Ingredients of a Hit

Ingredients of a Hit

Pasadena’s high production values result in the region’s top dining scene

By Rebecca Kuzins 10/23/2013

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Opening a new restaurant is a lot like creating a film. The director, or, more accurately, the master chef, assembles a crew of experienced technicians — cooks, waitpersons, dishwashers, hosts and hostesses and other personnel — to perform the needed work.  

The master chef and his or her assistants also select the actors, which in a restaurant production are the various ingredients that are needed to create the perfect menu of dishes. Each ingredient is carefully cast for its freshness, taste, seasonality, ability to perform well with the other ingredients and popularity with restaurant-goers. Some of the ingredients are veteran performers, such as beef for tacos and hamburgers, chicken, eggs, and whole-wheat bread. But there are some relative newcomers on the scene, such as gluten-free bread, produce that is organically grown and sold at local farmers’ markets and Egg Beaters. Set design is another important component of a restaurant’s production values. 

Some restaurants are like independent films — made on a small budget with little concern for décor. But other eateries are big-budget blockbusters, with interiors that are carefully furnished and designed to complement the cuisine. Some restaurants provide the most comfortable booths, chairs and tables; others use just the right colors of paint, photographs or artwork to adorn the walls. Still others contain open kitchens that allow diners to watch as food is being made. 

And after the restaurant opens for business, restaurateurs, like filmmakers, eagerly await judgment from professional food critics and, far more important, from diners, whose word-of-mouth about the establishment can ensure its success — or doom it to failure.  
 
In many ways, Pasadena and its surrounding communities are like Hollywood in its Golden Age, when the majority of movies were made by major studios. This area has an unusual abundance of places to eat — with more than 1,000 food service establishments, including more than 600 restaurants, in Pasadena alone, not counting many more in Arcadia, Sierra Madre, Glendale, Eagle Rock and Altadena. 

The large number of eateries is a boon to diners, who can select a wide range of cuisine: everything from a $1.29 taco to a $100-plus steak dinner. Diners can also choose from an array of international dishes — Armenian, Chinese, Italian, Korean, Mexican, Middle Eastern and many more. 

And because there are so many places to eat, the local restaurant business is highly competitive, so places with poor quality food or service may not remain here for long. But great restaurants, like the 2013 Best of Pasadena First Place and Reader Recommended winners, continue to attract diners from the area and beyond. 

So without further ado, let’s announce the winners in this year’s competition, or as they say at the Oscar ceremonies: “The envelope, please.”

BEST RESTAURANT
Twohey’s
1224 N. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra
(626) 284-7387 | Twohey’s.com
Imagine a movie about a family set in a small town in the years after World War II. The father of this all-American clan decides to treat mom and the two kids to dinner at a local restaurant. In one scene, the family enters a friendly, no-frills eatery, where the bill of fare includes burgers, onion rings and hand-dipped ice cream treats. That restaurant would be someplace like Twohey’s, the enduring Alhambra eatery that celebrated its 70th birthday this May. In its earliest days, founder Jack Twohey operated a 37-seat hamburger joint on Arroyo Boulevard in Pasadena. By the 1950s, Twohey’s had moved to its current location and employed car hops so diners could eat in their vehicles. Over the years, Twohey’s offered a greater variety of dishes, as well as catering services. In-car dining was discontinued in the 1970s, but Twohey’s has kept attracting diners who hunger for traditional American cooking in an informal coffee shop atmosphere.      

Reader Recommended
Avanti Café
111 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-4688 | avanticafe.com

Houston’s 
320 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 577-6001 | hillstone.com/#/restaurants/houstons

Parkway Grill  
510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 795-1001 | theparkwaygrill.com

BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Rounds Premium Burgers
46 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 304-9810 | roundsburgers.com
There’s a new burger joint in town, located, appropriately enough, on the site of the old Wolfe’s Burgers. In the words of its Web site, “Rounds Premium Burgers offers something for every taste — whether meat lover or vegan, health nut or not.” Diners can build their own burgers from a selection of beef, turkey, chicken or garden patties ($4.95), cheeses (75 cents), and free sauces, buns and toppings. Premium toppings, such as onion strings, jalapenos and pineapple, cost an extra $1. Less ambitious customers can choose from a ready-made selection of burgers ranging in price from $4.95 to $7.70.

