TS 2010

 Show Stoppers | Taste Sensations | The Night Beckons 

Jack of All Trades | Retail Therapy 

Food critics often treat the Los Angeles area as the shorter, less attractive stepchild of the country’s glossy culinary big guns — New York, San Francisco, Chicago and even Las Vegas. 

But the only opinions that really matter are those of the people who live here, and by that watermark Pasadenans with a passion for food know we’ve got the good stuff right here. 

Growing up in Pasadena on the floor of my mother’s kitchen, I was a committed foodie by age 3. And when I was old enough to venture out, I learned quickly that I didn’t have to travel far to sharpen my palate and taste all the delights the culinary world had to offer. 

You just can’t walk a single block in Old Pasadena without encountering some culinary giants of our very own, places such as Mi Piace — packed any night of the week with patrons who swear by its fresh pastas, pizzas and sinfully sweet desserts — and redwhite+bluezz, where master sommeliers expertly pair the perfect pinot grigio or dry Riesling with tender crab cakes and a multitude of dishes that exemplify cutting-edge American cuisine. 

Pasadena is home to a diverse community of restaurants that make it their mission to continually push the limits of what defines fine dining, ethnic culinary experience and just plain good taste. 

Our restaurants more than hold their own among the nation’s best and boast some of the hardest working and most talented people in the food industry — men and women who’ve cultivated a loyal clientele lending support in our annual readers’ poll of the best of the best. 

This year, voters give the top honor of Pasadena’s Best Restaurant to the ever-delightful Kabuki, with Parkway Grill — a local favorite for anything from an anniversary celebration to a first date — close behind in the tally. 

These restaurants and our entire list of winners make me proud, the beaming-with-pride kind of proud, of the constantly evolving and continually rewarding culinary scene in my hometown. 

— Jenn Harris

Winner photos by Bettina Monique Chavez (unless otherwise credited)


Best Restaurant:

Kabuki Japanese Restaurant
3589 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 351-8963
88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 568-9310
Whether you're ducked into a cozy booth at the original Foothill location or people-watching on the patio of the Kabuki in Old Pasadena, rest assured that your taste buds will skip at the chance to indulge in the very freshest sushi creations, among them the paradise roll flavored with mango, black masago and Japanese mint leaf. Pair a meal with one of sake sommelier Yuji Matsumoto's drink selections for a match that can only be described as culinary bliss.

Reader Recommended:
Parkway Grill
510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena | (696) 795-1001
Parkway Grill exemplifies top-notch fine dining and continues to expand on what it means to serve regional American cuisine. The kitchen only serves the freshest of what's in season, maintaining their own on-site organic garden. 

TS10_02Best New Restaurant:
Bonnie B's Smokin' BBQ Heaven
1280 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena | (626) 794-0132
At Bonnie's, food is a family affair - and you're always part of the family. Owner Bonnie Henderson runs the kitchen and puts a whole lot of love into everything she makes, especially the Oklahoma-style pork spareribs she cooks low and slow. Although the BBQ tends to steal the show, sides hold their own with delectably sweet, cavity-inducing candied yams and Southern favorites like collard greens and black-eyed peas. 

Reader Recommended:
The Slaw Dogs
720 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena | (626) 808-9777
Owner and chef Ray Byrne is reinventing the average hotdog and turning it into something truly gastronomically inventive and, well, at times a little wacky. Of course you could get a plain hotdog, but why would you when you can try a thai dog with cilantro and peanut, or an Oaxacan dog with black mole and tortilla chips?

TS10_03Best Business Lunch:
Smitty's Grill
110 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena | (626) 792-9999
It's easy to picture Don Draper sipping a Manhattan and munching on the homemade potato chips in the dim lighting of Smitty's bar. With a menu full of consistent and sophisticated comfort foods like the rattlesnake BBQ baby back ribs or the dungeness crab louie salad, put money on any meeting being a success.
Reader Recommended:
Green Street Restaurant
146 S. Shopper's Lane, Pasadena | (626) 577-7170
Green Street has been a Pasadena tradition since 1979, in no small way thanks to their famous Dianne salad. On any given day of the week you'll find men and women in business suits on their lunch breaks next to high school kids and moms with strollers enjoying hefty portions of ice-cold lettuce with crunchy noodles and tangy dressing.

TS10_04Best Cheap Eats:
In-N-Out Burger
2114 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena | 119 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale | 310 W. Harvey Drive, Glendale | (800) 786-1000 | www.in-n-out.com
If you're within a mile of this classic drive-thru, your nose won't be able to resist a sniff or two of the grilled meat patties and special sauce cooking away on the flat tops. Times are hard and money might be tight right now, but after all these years - 62, to be exact - you can still get a juicy hamburger with all the fixin's for under $2.

Reader Recommended:
King Taco
45 N. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena | (626) 792-0405 | www.kingtaco.com
The prices at this casual Mexican restaurant are more in tune with its beginnings as a food truck in 1974, when the business sold tacos al pastor out of a converted ice cream truck. King Taco still serves up mouthwatering tacos at a price you don't have to be a king to enjoy.

