cheese; chorizo and eggs with cheese) or all meat and cheese (machaca, carnitas, carne asada and chicken) for those who don’t like beans. There’s the JVC (double flour tortilla, meat, rice, beans, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, guacamole and cheese); the Ito Burrito (extra rice, a smaller portion of beans, sour cream, guacamole and cheese); and the Ross Perot (remember him?) Burrito, made of beef, pork and chicken with rice, beans, cheese, sour cream and guacamole. Burrito Express also offers tostadas, tacos and tortas, but, as most people know, its name says it all.

 

Reader Recommended

Chipotle 

3409 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 351-6017 | www.chipotle.com

246 South Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 229-9173

 

Lucky Boy 

640 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 793-0120 | www.luckyboyburgers.com

 

BEST CALIFORNIA

CUISINE

Green Street Restaurant

146 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena

(626) 577-7170 | www.greenstreetrestaurant.com

Green Street Restaurant started out as a small breakfast and lunch café in 1979. Today, the restaurant has grown, its menu has evolved and, best of all, Green Street is still owned by the same family. For breakfast, have eggs Benedict with Black Forest ham or, on weekends, with poached salmon or chicken jalapeño sausage. For lunch, Green Street is famous for its Dianne Salad, but try a Cobb or a Southwest Caesar with chicken or a Portobello mushroom club sandwich. Dinner entrees include a Thai charbroiled chicken breast and a New York steak with Martini butter. Don’t forget to try their famous zucchini bread. You might want to go just for dessert: an old-fashioned chocolate cake, carrot cake or a peach and rosemary galette.

 

Reader Recommended

California Pizza Kitchen

99 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena

(626) 585-9020 | www.cpk.com

 

Parkway Grill 

510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 795-1001 | www.theparkwaygrill.com

 

BEST CARIBBEAN FOOD

Kingston Café

333 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 844-6477 | www.kingstoncafe.com

Enjoy a brief staycation to Jamaica this year by visiting the Kingston Café for lunch or dinner. First opened in 1992, the Kingston Café has quickly become a Pasadena destination with such favorites as braised pork, goat curry (and tofu curry), coconut rum shrimp and salmon. There are also fritters (zucchini, plantain and lobster), each coming with its own sauce, and chicken jerk wings and chicken jerk salad. Cool down with sorrel and mint or ginger peach lemonade, and when a touch of rum would hit the spot, try some rum cake topped with drunken fruit and coconut caramel drizzle.

 

BEST CHINESE FOOD

Panda Inn

3488 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 793-7300 | www.pandainn.com

What tones, timbers and orchestrations are to a maestro, aromas, flavors and presentations are to a chef at Panda Inn. A minced chicken appetizer, with toasted almond strips, cradled in a leaf of iceberg lettuce, is so pretty that it borders on vandalism to pierce its perfection with a fork. Another dish to look at before you ladle is a soup with chicken, shrimp, pork, wontons, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and spinach. Since a 1973 Pasadena opening, Panda Inn keeps creating regional Mandarin- and Szechuan-style dishes that look as good as they taste.

 

Reader Recommended

Fu-Shing Chinese Restaurant

2960 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 792-8898 | www.fushingrestaurant.com

 

Yang Chow Restaurant

3777 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 432-4538 | www.yangchowrestaurant.com

 

BEST CUPCAKES

Dots Cupcakes

400 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 568-3687 | www.dotscupcakes.com

One Colorado, 121 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 744-7719

A new vanilla/honey cake, topped with frosted cream cheese, is called “Oh Honey.” The tasty name suggests why “cupcake” is a term of endearment. For more flattery, a sparkling cabinet is laced with other “sweets for the sweetie.” Made with organic fruit preserves, the sweets include some 100 fresh-baked cakes with delicious names like “French Valrhona Chocolate” and “Red Velvet.” Custom-made icings named for children are the life of parties for kids — until parents beg to share.

 

Reader Recommended

Polkadots Cupcakes

790 N. Lake Ave., #3, Pasadena

(626) 798-3932 | www.polkadotscupcakes.com

 

Violet’s Cakes

21 E. Holly St., Pasadena

(626) 395-9821 | www.violetscakes.com

 

BEST DELI/SANDWICHES

Pasadena Sandwich Co.

