After 37 years in business, Robin’s Wood Fire BBQ & Grill is closing Sunday, according to owner Robin Salzer.
Salzer told the Pasadena Weekly that he was retiring to spend more time with his wife and three children.
“I’ve been thinking about this for the last three to four years and now is the right time,” Salzer wrote in an email. “Robin’s Wood Fire BBQ will still be doing catering, events, festivals and the Rose Bowl, but the restaurant will be leased to another operator.”
The closure will leave area residents with few barbecue choices. Salzer’s announcement comes a few weeks after Big Mama’s Rib Shack in Pasadena closed after more than 17 years in business.
Salzer started in the restaurant trade more than 40 years ago and became the youngest owner of an IHOP franchise when he bought one in Milwaukee in 1978 at age 23.
He moved to Pasadena in 1982 and bought the Spice Mills Restaurant on Rosemead, which became Robin’s.
Nearly 50 years ago, former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp owned the property, which at the time was Tonio’s Italian Restaurant. However, the eatery never took off and it closed. Van de Kamp lived not far from Salzer in West Pasadena.
Salzer, who is married to former Pasadena City Councilwoman Mayor Ann-Marie Villicana, has had his own political aspirations for several years. In 2008, he ran for the District 1 City Council seat after Incumbent Joyce Streator announced she would not seek re-election.
In a runoff election, Salzer lost by a slim margin in a contentious contest to Jacque Robinson, who grew up in the area.
In 2012 he started a hot meal program, offering free dinners to people at the Jackie Robinson Center on Wednesdays. Council members, police officers, school officials, City Hall employees and even journalists all worked the serving line at the program. In 2017, Salzer announced he had served more than 125,000 free meals. A second program was started at Villa Parke.
Salzer opposed the city’s minimum wage ordinance which increases the wage to $15 in July, in favor of the state’s slower increase schedule. In order to compensate for the rising costs, Salzer operated the restaurant three days a week.