TS10_05Best Outdoor Dining:
Cafe Santorini
64 W. Union St., Pasadena | (626) 564-4200
The outdoor dining area isn't just a patio - it's a serene experience that transports patrons' minds directly to the Mediterranean. Small lights dangle above while soothing music by the Paris Combo perfects the ambiance. You'll feel like you're a 5,000 miles away from the busy Old Pasadena shoppers
below as you relax or mingle over delectable Mediterranean fare, especially the house mezze platter.

Reader Recommended:
La Grande Orange Cafe
260 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 356-4444 |
Located in the historic Del Mar train station, the pseudo patio bar at La Grande Orange Cafe is heaven on a warm summer night with the breeze running through and a glass of their fruity red or white sangria. Try the city's best deviled eggs for a small bite, or munch on their gourmet tacos with ribeye, swordfish or short ribs.

S10_06Best Restaurant Staff:
Bonnie B's Smokin' BBQ Heaven
1280 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena | (626) 794-0132
This Pasadena newcomer is quickly becoming a local favorite - and not just for the authentic Oklahoma BBQ. While owner Bonnie Henderson runs the kitchen, her sister Betty handles the finances and nephew Michael serves the guests. The Henderson family ensures that you'll feel at home and never leave unhappy or still hungry. With BBQ this good, how could you not feel the love radiating out of Bonnie's kitchen?

Reader Recommended:
La Grande Orange Cafe
260 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena | (626) 356-4444 | www.lgostationcafe.com
Guests are greeted when they walk in by the words "Food is Love" written above the restaurant's open kitchen. It's a motto the staff lives by. The bartender knows your name and the servers are patient and pleasant, ready to excitedly divulge their menu favorites.

TS10_07Best Family Restaurant:
Kabuki Japanese Restaurant
3589 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 351-8963
88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 568-9310
There is something for everyone in the family at this kid-friendly sushi restaurant that even has a Kabuki Playground menu to please even the pickiest of small palates. Parents can still get adventurous with the raw stuff while kids feast on chicken teriyaki and tempura or try a little sushi of their own with the kid's sushi combination. With a staff that's friendly and helpful offering great sushi at affordable prices, you can feel good about making Kabuki your spot for weekly family time.

Reader Recommended:
Robin's Woodfire BBQ & Grill
365 N. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 351-2089 | www.robinsbbq.com
At Robin's, the kids call the shots with a little tikes menu full of mini portions of the restaurant's best dishes, including the baby back ribs and "the best burger." Mom and Dad can enjoy a very grownup meal of their own while the kids color or take advantage of free bumper stickers and balloons.

TS10_08Best Special Occasion Dining:
Parkway Grill
510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena | (696) 795-1001
The beautiful, dimly lit dining room with its rustic red brick walls and delicate white tablecloths sets the mood for a special occasion of any kind. Pair the atmosphere with cuisine that's designed to highlight the freshest ingredients of the season - you'll love the brick oven-baked cambozola pear flatbread and the bee pollen-dusted Alaskan halibut with sweet peas and almond brown butter sauce - for enough to make anyone feel like they're on top of the world.

Reader Recommended:
The Raymond Restaurant
1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena | (626) 441-3136
It's truly hard not to feel special - so-happy-you-could-dance special - when feasting on any of chef Tim Guiltinan's inspired dishes, like roasted foie gras with sweet and tangy apricot-ginger jam, toasted brioche and apricot sorbet, or the roasted wild Alaskan halibut with venus clams, Spanish chorizo and piquillo pepper broth.

S10_09Best Late-Night Snack:
Lucky Boy
640 S. Arroyo Parkway., Pasadena | (626) 793-0120
It may be 12:30 a.m. when hunger strikes, but who says you have to settle for run-of-the-mill fast food just because it's late? Get your late-night fix with Lucky Boy's hearty pastrami burger, gooey, buttery grilled cheese, or juicy steak sandwich. Whatever you choose off this menu full of favorites, you're sure to go home feeling lucky.

Reader Recommended:
King Taco
45 N. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena | (626) 792-0405 | www.kingtaco.com
The tail end of a long night out can be rough, so why not end it the right way with chicken sopes or a taco al pastor from King Taco? On Saturday nights, they serve up all of your Mexican favorites until 3 a.m.

TS10_10Best Sunday Brunch:
Marston's Restaurant
151 E. Walnut St., Pasadena | (626) 796-2459
A widespread and well-deserved culinary reputation often makes for a wait, but you'll never think twice about it after tasting Marston's macadamia nut pancakes or fantastic French toast; yes, fantastic is actually in the name, and it's merited. They serve classic American cuisine in a cottage that looks and feels as homey as your grandmother's house. Now who doesn't like to spend Sunday mornings with a stack of flappy jacks at grandma's?

Reader Recommended:
The Langham, Huntington Hotel & Spa
1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena | (626) 568-3900 | www.langhamhotels.com
To end your weekend on a most relaxing note, pamper yourself with Sunday Brunch at the Terrace Restaurant at the Langham Hotel. Sip on a mimosa or two and treat yourself to traditional brunch fare or dim sum while listening to live jazz music and taking in artist Frank M. Moore's painted murals on the famous Picture Bridge.