259 Sierra Madre Villa Ave., Pasadena

(626) 578-1616 | www.pasadenasandwichcompany.com

Mayo is sometimes held in a deli but everything goes on at this famous sandwich compound. Family-run by three sisters and a brother, Jonathan, the business never slights guests with tea timers, nor does it suffer abrupt withdrawals from cold turkey. Like the great “Russian” pastrami and corned beef, some 20 sandwiches, many four inches tall, provide a long lunch. “Trust the Chef,” loaded with four meats and all the etceteras, can reach the 1-foot mark.

 

Reader Recommended

Porta Via Italian Foods

1 W. California Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 793-9000 | www.portaviafoods.com

 

New York Deli

25 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 578-0010 | www.thenewyorkdeli.com

 

BEST DESSERT

Euro Pane Bakery & Café

345 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-8804 | www.europane.com

950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 577-1828

In her expanded location in the Civic Center, noted baker Sumi Chang serves the sweet tooths of those who work and play nearby — City Hall employees and Paseo Colorado strollers — and those who toss and turn in luxury apartments upstairs, dreaming in Technicolor about the macarons they forgot to buy. Made from almond flour, these multi-flavored macarons come in nine colors from earthy, sea-salted caramel and pale purple blackberry to bright yellow lemon. Among other pastries, Italian coconut takes the cake.

 

Reader Recommended

Dots Cupcakes

400 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 568-3687 | www.dotscupcakes.com

One Colorado, 121 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 744- 7719

 

POP Champagne & Dessert Bar

33 E. Union St., Pasadena

(626) 795-295 | www.popchampagnebar.com

 

BEST FRENCH FOOD

Cheval Blanc

41. S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena

(626) 577-4141 | www.chevalblancbistro.com

Very particular people congregate here — smirking guests who can order in French and common folks, although they probably don’t view themselves as such, learning the language. After fellowship is kindled at a classic, warm-wooded bar, they may go on to order salade nicoise (suh-LAHD nee-SWAHZ), coq au vin (kohk-oh-VAHN) and steak au poivre (oh-PWAHV–rh).

 

Reader Recommended

Bistro De La Gare

921 Meridian Ave., #A, South Pasadena

(626) 799-8828 | www.bistrodelagare.com

 

Café Bizou

91 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 792-9923 | www.cafebizou.com

 

BEST HEALTH FOOD

Tender Greens

621 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 405-1511 | www.tendergreensfood.com

Among 17 salad choices, the Chinese chicken crackles enough to picture a kitchen staff twisting the stems off carrots and washing the earth off feathery mizuna and pea sprouts. And a salutary respect is given to hot items from the grill like herb-brushed albacore. Plates are plumped generously with select white meat, sided with a mound of gravy-less golden mashed potatoes, plus crostini and a salad.

 

Reader Recommended

Lemonade

140 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 304-7000 | www.lemonadela.com

 

Real Food Daily

899 E. Del Mar Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-8900 | www.realfood.com

 

BEST HOT DOG

Dog Haus

105 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena

(626) 577-4287 | www.doghausdogs.com

93 E. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 683-0808

410 E. Main St., Alhambra

(626) 282-4287 (HAUS)

A simple hot dog doesn’t get much publicity. But Dog Haus dogs get raves, as there is a dramatic difference between these and Farmer John’s. Very fussy customers exult in the unexpected tasty union between a bacon-wrapped frank and Hawaiian King bun, with other dogs mostly skinless. But many prefer the encased “snap” dog. Juicy, but firm, it gives off an audible click when bitten into and doesn’t need any help from condiments.

 

Reader Recommended

Slaw Dogs

720 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626)-808-9777 | www.slawdogs.com

 

BEST ICE CREAM/YOGURT/GELATO

Carmela’s Ice Cream

2495 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 797-1405 / www.carmelaicecream.com

Farmer’s market produce and organic dairy products are churned into salubrious and inventive ice cream and sorbet combos that light the lips of all ages with smiles. Various blends smack as fresh as spring’s first red berry. Among fancy-wrought treats, salted caramel vies with brown sugar vanilla bean in popularity. And more than a luscious bit of fudge, chocolate lovers take to dark cacao nib.