Reader Recommended 
Grill ‘Em All
19 E. Main St., Alhambra
(626) 284-2874 | grillemalltruck.com

Oasis Café
34 S. Raymond Ave. Pasadena
(626) 535-9700 | oasispasadena.com

BEST BUSINESS LUNCH
Rounds Premium Burgers
46 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 304-9810 | roundsburgers.com
Its location near the intersection of Lake Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, in the heart of the financial district, makes Rounds Premium Burgers a good place for businesspeople to “do lunch.” The inexpensive and no-nonsense  menu, consisting of make-your-own or ready-made hamburgers, sides of French and sweet potato fries, and fountain drinks or bottled water, are other assets that have attracted diners to this restaurant since it opened almost  a year ago.    

Reader Recommended
Smitty’s Grill  
110 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 792-9999 | smittysgrill.com

Tender Greens
621 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 405-1511 | tendergreens.com

BEST CHEAP EATS
Dog Haus
105 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-4278 | goghausdogs.com
93 E. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 683-0808
410 E. Main St., Alhambra
(626) 282-4287 (HAUS)
The Dog Haus took the simple hot dog and elevated it to new levels, creating designer dogs topped with ingredients like smoked bacon, basil aioli and avocado. The food’s quality and low prices — Haus Dogs for only $5.99 and Haus Burgers and Sausages for $6.99 — has made its three eateries among the most popular local restaurants, and owners plan to expand the franchise throughout California and 36 other states.
 
Reader Recommended 
In N Out Burger
2114 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
310 Harvey Drive, Glendale
119 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale
(800) 786-1000 | in-n-out.com

Lucky Boy  
640 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 793-0120 | 1uckyboyburgers.com
531 E. Walnut St., Pasadena
(626) 793-7079 

BEST OUTDOOR DINING
La Grande Orange Café
260 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 356-4444 | lgostationcafe.com
Back in the 1930s, when people traveled cross-country via train, many films had scenes of actors arriving or departing from train depots. Today someone disembarking at Pasadena’s old Del Mar Station would find a restaurant — Le Grande Orange Café —there instead. The Spanish-style station, built in 1934, has been reconverted into a banquet room and another room with a full-length bar. For many diners, however, the BEST feature is the outdoor patio, where they can enjoy lunch, dinner, weekend brunch and cocktails as the nearby Metro Gold Line train passes nearby.    
Reader Recommended
Café Santorini
64 W. Union St. Pasadena
(626) 564-4200 | cafesantorini.com

Green Street Restaurant
146 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena
(626) 577-7170 | greenstreetrestaurant.com

BEST RESTAURANT STAFF
Oasis Café
34 S. Raymond Ave. Pasadena
(626) 535-9700 | oasispasadena.com
In a city with more than 600 restaurants, it’s not easy to be credited with having the BEST restaurant staff.  But Oasis Café has earned that distinction for the quality of its food and service. Oasis seeks to offer a relaxed atmosphere amid the bustle of Old Pasadena, one where diners can enjoy California cuisine-style lunch and weekend brunch. Appetizers, beer and wine are 50 percent off during Happy Hour, from 5 to 7 p.m., and there’s no corkage fee on the first bottle on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Reader Recommended
All India Café 
39 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 440-0309 | allindiacafe.com

Houston’s
320 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 577-6001 | hillstone.com/#/restaurants/houstons/

Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta
311 S. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 405-9877 | mammasbrickoven.com
710 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 799-1344

BEST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT
The Raymond Restaurant
1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 441-3136 | theraymond.com
Love is in the air at The Raymond Restaurant. Maybe it’s the history of the place, the fact that the restaurant was once the caretaker’s cottage at one of the area’s most exclusive hotels. Or maybe it’s the great dinner entrees, like Lake Superior whitefish with a crispy skin, Moroccan-style lamb or Peking duck breast. Or maybe when two people are in love, romance is easily found wherever they go. Whatever it is, The Raymond is a wonderful place for anyone — lovers and others — to dine.  
Reader Recommended
Malbec
1001 E. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 683-0550 | malbeccuisine.com