TS10_11Best Take Out:
In-N-Out Burger
2114 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena | 119 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale
310 W. Harvey Drive, Glendale | (800) 786-1000
As if the name didn't make the concept clear enough, In-N-Out really does stay true to its origins as an old-fashioned drive-thru that serves great food fast. These days it's getting harder and harder to slow down even for a quick bite, but when the familiar craving for those juicy burgers with special sauce creeps up on you, In-N-Out makes it easy to stop in and indulge.

Reader Recommended:
Tops on Walnut
1792 E. Walnut St., Pasadena | (626) 584-0244 | www.topsburger.com
Since Jim Bicos opened the original in the 1950s, Tops has been on a mission to provide families and people on-the-go with comfort food that mom could have made, and always at affordable prices. They still make everything from scratch, including their famous chili and decadent ranch dressing. Drive through to grab a pastrami burger to go - just don't even think about forgetting the zucchini fries!

TS10_12Best Armenian Food:
Zankou Chicken
1296 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 405-1502 |
It might not seem the fanciest of restaurants, but one bite of Zankou's perfectly spiced shawarma or their golden-brown roasted chicken and you're hooked. Who can resist a menu full of grilled kebobs and Middle Eastern delights like falafel and tarna when they all come with that famous, smooth garlic spread?

Reader Recommended:
2226 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 795-6900
Pasadenans know to go to Sahara when they're craving the good stuff. The grilled lamb kebab is tender and spiced just right, and you'll swear their hummus is made by a sweet Armenian grandmother hiding out in the kitchen.

TS10_13Best Bakery:
Euro Pane
950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 577-1828
Owner and master baker Sumi Chang knows how to keep the locals happy with her buttery croissants, tart lemon bars and large glass display case full of pastries and cakes. Although the baked goods steal the show, Euro Pane serves a mean egg-salad sandwich and an entire menu of other lunch favorites, such as a classic ham-and-cheese or meatloaf on freshly baked bread.

Reader Recommended:
Great Harvest Bread Co.
1019 Mission St., South Pasadena | (626) 549-2882 | www.greatharvest.com
At this South Pasadena bakery, making bread is a fine art and employees are trained to mature their palates with multiple bread tasting sessions. Great Harvest grinds wheat with cheese and herbs for savory breads or ingredients such as apple and cinnamon for sweet ones, all using the mill located in the building.

Sarkis Pastry
1776 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 398-3999 | www.sarkispastry.com
The key to success for this Middle Eastern and European pastry shop is the hand-rolled dough used to make delicious delights including baklava and mamoul, but they're also beloved for their inventive wedding cakes.

TS10_14Best Barbecue:
Robin's Woodfire BBQ & Grill
365 N. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 351-2089 | www.robinsbbq.com
You might imagine you're stepping into the heart of Texas when you see the large clouds of meat-scented smoke billowing out of the back of the restaurant, but Robin's has a flair all it's own - doing all-American barbecue in a big way with tender baby back ribs and chicken that falls right off the bone. Go the traditional route with Robin's tried-and-true original flavor or be adventurous with their Carolina sweet mustard or Memphis red vinegar sauces. Just don't forget a bib!

Reader Recommended:
Gus's Barbecue
808 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena | (626) 799-3251 | www.gussbbq.com
This South Pasadena landmark has been slathering, barbecuing and smoking their meats with a mouthwatering signature hickory and applewood blend since it opened more than 60 years ago. Though a recent remodeling gave the place a more modern feel, the food is still the same classic regional barbecue so many have come to love, including specialties like beer-braised Texas brisket and Carolina pulled pork.

TS10_15Best Breakfast:
151 E. Walnut St., Pasadena | (626) 796-2459
Who could argue with The Food Network for naming this quaint cottage the best breakfast in California earlier this year? The menu has everything from classic huevos rancheros to Grandma's hot oatmeal. Marston's continues to happily wake up the taste buds of everyone from men in suits to high schoolers on a quest to savor their last few minutes of freedom before the school day begins. 

Reader Recommended:
Green Street Restaurant
146 S. Shopper's Lane, Pasadena | (626) 577-7170
Wake up with everything from traditional blueberry multigrain pancakes to delicious chilaquiles. On weekends, the restaurant puts a twist on brunch, offering salmon benedict with fresh poached salmon and the southwestern benedict with chicken jalapeno sausage and chipotle hollandaise sauce.

TS10_16Best Buffet:
201. S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-4798 |
Who doesn't love variety? Souplantation is for the food lover with A.D.D. or the person who simply wants a little bit of everything. With a new themed menu each month and a long list of tasty standards like the Chinese chicken salad and chicken noodle soup, you can bring the pickiest or most discerning palates and be sure to please everyone.

Reader Recommended:
Tibet Nepal House
36 E. Holly St. Pasadena | (626) 585-0955 | www.tibetnepalhouse.com
The smell of the spices of Tibet Nepal House's Himalayan cuisine is intoxicating with its hints of black cardamon, timur, turmeric and saffron. Sample the restaurant's best Nepalese dishes such as the momo, dumplings and the clay oven-baked breads at their lunch buffet during the week for only $8.99.