 

Reader Recommended

21 Choices

85 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 304-9521 | www.21choices.com

 

Cherry on Top

1299 E. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 440-1299 | www.cherryontop.com

 

 

BEST INDEPENDENT

COFFEE HOUSE

Jones Coffee Roasters

693 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 564-9291 | www.thebestcoffeee.com

Redolent of a burlap bag full of coffee beans fresh off the boat from its farm in Guatemala — or well-chosen worldwide — this warehouse/coffee museum brings the most flavorful beans home to roast. Here you can sit down and enjoy a plain or fancy hot cup, or pick up rich and refined packets or bags to take home. Quality restaurants, via media or menu, advertise boldly that they serve only Jones’ coffee.

 

Reader Recommended

Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters

260 N. Allen Ave., Pasadena

(626) 395-7585 | www.jamesonbrown.com

 

Zona Rosa Caffe

15 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena

(626) 793-2334 | www.zonarosacaffe.com

 

BEST INDIAN FOOD

All India Café

39 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 440-0309 | www.allindiacafe.com

Guests refer to owner/chef Santokh Singh as the “Wizard of Aahs.” They have an Indian notion that choice dishes, made from recipes from all over India, must have arrived on a magic carpet. To claim transference of a subcontinent’s entire cookery is saying a mouthful about a large order. India’s gastronomical regions stretch over mountains, plains, oceans and rivers, not to mention vast cultural differences. Magic carpet? Maybe not. But a velvet rope to restrain the crowds? You bet.

 

Reader Recommended

Akbar Cuisine of India

44 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 577-9916 | www.akbarcuisineofindia.com

 

New Delhi Palace

950 E. Colorado Blvd., Suite 205, Pasadena

(626) 577-9916 | www.newdelhipalace.com

 

BEST ITALIAN FOOD

Domenico’s Italian Kitchen

2411 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 797-6459 | www.originaldomenicos.com

Since reconstructed fusion foods soon may require chefs to wear hard hats, it’s comforting to see floppy toques busy making the kind of Italian dishes we liked as we grew up and make us feel so good today. There’s pizza, like it’s supposed to be made, and traditional cannoli, calzone, spaghetti and antipasto. Over consumption of their famous garlic bread risks putting up a scented barrier between yourself and a companion. Old fashioned? Mama Rosa’s recipes are on the Internet.

 

Reader Recommended

Celestino’s Ristorante

141 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 795-4006 | www.celestinopasadena.com

 

Gale’s Restaurant

452 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 432-6705 | www.galesrestaurant.com

 

BEST JAPANESE/SUSHI

Kabuki Japanese Restaurant

88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 568-9310 | www.kabukirestaurants.com

3589 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 351-8963

A ticket to winning ways is a “daily double” punched by Masa Kurihara, executive corporate chef, and Yuji Matsumoto, the master sake sommelier. Kurihara’s approach to food satisfies both the most discriminating guests and the mainly fun-loving: He’s worked in DC for Japan’s ambassador and cooked filets at Yamashiro restaurant, a Hollywood hilltop celebrity lair. Matsumoto, oft-decorated in Japan for his sake know-how, handles Kabuki’s sake pour. Brought together, chef and sommelier’s expertise combines for a gastronomical treat that neither alone could provide.

 

Reader Recommended

Sushi Roku

33 Miller Alley, Pasadena

(626) 683-3000 | www.sushiroku.com

 

Oba Sushi Izakaya

181 E. Glenarm St., Pasadena

(626) 799-8543 | www.obasushi.com

 

BEST JUICE BAR

Jamba Juice

64. E Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 666-1500 | www.jambajuice.com

204 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 744-5200

3595 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 351-4333

1101 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena

(636) 799-1775

Just thinking about juicing up with fruit refreshers, blended veggies and fruit smoothies makes the mouth water. Delicious vibrations of the fruitful bounty also go to one’s head. The mind is satisfied that each item is loaded with vitamins, minerals and timely hot-weather imperatives. Most exemplary is the “fruit refresher” with coconut water. A source of Vitamin C, containing as much potassium as a banana, it is an excellent choice for rehydrating.

 

Reader Recommended

Whole Foods Market

465 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 204-2266 | www.wholefoods.com

3751 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 351-5994

 

BEST LOCAL BREWERY

Craftsman Brewing Co.