Scarlet Tea Room & Fine Dining
18 W. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 577-0051 | scarlettearoom.com

BEST SPECIAL OCCASION DINING
Parkway Grill
510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 795-1001 | theparkwaygrill.com
Parkway Grill is the city’s BEST place to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or other significant occasion. You and your guests can select entrees like honey-glazed duck breast, grilled filet mignon, prime New York steak, or young Colorado lamb chops. Leave room for dessert — like the classic s’mores, chocolate bread pudding with espresso ice cream or bananas Foster. You might also want a drink at the1920s Chicago bar that was moved to Pasadena when Parkway Grill opened in 1984.   

Reader Recommended
Arroyo Chophouse
536 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 577-7463 | arroryochophouse.com

The Raymond Restaurant
1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 441-3136 | theraymond.com
BEST FAMILY RESTAURANT
Kabuki japanese restaurant
Old Pasadena
88 W. Colorado Blvd., #103, Pasadena
(626) 568-9310 | kabukirestaurants.com
Hastings Center
3539 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 351-8963 
Kabuki strives to make dining an unintimidating and enjoyable experience for customers who may be unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine. The two Pasadena locations eschew Asian décor and music in favor of what their Web site describes as a “casual atmosphere with today’s hottest music playing, people smiling and our friendly staff welcoming you through the doors.” This philosophy has proven to be a recipe for success, earning Kabuki distinction as being the BEST Family Restaurant.  Kabuki caters to children, offering a Kid’s Menu for children 10 and younger, with a drink in a cartoon cup to take home.

Reader Recommended
Islands Restaurant
330 E. Colorado Blvd. #240, Pasadena
(626) 304-9050
3533 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 351-6543 | islandsrestaurant.com

Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta
311 S. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 405-9877 | mammasbrickoven.com
710 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 799-1344

BEST LATE NIGHT SNACK
Brother’s Pies N’ Fries
36 W. Colorado Blvd., #5, Pasadena
(626) 844-4343 | brotherspies.com
The next time it is past midnight and you’re overtaken with the urge to grab a slice of pizza, head on over to Brother’s Pies N’ Fries. The restaurant keeps late-night hours three nights a week: Thursdays until 2 a.m., and Fridays and Saturdays till 3 a.m. The home of an annual pizza-eating contest, Brother’s features two basic items: New York-style pizza and Southern Delaware “boardwalk fries,” which can be combined with little brother- and big brother-sized soft drinks.
Reader Recommended
In N Out Burger
2114 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
310 Harvey Drive, Glendale
119 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale
(800) 786-1000 | in-n-out.com

Lucky Boy
640 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 793-0120 | luckyboyburgers.com
531 E. Walnut St., Pasadena
(626) 793-7079 

BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH
Mijares Mexican Restaurant
145 Palmetto Drive, Pasadena
(626) 792-2763 | mijaresrestaurant.com
1806 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 794-6674 
Alice’s Sunday Brunch, named for owner Alice Mijares, is not just a meal — it’s a fiesta. Served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday at the Palmetto Drive location, the brunch costs $23.95 per person, which includes up to three glasses of champagne or mimosa. While listening to music performed by the Tesorito Trio, diners can select dishes at the omelet station, watch (and eat) tortillas being made by hand and belly up to the taco bar to make their own tacos. They can also choose from about 15 entrees, most of them Mexican dishes like chorizo con huevos and menudo, plus a few American items like waffles and bacon. 

Reader Recommended
La Grande Orange Café
260 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 356-4444 | lgostationcafe.com

The Terrace at the Langham
1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena
(626) 585-6218  
pasadena.langhamhotels.com

BEST ARMENIAN FOOD
Zankou Chicken
1296 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 405-1502 | zankouchicken.com
One of the joys of living in Pasadena is the chance to learn about foods from a wide range of countries, including Armenia. Zankou Chicken provides some dishes that may be familiar to diners, such as falafel and shish kebab, and others that are less known, like mutabbal (grilled organic eggplant, fresh garlic and tahini topped with olive oil and paprika). Zankou’s signature dish, a whole or half chicken, grilled on a rotisserie and topped with spicy garlic sauce, is a particularly popular item. 