TS10_17Best Burger:
2114 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena | 119 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale
310 W. Harvey Drive, Glendale | (800) 786-1000 |
When you want a classic, old-fashioned hamburger and don't care for the frills and prices of a restaurant burger, you want In-N-Out. What makes this burger phenomenal is its beautiful burger simplicity. It's made with 100 percent ground beef, crisp lettuce, a ripe tomato and special sauce. But who are we kidding? It's the thousand-island dressing, people!

Reader Recommended:
The Counter
140 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena | (626) 440-1008 | www.thecounterburger.com
The burger joint just got a lot hipper. The Counter improves on the timeless classic by letting diners customize their own burger creation with gourmet toppings such as herb goat cheese spread, bermuda red onion or roasted green chiles. You can even forgo the classic bun and get your burger on an English muffin.

TS10_18Best Burrito:
Burrito Express
1597 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 798-0844
This place is definitely the king of burritos. Choose between regular burritos, which are already enough to cure the worst kind of hunger, or go for a Vic's special if you want said burrito - most likely to be the size of your head - to come smothered in sauce and cheese. If you're a meat lover, you have to get the Ross Perot burrito, which comes with beef, pork and chicken. They also have a killer breakfast burrito with chorizo, egg and cheese.

Reader Recommended:
Lucky Boy
640 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena | (626) 793-0120 | www.luckyboyburgers.com
Say goodbye to boring burritos. Lovers of this hearty Mexican favorite can rejoice at the variety and goodness that is a Lucky Boy burrito. It goes without saying that its the best breakfast burrito in the universe. 

TS10_19Best California Cuisine:
Green Street Restaurant
146 S. Shopper's Lane, Pasadena | (626) 577-7170
Green Street Restaurant prides itself on serving comfort foods from the Golden State. Try humungous salads filled with cheese, fruits and nuts or their larger-than-life sandwiches, such as Karen's grilled club or Stephen's chicken sandwich, with mushrooms and avocado on sourdough. Staying true to California's colonial Spanish roots, the restaurant also serves "fresh-Mex" favorites like quesadillas with a twist, including basil and tomato as well as chicken with papaya.

Reader Recommended:
Parkway Grill
510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena | (696) 795-1001
The Smith Brothers have elevated their take on fine dining yet again with the restaurant's very own organic vegetable and herb garden. It doesn't get much more California cuisine with an attitude to match than growing your own ingredients. The heirloom tomato caprese salad is just one fine example of Parkway showcasing the freshest ingredients in all of their menu favorites.

TS10_20Best Caribbean Food:
Kingston Cafe
333 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena | (626) 405-8080
Get a taste of the bold flavors of Jamaica with all the necessary Caribbean spices and flare at Kingston Cafe. The jerk chicken is famous for a reason, marinated in the restaurant's secret jerk sauce that comes in mild for the "meek" and hot for the "brave," or so says the menu. But Kingston Café doesn't only serve common Caribbean dishes: Try the lucea glow, otherwise known as goat stew in curry sauce, or the braised ox tail with lima beans, for and authentic taste of Jamaica, mon.

Reader Recommended:
Cuban Bistro
28 W. Main St., Alhambra | (626) 308-3350 | www.cubanbistro.com
Cuban Bistro does wonders with classic Cuban dishes like garlic chicken, white rice, beans and plantains or roasted pork. But why stick to the basics when Executive Chef Pedro Rivera likes to play with his food? His costillas de carnero, a rack of lamb with cranberry-cabernet reduction sauce, is the perfect example of his Cuban cuisine revamped with a California twist.

TS10_21Best Chinese Food:
Panda Inn
3488 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 793-7300 | www.pandainn.com
The Mandarin and Szechwan cuisine at this local favorite is the perfect balance of regional Chinese spices, sweet notes and bold, spicy flavors. Here, classics like honey walnut shrimp and kon pao chicken will have your taste buds dancing over the delicate flavors. The food is of course something to rave about, but another real treat is dessert: They dip their fortune cookies in decadent white chocolate for a sweet end to a satisfying meal.

Reader Recommended:
Yang Chow
3777 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena | (626)432-6868 | www.yangchow.com
It's simply a fact that yang Chow's slippery shrimp is to die for and the wonton soup will have you coming back in as often as you can. Since the Yun Family opened a Chinatown location in 1977, people can't seem to get enough of their traditional Chinese fare, including the crispy shrimp toast or the perfectly chewy sautéed rice cakes with shredded pork.

TS10_22Best Deli/Sandwiches:
Lovebirds Café and Bakery
921 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 583-8888 | www.lovebirdscafe.com
In true deli fashion, the sandwiches at this cafe are big - so big that the half is enough for lunch, the regular can feed two and the large might require a bigger table. Besides all the bang you get for your buck, the sandwiches are just plain tasty. The chicken salad is simple and satisfying, the egg salad needs to win an award on its own, and the Vermont turkey with sweet green apple and sharp cheddar is a local lunchtime favorite for good reason.