1260 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena

(626) 296-2537 | www.craftsmanbrewing.com

From grist hopper to whirlpool tank to packaging, the brewery provides award-winning kegs to classy pubs, bars and restaurants all over Pasadena and beyond. The process turns out award-winning beers and ales like Heavenly Hefe and Poppyfields Pale, plus an invented assortment of brews that are smoked, spiced, herbed, fruited and experimental. Like a rolling stone gathers no moss, these busy taps run so cold and free they gather no foam.

 

Reader Recommended

Haven Gastropub

42 S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena

(626) 798-9555 | www.havengastropub.com

 

 

BEST LOCAL PIZZA

Mamma’s Brick Oven 

311 S. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 405-9877 | www.mammasbrickoven.com

South Pasadena

710 Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 799-1344

What makes a great pizza is a matter of taste. Pasadenans prefer thin crusts, brick ovens and fresh ingredients. Mamma’s Brick Oven gives us all that plus quality in two convenient locations. You can create your own pizza by choosing from 26 different toppings. Or if you can’t make a choice, you can order one of their winning gourmet pizza selections, such as the spinach Alfredo, the Manhattan meat lovers (pepperoni, meatball, Italian sausage and bacon), or the chicken pesto (marinated chicken breast and mozzarella with pesto sauce). They also have three specialty pizzas including “The Everything Pizza” (pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, olives and fresh mozzarella).

 

Reader Recommended

Avanti 

111 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 577-4688 | www.avanticafe.com

 

Domenico’s 

2411 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 797-6459 | www.originaldomenicos.com

 

BEST MEDITERRANEAN FOOD

Café Santorini

64 W. Union St., Pasadena

(626) 564-4200 | www.cafesantorini.com

You could be sitting at the captain’s table on a luxury liner at sea and not taste Mediterranean food better prepared than what you have here in Pasadena. For sightseers, the mezze appetizer platter is pretty enough to be photographed but begs to be eaten. You’ll have a lamb shank like that served in Morocco’s Betoya Bay and many more dishes that bring the sea to the city.

 

Reader Recommended

Mediterranean Café

273 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena

(626) 793-8844 | www.kokosmediterraneancafe.com

 

Pita Jungle

41 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 432-7482 | www.pitajungle.com

 

BEST MEXICAN FOOD

Mijares Mexican Restaurant

145 Palmetto Drive, Pasadena

(626) 792-2763 | www.mijaresrestaurant.com

After more than 90 years in business, people still adore this landmark restaurant, which has developed a dining-out lifestyle for both old timers and newcomers that is memorable and enduring. While moved by the sure hand of tradition in classic combos, it’s not a stranger to modern preferences for veggies to substitute for beans and rice. Even the bar is pouring lo-cal margaritas. Festivity is the byword here for weddings, birthdays and office parties.

 

Reader Recommended

El Cholo Pasadena

260 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 795-5800 | www.elcholopasadena.com

 

El Portal

695 E. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 795-8553 | www.elportalrestaurant.com

 

BEST MIDDLE EASTERN FOOD

Sahara 

2226 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 795-6900 | www.saharapasadena.com

The closest some of us will ever get to the Sahara Desert is this wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant. At this Sahara, don’t worry about sand getting in your food or the heat of the desert sun. Your only concern here is what to order from a selection of beef, lamb and chicken kebabs, all served with rice pilaf, chopped onions and tomatoes.  For vegetarians, they offer falafels and the vegetarian combos (hummus, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, sarma and pita bread). Let the heavenly aroma of their kitchen guide you to this East Pasadena oasis.

 

Reader Recommended

Lebanese Kitchen 

1384 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 296-9010 

 

Wahib’s Middle East Restaurant

910 E. Main St., Alhambra

(626) 576-1048 | www.wahibmiddleeast.com

BEST SEAFOOD

Cameron’s Seafood Market & Restaurant 

1978 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 793-3474 | www.camerons4fish.com

Cameron’s opened in 1984 cooking fresh catches over mesquite wood grills that burned all day long. Those grills are still blazing away, so while you’re there try a shrimp sampler, Macadamia nut-crusted halibut filets, Maine lobster tail, Chesapeake Bay Oysters Rockefeller or Dungeness crab cakes. There are so many fish dishes that you might find it hard to choose. Fish grilled, fish fried, fish in soup or stew, fish in pasta, fish pan crusted, fish baked … But fear not, meat lovers. You can also order a New York steak or a Kobe beef burger.