Reader Recommended
Burger Continental
535 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 792-6634 | burgercontinentalpasadena.com

Mediterranean Café 
273 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena
(626) 793-8844 
kokosmediterraneancafe.com

Sahara’s
2226 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 795-6900 | saharapasadena.com

BEST BAKERY
Euro Pane  
345 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 844-8804
950 E Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 577-1828 
This bakery-restaurant, which specializes in sandwiches and pastries, has become BEST-known for two items: Customers say the open-faced egg salad sandwich, made with perfectly boiled eggs and served atop a slice of rosemary bread, is “to die for.” And the larger-than-normal macaroons are also crowd pleasers, particularly the salt sea caramel ones. Other items on the menu include bread pudding, tuna and tuna melt sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches and breakfast wraps.  

Reader Recommended
Aux Delices  
16 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 796-1630 | auxdelicespasadena.com

ConfeXion Cupcakes + Cake
11 W. Dayton St., Pasadena
(626) 486-9977 | confexioncupcakes.com

BEST BBQ
Gus’s BBQ 
808 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 799-3251 | gussbbq.com
Gus’s menu boasts that its barbecue is “seasoned overnight and then smoked low and slow for up to 16 hours,” using whole pecan logs to create its “signature smoke flavor.” This process results in the area’s BEST BBQ, as evidenced by the Memphis-style baby back ribs, brick chicken, Carolina style pulled pork and sandwiches made with barbecued meats and chicken. Those who prefer non-barbecue can order from the Southern Kitchen menu, featuring Southern fried chicken, chicken fried steak and fried catfish, or select an item from the list of burgers or salads.   

Reader Recommended
Bonnie B’s Smokin’ BBQ Heaven 
1280 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 794-0132 | bonniebssmokin.com

Robin’s Woodfire BBQ & Grill
395 N. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 351-8885 | robinsbbq.com

BEST BREAKFAST
Twohey’s
1224 N. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra
(626) 284-7387 | Twohey’s.com
Twohey’s breakfast items are served any time diners want them. The three-egg omelets (which can be substituted with Egg Beaters) include classics like the Denver, ham and cheddar cheese, eggs Benedict and huevos rancheros, as well as house specialties like the San Gabriel (sausage, bacon, mushrooms, American cheese) and Napa  (spinach, mushrooms, Swiss cheese and avocado topped with sour cream). French toast, Belgian waffles and buttermilk pancakes are also available, as are a selection of breakfasts featuring two-egg omelets with potatoes and toast.    

Reader Recommended
Green Street Restaurant
146 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena
(626) 577-7170 | greenstreetrestaurant.com

Marston’s  
151 E. Walnut St., Pasadena
(626) 796-2459 | marstonsrestaurant.com

BEST BUFFET
Souplantation  
201 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-4798 | souplantation.com
Don’t let the name fool you — Souplantation is a lot more than soup. The cafeteria-style restaurant lets diners select all-they-can-eat tossed salads and signature deli salads, including whole grain Greek couscous, tuna tarragon and Asian beef endamame with peanuts. There’s also an assortment of pasta dishes, baked potatoes, chili, corned bread, focaccia and muffins. Last, but not least, are the made-from-scratch soups, including such favorites as clam chowder, chicken noodle and French onion.     

BEST BURGER
Twohey’s
1224 N. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra
(626) 284-7387 | Twohey’s.com
When it opened in 1943, Twohey’s main fare was hamburgers. Although the menu now offers a wider variety of dishes, the restaurant has retained its reputation for making the BEST Argus beef burgers in the San Gabriel Valley. That includes the original quarter-pound Stink-O Burger, the more recent Garden Burger and Turkey Burger, and the Gourmet Burger of the Day. All burgers are served on a grilled bun with lettuce, tomato, pickles and side orders of French fries or fried hot potato chips.    