Reader Recommended:
Pasadena Sandwich Company
259 Sierra Madre Villa, Pasadena | (626) 578-1616
This place is an old school sandwich shop that insists on fresh ingredients and greeting guests with a smile from behind the counter. They pile on their deli meats, including perfectly seasoned pastrami, skyscraper-high.

TS10_23Best Dessert:
Pop Champagne & Dessert Bar
33 E. Union St., Pasadena | (626) 795-1295 | www.popchampagnebar.com
Having a glass of dry bubbly with a sensual dessert plate is about the best experience anyone could ever ask for - ever. At Pop, every day is an excuse to indulge in decadent yet simple desserts such as chocolate-habanero soufflés, strawberry crepes, homemade churros or profiteroles.

Reader Recommended:
Dots Cupcakes
400 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena | (626) 568-DOTS
21 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena | (626) 744-7719
Walking into Dots is like taking a step into a colorful cupcake wonderland, an experience for the eyes and taste buds. Play with flavors of cupcakes like peanut and banana and pumpkin pie. The delights make this sweet shop a must-see-and-taste destination.

Euro Pane
950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 577-1828
The only dilemma you'll face at Euro Pane is narrowing down your dessert choice. Try luscious cakes, like the grandma's chocolate cake, and the chocolate croissants, but definitely be sure to sample the French macarons. The caramel with sea salt is simply divine.

TS10_24Best French Food:
Bistro de la Gare
921 Meridian Ave., South Pasadena | (626) 799-8828
This petite café by the train tracks in South Pasadena is a little taste of Paris in our own backyard. Everything from the charming French waiter to traditional dishes like escargots dripping with garlic butter and the plateau de charcuterie will transport you to a sidewalk café in France. You'll be walking out singing "merci, merci!"

Reader Recommended:
Cafe Bizou
91 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena | (626) 792-9923 | www.cafebizou.com
The velvety smooth, delightfully pink lobster bisque alone is reason enough to frequent this charming French cafe, but if you want to really have a Parisian experience, also try the steak frites with grilled tomatoes, asparagus and fries that come in a heavenly burgundy wine sauce.

TS10_25Best Health Food (TIE):
Orean's The Health Express
817 N. Lake Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 794-0861| oreanshealthexpress.com
Who would believe that a menu full of fast food items like the chili-cheese dog, big-o-chili-cheese burger and the breakfast burrito were from a restaurant that encourages healthy eating? This place makes health food look oh so appetizing. It's easy to cut back a few pounds by replacing your fast-food burger with one of Orean's vegetarian options.

Grass Roots
1119 Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena | (626) 799-0156 | www.grassrootsnaturalmarket.net
Grass Roots market and cafe is more of a lifestyle than simply a place to eat and shop. The knowledgeable staff will tell you why it's good to eat what you're eating and make nutritious suggestions for what to take home. With so much variety, eating healthy never tasted so good. Go south of the border with their burritos and soft tacos, mix it up with a Grassroots Cuban bowl of black beans, rice and plantains, or keep it simple with a tasty falafel wrap.

TS10_26Best Ice Cream/Yogurt/Gelato:
Cherry on Top
1299 E. Green St., Pasadena | (626) 440-1299
It seems like everyday a new self-serve yogurt shop opens in LA, but let me give you a couple reasons why Cherry on Top comes out, well, on top. You can't beat the variety or quality of their toppings and the yogurt flavors are never hit-or-miss. There is always something new to try, like the creamy taro or the peanut butter fudge that taste way too good to be low calorie. The best part? You can try all of them at once!

Reader Recommended:
21 Choices
85 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 304-9521 | www.21choices.com
The season is irrelevant. Patrons line up and spill out the door and onto the sidewalk to wait for the cheery staff at this yogurt shop to pound, chop and mix their favorite toppings and yogurt into dreamy, creamy creations. Insiders know you can skip the line and get your yogurt straight up - with no toppings, that is - at the express line.

TS10_27Best Independent Coffee House:
Jones Coffee Roasters
693 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena | (626) 564-9291 | www.thebestcoffee.com
Jones Coffee Roasters is a coffee shop with a global consciousness. Jones imports most of its beans from the family farm, Finca Dos Marias in Guatemala, where growers practice sustainable farming methods to make handcrafted coffees. The result is a delicate flavor that is smooth and well balanced with just a hint of cinnamon.

Reader Recommended:
Zona Rosa
15 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena | (626) 793-2334 | www.zonarosacaffe.com
Get a taste and feel of vibrant Mexico City at this small café located in the Playhouse District. Here, it's not just about the coffee but the entire Latin experience. Listen to live music from Latin artists while sipping a cup of one of rich-flavored coffee from Costa Rica, or try the sinfully good Mexican hot chocolate. 