 

Reader Recommended

McCormick & Schmick’s 

111 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena

(626) 405-0064 | www.mccormickandschmicks.com

 

Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine

641 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 356-4066 | www.roysrestaurant.com

 

BEST SOUL FOOD

Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles

830 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 791-4890 | www.roscoeschickenandwaffles.com

What could be better than chicken and waffles? Roscoe’s also serves up some soulful chicken with gravy and onions, grits and fluffy hot biscuits. Enjoy other hearty sides, like red beans and rice, mac and cheese, yams and cornbread. Cooks fry up just about every part of the chicken — livers, giblets, legs, wings, breasts, thighs and legs. You can also have some mouth-watering sausage or chicken chili. Be sure to save room for the sweet potato pie.

 

Reader Recommended

Big Mama’s Rib Shack 

1453 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 797-1792| www.bigmamas-ribshack.com

 

Bonnie B’s Smokin’ BBQ 

1280 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 794-0132 | www.bonniebssmokin.com

 

BEST SOUTH AMERICAN FOOD

Malbec 

1001 E. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 683-0550 | www.malbeccuisine.com

You might not be able to get to Buenos Aires, but Malbec is a pretty good stand in for your temporary tango fantasy. For starters, enjoy a spinach and cheese empanada (one of four choices) or a soup of the day. Argentineans consume a great deal of beef and Malbec offers breaded tenderloin steak sandwiches for lunch, as well as a flat iron steak or wood-fired skewer of grilled specialty meats (gran brochette Argentina). You can also order a salad or homemade pasta featuring chicken or seafood. Think Italian food with a Spanish accent.

 

Reader Recommended

1810 Argentinean Restaurant 

121 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 795-5658 | www.1810restaurant.com

 

Choza Mama 

96 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 432-4692 | www.chozamama.com

 

BEST SPANISH FOOD

La Luna Negra 

44 W. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 844-4331| www.lalunanegrarestaurant.com

La Luna Negra literally means “The Black Moon,” but for Pasadenans it means the best of dance and Spanish tapas. Thursdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m. there is a flamenco show, with a live band performing Fridays and Saturdays after 9 p.m. Go ahead and graze on appetizers, but be sure to stay long enough to see the dancing and hear the music. If you’re there for dinner, fish lovers can enjoy grilled prawns in the house spice (Gambas al Ajillo) or jumbo scallops wrapped in bacon and leeks (Galician scallops) or a salmon spinach puff pastry (salmon con espinaca). For meat lovers there’s grilled lamb chops with eggplant, lentil couscous, goat cheeses and rosemary jus (cordero asado) or imported sausages.

 

Reader Recommended

Bar Celona 

46 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 405-1000 | www.barcelonapasadena.com

 

Racion 

119 W. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 396-3090 | www.racionrestaurant.com

 

BEST STEAKHOUSE

Arroyo Chop House 

536 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 577-7463 | arroyochophouse.com

Arroyo Chop House is another of the Smith Brothers’ success stories. According to its Web site, it is the only restaurant in Southern California that serves exclusively USDA prime beef, the highest grade of beef available. For dinner, start off with beef tenderloin before moving onto a filet mignon or a T-bone, New York or Cowboy rib eye. Not into meat? Not to worry. They also have market-fresh seafood and salads for friends and family who lack the craving for beef.

 

Reader Recommended

Houston’s

320 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 577-6001

www.hillstone.com/#/restaurants/houstons/

 

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

369 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 583-8122 | www.ruthschris.com

 

 

BEST TACO

King Taco 

45 N. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 792-0405 | www.kingtaco.com

In Pasadena, King Taco has once again been crowned king of the local taco makers. It began as a food truck in 1974 but are now a chain with locations all over Los Angeles County. Pasadenans love King Taco for a late-night snack, but any time you feel the need for an authentic taco that rises above the Taco Bell menu, this is the place to go. For starters, try warm corn tortillas and your choice of meat (carne asada, al pastor, carnitas, cabeza, lengua, chicken, buche, molleja or suadero), fresh chopped cilantro, onions and their famous salsa.