Reader Recommended
Rounds Premium Burgers
46 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 304-9810 | roundsburgers.com
Slater’s 50/50
61 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 765087600 | slaters5050.com 
 
BEST BURRITO
Burrito Express 
1597 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 798-0844 | burritoexpresspasadena.com
Burrito Express has been serving Mexican food since 1978 and, as its name suggests, is BEST known for its burritos. That includes traditional burritos with beans, cheese, meat and chorizo, as well as some more creative examples of the genre. The Ross Perot, for example, contains beef, pork and chicken along with rice, beans, cheese, sour cream and guacamole, while the high-carb Ito Burrito contains extra rice, just a few beans, sour cream, guacamole and cheese.  

Reader Recommended
King Taco
45 N. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 792-0405 | kingtaco.com

Lucky Boy  
640 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 793-0120 | luckyboyburgers.com
531 E. Walnut St., Pasadena
(626) 793-7079 

BEST CALIFORNIA CUISINE
Oasis Café 
34 S. Raymond Ave. Pasadena
(626) 535-9700 | oasispasadena.com
Oasis describes its California cuisine as “inspired by local farmers’ markets.” With an emphasis on seasonality, some of its signature dishes are laden with fresh fruits and vegetables. These include lunch specials like the Half California Burger Sliders with guacamole, bacon, tomato, and shallot aioli or the Half Yellow Fin Sliders Brioche with spicy rémoulade and tomato, both served with house fries. Weekend brunches include a choice of four salads, as well as the more traditional pancakes, omelets, quiche and bacon.
Reader Recommended
Green Street Restaurant 
146 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena
(626) 577-7170
greenstreetrestaurant.com

Parkway 1Grill  
510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 795-1001 | theparkwaygrill.com

BEST CHINESE FOOD
Panda Inn
3488 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 793-7300 | pandainn.com
Master Chef Ming-Tsai Cherng opened this Pasadena restaurant in 1973, the first of what has since become a chain of six Panda Inns. The restaurant, specializing in Mandarin and Szechwan cuisine, practices “the Chinese art of balancing a mixture of tastes and textures in each entrée to delight the senses,” according to its Web site. A long list of entrees includes honey walnut chicken, fish in black bean sauce, tea-smoked duck and mu shu pork.
 
Reader Recommended
Grandview Palace
60 N Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-2888

Yang Chow Restaurant
3777 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 432-4538 | yangchow.com

BEST CUPCAKES
Dot’s Cupcakes
400 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 568-3687 
dotscupcakes.com
One Colorado, 21 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 744-7719
The perfect indulgence for a sweet tooth! Dot’s Cupcakes come in two sizes — regular ($3) and mini ($1.75) — and a variety of flavors. Many of the flavors are available daily, including red velvet, chocolate lovers and strawberry shortcake, with four special selections available on specific days. So come on Monday or Tuesday for apple pie, black forest and two other flavors, then again on Wednesday or Thursday for tiramasu and pumpkin pie, and Friday through Sunday for choices like raspberry lemon and vanilla passion fruit.   

Reader Recommended
Confexion Cupckaes+Cake
11 W. Dayton St., Pasadena
(626) 486-9977 | confexioncupcakes.com

Violet’s Cakes
21 E. Holly St., Pasadena
(626) 395-9821 | violetscakes.com

BEST DELI/SANDWICHES
Pasadena Sandwich Company
259 Sierra Madre Villa Ave. #102, Pasadena
(626) 578-1616 | pasadenasandwichcompany.com
Need to pick up something to eat on your lunch break? Go no further than Pasadena Sandwich Company, where you can choose from more than 35 sandwiches. That includes “regular sandwiches,” like pastrami, ham, turkey or tuna served on your choice of bread or roll, as well as house specialties like the vegetarian supreme or PSC’s original French dips. A selection of salads, sides and drinks is also available to round out your meal. 