TS10_28Best Indian Food:
All India Cafe
39 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena | (626) 440-0309 | www.allindiacafe.com
Indian cuisine is known for feisty spices, hot curries and a mix of textures that throw a party in your mouth. This modest café does traditional Indian, but refined. You can get well-known favorites such as tikka masala, with that perfectly complex pale-orange sauce, or the tender Tandoori chicken. But you can also choose an Indian culinary adventure with the masala dosa, a South Indian crispy crepe, or the chicken mango you can only get by special request to the chef. 

Reader Recommended:
44 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena | (626) 577-9916 | www.akbarcuisineofindia.com
People pack into this Old Pasadena joint to get a taste of marinated lamb and shrimp cooked perfectly on a Tandoori grill. The smell of chicken basted in a masala sauce is a sensual experience. Don't leave without trying a selection of their freshly baked nan, of which the garlic and green herb flavors are two favorites.

TS10_29Best Italian Food:
Il Fornaio
24 W. Union St., Pasadena | (626) 683-9797
Regional cuisines from Italy are expertly prepared and presented in this handsome restaurant with a bustling energy reminiscent of the Italian eateries one would find in New York. The pastas are made fresh in-house or imported from Italy, and the pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven to give the crust that irresistibly thin, crackly consistency. They also serve authentic Italian specialties like the pollo Toscano, a rotisserie chicken bursting with aromatic rosemary.

Reader Recommended:
Celestino's Ristorante
141 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena | (626) 795-4006 | www.giacominodrago.com
People come from all over Southern California and beyond to get a taste of Calogero Drago's handcrafted dishes. Menu favorites include the tagliolini bianchi e neri con salsa di cappesante e zafferano - black and white tagliolini with scallops and saffron sauce - and the carpaccio di pesce spada con finocchio e arance, a swordfish carpaccio with orange and fennel salad.

TS10_30Best Japanese/Sushi:
Kabuki Japanese Restaurant
3589 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 351-8963
88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 568-9310
Whether you're in the mood for one of the restaurant's playful maki roll creations, the quintessential chicken teriyaki or fresh sashimi, Kabuki has a menu that will please even the most discerning sushi lovers. This exceptional food and sake in an unpretentious setting gives locals every reason to keep coming back for more.

Reader Recommended:
Sushi Roku
33 Miller Alley, Pasadena | (626) 683-3000 | www.sushiroku.com 
Take a seat at the sushi bar to watch the exquisite knife skills of the master chefs as they prepare your meal. Monday's all-night happy hour is a frequent stop for patrons who appreciate quality food at a reasonable price.

TS10_31Best Juice Bar:
Jamba Juice
64 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 666-1500 | 204 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
Five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is no problem when you can drink them. Whether you've just finished a run and need to refuel or are looking for a morning pick-me-up, the refreshing and nutritious smoothies at Jamba Juice blend with any occasion.

Reader Recommended:
Juice It Up!
165 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena | (626) 793-3344
390 E. Colorado St., Pasadena | (626) 395-0145
This smoothie shop is creating a smoothie culture with loyal fans of its creative juice blends and icy smoothies such as the melon madness with watermelon juice and congo lime with pineapple juice, lime sherbet and peaches.

TS10_32Best Local Brewery:
Craftsman Brewery
1260 Lincoln Ave., Unit 100, Pasadena
(626) 296-2537 |
Founder Mark Jilg takes his suds very seriously and boasts that his beer has integrity you can taste. Fruit lovers should grab a pint of the Orange Grove ale, or for something with a subtle smoke flavor sip the smoked black lager. Other local favorites include the heavenly hefe, a Bavarian weizen wheat beer, and the spiced triple white sage.

Reader Recommended:
Eagle Rock Brewing Co.
3056 Roswell St., Eagle Rock | (323) 257-7866 | www.eaglerockbrewery.com
This brewery is frothing up a sense of beer community. Locals love to grab a seat at the public tap room, where you can sample beers from the attached microbrewery. Spend a hop'n afternoon sipping a glass of the extra pale ale and take advantage of the local food trucks that park nearby.

TS10_33Best Mediterranean Food:
Cafe Santorini
64 W. Union St., Pasadena | (626) 564-4200 | www.cafesantorini.com
Known for its sparkling patio and Rococo banquet room, Cafe Santorini serves traditional Mediterranean food at its best with grilled meats, seafood, fresh pastas and pizzas. For a little taste of everything, order the mezze platter and prepare yourself for a mini feast of kubbe (seasoned ground beef with pine nuts in bulgur wheat), grape leaves, tabouleh, feta cheese, olives and velvety smooth hummus. 

Reader Recommended:
Pita! Pita!
927 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena | (626) 356-0106 | www.citycent.com/pitapita
If you want mouthwatering Lebanese food like shawarma wraps, lamb kabob and hummus in a casual, family friendly atmosphere, come to Pita! Pita! - known for exceptional service, low prices and a commitment to making Lebanese specialties fresh and fast.

TS10_34Best Mexican Food:
El Portal
695 E. Green St., Pasadena | (626) 795-8553
This is not your average Mexican restaurant - not by a long shot. El Portal specializes in a hybrid of Yucatan Mexican cuisine with dishes like the cochinita pibil, tender pork baked in banana leaves, and the Tamales de Yucatan, chicken in achiote also cooked in banana leaves. These unique dishes only account for half of El Portal's success, with an extensive list of premium tequilas and the bartender's ability to make a mean margarita being major plusses.