 

Reader Recommended

La Estrella 

502 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 792-8559 | www.la-estrellarestaurant.com

 

Norma’s Tacos

1265 E. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 795-1224

 

BEST TEA ROOM

Scarlet Tea Room

and Fine Dining

18 W. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 577-0051 | www.scarlettearoom.com

The Scarlet Tea Room offers the usual black teas: Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling, Earl Grey and a few unusual varieties, such as Keemun (a traditional English breakfast tea), Lapsang Souchong, Yunnan, Lil’uokalani and Persian Nectar. Then there’s a wonderful assortment of green teas (Fiji, Jasmine, Gen Mai Cha, Passion) and two white teas (Pai Mu Tan and White Raspberry). If caffeine isn’t your thing, have a pot of infusions, such as Berry Blueberry (rose hips, orange peel, blueberry, hibiscus and berry leaves) or Eve’s Temptation (blood orange, mango and apple) or Once Upon a Tea (chocolate bits, vanilla, mint and a secret ingredient). Scarlet offers homemade scones with lemon curd, preserves and their own Scarlet cream, as well as tea sandwiches and assorted desserts. 

 

Reader Recommended

Chado’s Tea Room

79 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 431-2832 | www.chadotea.com

 

Huntington Library Rose Garden Tea Room

1151 Oxford Road, San Marino

(626) 683-8131 | www.huntington.org

 

BEST THAI FOOD

Saladang

363 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 793-8123

Pasadenans don’t have to brave the streets of Little Bangkok to get their Thai food fix. Conveniently located within walking distance of Old Pasadena, Saladang is like a tropical haven where one can enjoy tom kha gai (coconut soup) and Thai curries, yellow curry fried rice and salads like the papaya pok pok (green papaya, dried shrimp and tomato). The pun klib (steamed chicken and peanut filled dumplings), salad rolls and sate (pork, beef or chicken with peanut sauce) are highly recommended, as are Saladang’s spicy noodles (rice noodles with chicken, egg and veggies) and pad Thai. Saladang’s specialties are barbecue chicken, pork and beef, crab pot and whole deep-fried catfish.

 

Reader Recommended

Daisy Mint 

1218 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 792-2999 | www.daisymint.com

 

President Thai 

498 S. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 578-9814 | www.president-thai.com

 

BEST VEGETARIAN FOOD

Real Food Daily 

899 E. Del Mar Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-8900 | www.realfood.com

Even if you aren’t giving up meat anytime soon, stop by Real Food Daily if for no other reason than to eat your vegetables. The spicy BLT wrap might convince you to give up real bacon … it’s that good. The fettuccini Alfredo is creamy, full and delicious. Of course, the salads are great. Try their fresh juices, such as the Red Head (beet, carrot, celery and apple) or the Sweet Green (cucumber, celery, kale, parsley, spinach and apple). Leave room for dessert — carrot cake, raw strawberry cheesecake, chocolate fig tart or chocolate cake. Good for you can also be sinfully delicious.

 

Reader Recommended

Green Earth 

37 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 584-0268 | www.greenearthveggie.com/about-pasadena.html

 

My Vegan 

633 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

(626) 578-9017 | www.myveganpasadena.com

 

BEST VIETNAMESE FOOD

Indochine 

950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 584-7118

The pho lover in the family will want to make Indochine a dining-out destination. This somewhat hidden gem offers reasonably priced pho, noodle and rice dishes and curries of all kinds. If you’re feeling hungry, start with an appetizer like the crispy noodles with pork and mung bean, or crab Rangoon with curried cream cheese before moving on to pad Thai or panag curry. (Note: veggie lovers can ask for vegetarian spring rolls and pho made with veggie broth, or they can enjoy one of several tofu dishes.)

 

Reader Recommended

Lemongrass 

1952 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles

(323) 258-8050 | www.lemongrassvietnameserestaurant.com

 

Pho 79 

29 S. Garfield Ave., Alhambra

(626) 289-0239

 

Saigon Noodle Restaurant 

28 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 796-9378

 

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