Reader Recommended
Porta Via Italian Foods
1 W. California Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 793-9000 | portaviafoods.com

Roma Italian Deli and Grocery
918 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 797-7748 | 

BEST DESSERT
Amara Chocolate & Coffee
55 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 744-1765 | amarachocolate.com
A chocoholic’s delight! Amara uses premium chocolate from Venezuela to create truffles, desserts and a variety of chocolates, including some mixed with liquors and fruit. The coffee selections are equally indulgent, especially the cacao latte, a decadent mix of melted dark, white and milk chocolate, espresso and milk. If that’s not enough to appease your craving, order one of the Venezuelan hot sipping chocolates, churros served with chocolate or chocolate fondue.

Reader Recommended
Euro Pane Bakery & Café
345 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 844-8804 | europane.com
950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 577-1828

Aux Delices
16 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 796-1630 
auxdelicespasadena.com

BEST FRENCH FOOD
Cheval Blanc
41. S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-4141 | chevalblancbistro.com
The newest addition to the roster of restaurants operated by the Smith Brothers, whose other establishments include Smitty’s Grill and Arroyo Chop House, Cheval Blanc features traditional French fare, including classic items like beef bourguignon and Cassoulet de Toulouse. A selection of wines is available by the bottle and glass, and these beverages can be sipped at an antique bar with dark wooden paneling. Sunday brunch is served from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.    

Reader Recommended
Bistro De La Gare
921 Meridian Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 799-8828 | bistrodelagare.com
Café Bizou
91 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 792-9923 | cafebizou.com

BEST HEALTH FOOD
Real Food Daily
899 E. Del Mar Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 844-8900 | realfood.com
On its Web site, Real Food Daily explains its “organic plant-based cuisine” is “balanced according to Eastern health philosophies and heart-healthy Western nutrition recommendations,” without any animal products. So whether you’re a voracious vegan, or just someone who hungers for fresh fruits and vegetables, you’ll enjoy special house dishes like the Strawberry Fields salad with dandelions, baby spinach, strawberries, shaved fennel, pine nuts, avocado and strawberry balsamic vinaigrette with basil cashew cream and pea shoots. Or try the baked yucca fries with mustard and ketchup. 

Reader Recommended
Tender Greens
621 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 405-1511 | tendergreens.com

Whole Foods Market
465 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 204-2266 | wholefoods.com
3751 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 351-5994

BEST HOT DOG
Dog Haus
105 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-4278 | goghausdogs.com
93 E. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 683-0808
410 E. Main St., Alhambra
(626) 282-4287 (HAUS)
Take an all-beef, skinless hot dog, top it off with arugula, diced tomato, crispy fried onions, spicy basil aioli and avocado, and you get the Dog Haus’ signature dish — the Sooo Cali Dog. The Dog Haus specializes in creative twists on the old-fashioned frankfurter, adding ingredients like chili, smoked bacon, fried egg and cheddar and American cheese to its Haus Dogs that give customers a newfound respect for the old ballpark favorite.      

Reader Recommended
Original Tommy’s Hamburgers
170 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena
(626) 792-5971 | originaltommys.com

Slaw Dogs
720 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626)-808-9777 | slawdogs.com
 
BEST ICE CREAM/
YOGURT/GELATO
Carmela Ice Cream
2495 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 797-1405 | carmelaicecream.com
Jessica Mortarotti and Zachary Cox began selling their homemade ice creams and sorbets at farmers’ markets in 2007, and they continue to use farmers’ market produce and garden-inspired ingredients in their signature flavors (like salted caramel and lavender honey ice creams) and seasonal flavors (like rose petal and Earl Gray tea ice creams and cucumber sorbet). Mortarotti and Cox regularly offer classes to share their art of ice-cream making with others. 

Reader Recommended
21 Choices
85 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 304-9521 | 21choices.com

Bulgarini Gelato
749 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena
(626) 627-7640 | bulgarinigelato.com

BEST INDEPENDENT 
COFFEE HOUSE
Jones Coffee Roasters
693 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 564-9291 | theBESTcoffeee.com
Jones’ coffee is made from beans that are grown on the family farm in Guatemala and shipped here in burlap sacks, ready to be roasted at the company’s reconverted warehouse. Here customers can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, or shop for coffee or tea to brew at home. Coffee fanatics will especially enjoy the Taster’s Sampler Box, which contains eight types of coffee, each sized to drip-brew two pots of coffee. 