Reader Recommended:
Mijares Mexican Restaurant
145 Palmetto Drive, Pasadena | (626)792-2763
What started as a small tortilla factory 90 years ago has become Pasadena's oldest and most beloved Mexican restaurant. For years it has been the place for family dinners, graduation parties and nights out with friends in a festive hacienda-style setting. The tortillas are still made fresh and the kitchen never disappoints.

TS10_35Best Middle Eastern Food:
Pita! Pita!
927 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 356-0106
Pasadenans know that for quality Middle Eastern food
fast and affordable, you've got to go to Pita! Pita!
This restaurant serves all your Middle Eastern favorites, from chicken shawerma to fatoush salad. The atmosphere is casual and comfortable, and you'll always get your order of falafel with a smile.

Reader Recommended:
2226 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626)795-6900 |
Since it opened in 1992, Sahara has been hailed as
having the best kebabs in town. Neighbors who live
or work within a block or two of this Middle Eastern eatery
can pinpoint the exact time the restaurant fires up its intoxicating
mesquite grill.

TS10_36Best Pizza:
Avanti Cafe
111 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena | (626) 577-4688 | www.avanticafe.com
The first thing you notice when you walk into Avanti Cafe is the smell of crust baking in the oak-wood-fired oven imported from Italy. For the eyes, the oven is surrounded by multicolored tiles and is stained with black smoke after years of making what locals year after year say is the best pizza in Pasadena. The crust is thin, a little crispy, a little chewy and has an unmistakable hint of smoke. Avanti makes an array of pizzas with modern California-style toppings like duck sausage and pesto with sundried tomatoes.

Reader Recommended:
Casa Bianca Pizza Pie
1560 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock | (323) 256-9617 | www.casabiancapizza.com
This is an old-fashioned pizza parlor and full-service Italian restaurant with red-and-white checkered tablecloths, autographed pictures of celebrity patrons and a loyal crowd of followers who swear by its pizza. Expect a bit of a wait on weekends, but after one bite of the sausage pizza - with homemade sausage, of course - you'll be ready to do it all over again next week.

Tarantino's Pizzeria
784 E. Green St., Pasadena | (626) 796-7836
This restaurant gives off a real mom-and-pop feel, having just a couple of tables and an aura that if you're really a local, you've already been here. The pizzas celebrate fresh, simple ingredients. Try the pizza bianca, topped with just olive oil and spices, or Danny's special, made with homemade sauce and a special mix of imported cheeses. 

TS10_37Best Seafood:
Cameron's Seafood
1978 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 793-3474
Get a taste reminiscent of San Francisco fish markets at Cameron's, where photos on the walls showcase bits of fishing history and you can smell fresh fish cooking over mesquite grills. Since it opened in 1984, Cameron's has been hailed as having the best seafood east of the Pacific. Their house specialty is the crab cioppino with king crab, shrimp, clams, mussles, white fish and scallops all cooked in a light marinara sauce and served with plenty of garlic bread for dipping.

Reader Recommended:
McCormick & Schmick's
111 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena | (626) 405-0064 | www.mccormickandschmicks.com
The seafood and produce at McCormick & Schmick's are delivered multiple times a day to ensure freshness and variety. Although fish can be pricey elsewhere, the famous $1.95 happy hour bar menu that includes fish tacos and oyster shooters makes it extremely easy to eat well on a budget.

TS10_38Best Soul Food:
Big Mama's Rib Shack
1453 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena | (626) 797-1792
The down-home Southern food at Big Mama's makes you understand what it means to call a meal soul food. Each dish is its own sort of religious experience. After tasting the catfish po boy, the smothered chicken or the spicy file' gumbo, you'll feel a deep appreciation for every flavor and ounce of love that you just had the privilege of tasting.

Reader Recommended:
Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles
830 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena | (626) 791-4890 | www.roscoeschickenandwaffles.com
Roscoe's is packed every day of the week with loyal fans who can't get enough of juicy, flawlessly seasoned fried chicken and thick, sweet waffles. Roscoe's is famous for chicken and waffles, but has an entire home-style menu, with dishes like red beans, rice and corn bread, and sides like candied yams and grits.

TS10_39Best South American Food:
Malbec New Argentinian Cuisine
1001 E. Green St., Pasadena | (626) 683-0550 | www.malbeccuisine.com
Celebrate the lively character and flavors of authentic Argentinian food in a relaxed setting with Malbec's empanadas, matambre con rusa or the costa Patagonia, with its flat-grilled pacific prawns in a garlic sauce. Malbec specializes in homemade pastas and grilled meats like veal sweetbreads, skirt steak and chicken.

Reader Recommended:
Choza Mama
96 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 432-4692
If you've never had Peruvian cuisine before, Choza Mama is the perfect place to start. With a patient staff that will walk you through the menu, you can start slowly with appetizers like ceviche de pescado, a ceviche served with sweet potato and Andean corn that's also the national dish of Peru.

TS10_40Best Spanish Food:
Bar Celona
46 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 405-1000
This tapas restaurant and bar is always buzzing, packed with a crowd that likes to mingle as well as linger in good conversation with lots of laughter over a glass of sangria or a strong martini. You'll be praising "Bar-the-lona" after tasting Catalan-inspired dishes such as the charred padron peppers with Spanish sea salt and, for dessert, a Catalan custard with a caramelized crust.

Reader Recommended:
La Luna Negra
44 W. Green St., Pasadena | (626) 844-4331
Surrounded by fiery red, blue and purple walls and the sounds of a live band, patrons can feel as though they're in Spain. As flamenco dancers whiz by, sample some of the restaurant's famous tapas, especially the bacalao - imported salt-cured cod cooked in lemon, oil, garlic and tomatoes.

TS10_41Best Steakhouse:
Arroyo Chop House
536 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena | (626) 577-1089
Arroyo Chop House's rich mahogany wood, white tablecloths and low lighting exemplify the character of a classic American steakhouse. The restaurant ages and slices its own U.S.D.A Prime steaks, and never - I mean never - overcooks a prime piece of meat. We're talking a level of steak that might turn a vegetarian into a carnivore. All steaks are served a la carte, but don't let that stop you from splurging on savory sides such as mac and cheese with black forest ham, sauteed mountain mushrooms and luxurious creamed spinach.

Reader Recommended:
Smitty's Grill
110 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena | (626) 792-9999
There's something about this Smith Brothers restaurant that just screams old Hollywood glamour. It's the type of place you could imagine Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin having a leisurely conversation over two Manhattans and a couple of New York steaks.

TS10_42Best Tea House:
Chado Tea Room
79 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena | (626) 431-2832
Sit down for high tea and enjoy the small pleasures in life, like petite tea sandwiches filled with English cucumbers and cream cheese, tea-marinated eggs and green onion, and shredded smoked chicken with lingonberry sauce. Choose from more than 50 varieties of loose-leaf and blooming teas. On your way out, don't forget to visit the small gift shop to pick up your own hand-painted teapot and some of their famous teas to enjoy at home.

Reader Recommended:
Scarlet Tea Room
18 W. Green St., Pasadena | (626) 577-0051
This is not your typical afternoon teahouse, but high tea with a twist. A five-course tea service features your choice of exotic teas, sandwiches, almond champagne and wine. If you're hoping for tea but missed the traditional afternoon deadline, don't fret. You can have dinner with tea and live music each Friday and Saturday night.

TS10_43Best Thai Food:
363 S. Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena | (626) 793-8123
From the first step inside the door, your senses will be delighted with the smell of hot chilis, sweet Thai basil and pungent fish sauce. Sit, relax and savor your meal to appreciate the complexity of the flavors in every bite. Despite the modern setting, Saladang is still traditional Thai food, with dishes like the sour and spicy tom yum soup or the pad kee mow, flat rice noodles with basil.

Reader Recommended:
President Thai
498 S Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 578-9814 | www.president-thai.com 
Smiling waiters greet you with a bow before serving some of the best Thai food this side of Bangkok. Memorable dishes include the tangy green curry with flaky fish and the spicy ground chicken with Thai basil and silken tofu.

TS10_44Best Vegetarian Food (TIE):
Orean's The Health Express
817 N. Lake Blvd., Pasadena | (626) 794-0861
This is not your average vegetarian sit-down restaurant, so don't expect to find a short list of pricy tofu and sprouts. This is vegetarian take-out on overdrive, with an entire menu of fast-food favorites minus the meat. With chilidogs, a breakfast burrito and chicken-o-nuggets, who said meat eaters have to have all the fun?

633 S. Arroyo Parkway, Suite 3, Pasadena
(626) 578-9017 |
MyVegan means variety, boasting an extensive menu of eclectic dishes with an emphasis on Thai cuisine. You can order anything from grand slam pancakes with "bacon" to traditional pad Thai noodles. Even serious carnivores can appreciate a menu this diverse, with so many dishes that are packed with flavor, you'll never ask: "where's the meat?"

Reader Recommended:
Green Earth Vegan Cuisine
37 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena | (626) 584-0268
Reduce your karma and carbon footprints and go green with this vegan restaurant that serves dishes of all culinary styles, including Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese. Even meat lovers understand the joy of eating vegetarian versions of dishes like the veggie steak sandwich and the very meaty portabella burger.

TS10_45Best Vietnamese Food:
Saigon Noodle Restaurant
28 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena | (662) 796-9378
You no longer have to venture south of Las Tunas Drive to get your fix of rich pho broth with tender beef and rice noodles. For huge portions of bun with barbecue pork and your favorite pho at low prices, locals continue to choose Saigon Noodle for its flavor, convenience
and dependability.

Reader Recommended:
Golden Deli
815 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel | (626) 308-0803 | www.goldendelirestaurant.com
Take a number and wait in anticipation of true Saigon delights, including bowls of steaming hot pho with rare and well-cooked beef or the broken rice with grilled shrimp paste and bright-orange baked egg.