Reader Recommended
Intelligentsia
55 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 578-1270 | intelligentsiacoffee.com

Zona Rosa Caffe 
15 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena
(626) 793-2334 | zonarosacaffe.com

BEST INDIAN FOOD
All India Café
39 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 440-0309 | allindiacafe.com
All India Café serves dishes from throughout India’s diverse regions, like a chicken or lamb masala from Bombay that’s stuffed in a homemade egg-washed tortilla with two chutneys and marinated onions. This café is a terrific place for vegans, as it features a number of vegetarian entrees. In addition to  naan, the leavened, white-flour bread usually available in Indian restaurants, All India offers naan topped with garlic and stuffed with onion, lamb, chicken and cheese. 

Reader Recommended
Akbar Cuisine of India
44 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-9916
akbarcuisineofindia.com
New Delhi Palace
950 E. Colorado Blvd., Suite 205, Pasadena
(626) 405-0666 | newdelhipalace.com

BEST ITALIAN FOOD
Celestino’s Ristorante
141 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 795-4006 | celestinopasadena.com
This elegant restaurant, owned by Cologero Drago, features Italian food with a strong Sicilian influence, such as spaghetti with fresh sardines and wild fennel. There are other one-of-a-kind dishes, like tortellini stuffed with pumpkin, butter and sage sauce, and half-moon ravioli stuffed with duck, mushrooms, mascarpone and blueberry sauce. Celestino’s has a bar and three rooms, including a garden patio, for parties and events. 
   
Reader Recommended
Avanti Café
111 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-4688 | avanticafe.com

Domenico’s Italian Kitchen
2411 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 797-6459 | originaldomenicos.com

BEST JAPANESE/SUSHI
Kabuki Japanese Restaurant
Old Pasadena
88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 568-9310 | kabukirestaurants.com 
Hastings Center
3589 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 351-8963 
“Sushi for all mankind.” That’s the motto of Kabuki’s, a chain of restaurants that seeks to acquaint American customers with Japanese cuisine. Diners can choose from numerous types of sushi and rolls, including specialty rolls like the Paradise Roll (mango, black masago, Japanese mint leaf, wasabi, smoked salmon and cream cheese) or the Lotus on Fire Roll (spicy tuna, lotus root and jalapeno atop a California roll). There is also beef, chicken and salmon teriyaki, shrimp and vegetable tempura, and several varieties of noodles, salads and appetizers.   
Reader Recommended
Matsuri Sushi
1065 E. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 844-2900 | matsuripasadena.com

Sushi Roku
33 Miller Alley, Pasadena
(626) 683-3000 | innovativedining.com

BEST LOCAL BREWERY
Craftsman Brewing Co.
1260 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena
(626) 296-2537 | craftsmanbrewing.com
Mark Jilg, founder of Craftsman Brewing, was a forerunner of the craft-beer craze, creating unique beverages like his brewery’s flagship 1903 lager, a selection of wood-aged and sour beers, and award-winners like Heavenly Hefe (a version of Bavarian hefeweizen), Orange Grove Ale fruit beer and the spice-herb Triple White Sage. This summer, Jilg entered into partnership with Maximiliano, a Highland Park restaurant that will serve a variety of Craftsman’s brews specially designed to complement Italian food.  

Reader Recommended
Haven Gastropub
42 S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena
(626) 798-9555 | havengastropub.com

Stone Brewing Co.
220 S. Raymond Ave., #103, Pasadena
(626) 440-7243 | stonebrew.com

BEST JUICE BAR
Jamba Juice
64. E Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 
(626) 666-1500 | 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
You would expect a juice bar to serve free-squeezed orange and carrot juice. But fresh-squeezed kale/apple/pineapple/chia seeds and orange/apple/pineapple/ginger juices are unique to Jamba Juice, an international franchise with four neighborhood locations. Jamba’s ice cold juices, smoothies and frozen yogurts are a delightful way to cool off and quench your thirst on a hot summer day.    

Reader Recommended
Juice Farm
36 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 844-7555 | .juicefarmcoldpressed.com

Whole Foods Market
465 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 204-2266 | wholefoods.com
3751 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 351-5994

BEST KOREAN FOOD
Cham Korean Bistro
851 Cordova St., Pasadena
(626) 792-2474 | chamkoreanbistro.com
Cham describes its cuisine as “contemporary Korean food.” That includes its versions of traditional dishes, such as California Bibimbap (white or brown rice and vegetables with a choice of chicken, beef bulgogi, pork bulgogi, seared ahi tuna, spicy tuna or seared tofu, to which diners can add sesame oil or red pepper paste). There’s also ssam (meat, fish or tofu atop a lettuce or sesame leaf, pickled with radish, onion and noodles and topped with cilantro or red pepper paste). Another innovation, Korean tapas are served daily starting at 3 p.m.

Reader Recommended
Gaon Korean Barbecue
2063 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 796-9604 | gaonrestaurant.com

Osek Korean Cuisine
67 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 644-1299 | osekpasadena.com

BEST LOCAL PIZZA
Avanti  Café
111 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-4688 | avanticafe.com
Avanti bakes its pizzas in an oak-wood oven to create wood-fired gourmet delicacies,  like the seafood pizza (shrimp, scallops, yellow pepper, tomatoes and leeks), glazed apple pizza (apples, red peppers, roasted garlic, almonds, leeks and gorgonzola cheese), and  the Avanti special (bacon, basil, gorgonzola cheese and red onions). Other items on the menu are more traditional pizzas, pastas and calzones, as well as cheeseless and gluten-free pizzas and vegetarian dishes.  

Reader Recommended
Blaze Pizza
667 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 440-7358 | blazepizza.com
990 Town Center Drive, LaCañada Flintridge

Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta
311 S. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 405-9877 | mammasbrickoven.com
South Pasadena
710 Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 799-1344

BEST MEDITERRANEAN FOOD
Café Santorini
64 W. Union St., Pasadena
(626) 564-4200 | cafesantorini.com
Located in a historic brick building in the heart of Old Pasadena, Café Santorini’s menu is an eclectic mix of foods from throughout the Mediterranean region. Some of these foods are Italian-style dishes like pasta, seafood cioppino, and pizza, as well as more Greek and Middle Eastern items like souvlaki, kebabs and appetizers, such as humus, babaghanoush and tabouleh. The café features an outdoor patio with year-round dining in a rooftop setting and serves a Sunday brunch.

Reader Recommended
Mediterranean Café
273 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena
(626) 793-9844 | kokosmediterraneancafe.com

Pita Jungle
43 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 432-7482 | pitajungle.com

Sahara Middle Eastern Cuisine
2226 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 795-6900 | saharapasadena.com

BEST MEXICAN FOOD
Mijares Mexican Restaurant
145 Palmetto Drive, Pasadena
(626) 792-2763 | mijaresrestaurant.com
1806 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 794-6674 
Owned and operated by the Mijares family, these two restaurants that bear their name are popular places for parties and business banquets, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Traditional Mexican breakfasts are available all day. Vegetarian fajitas are among the lunch and dinner entrees, alongside more traditional Mexican fare, such as chili verde, arroz con pollo and bistec picado. The menu also features homemade soups and tamales.  

Reader Recommended
El Cholo Pasadena
260 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 795-5800 | elcholopasadena.com

El Portal
695 E. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 795-8553 | elportalrestaurant.com8/

BEST MIDDLE EASTERN FOOD
Sahara Middle Eastern Cuisine 
2226 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 795-6900 | saharapasadena.com
The taste and smell of the food are irresistible at Sahara, the area’s favorite Middle Eastern restaurant. Beef, lamb and chicken kebabs and shawerma, served with pita bread, rice pilaf and chopped onions, are among the lunch and dinner dishes. Both meals also offer two vegetarian items: falafel and a vegetarian combo served with humus, tabouleh, babaghanoush and cabbage salad. In addition to the appetizers, salads and sandwiches, Sahara offers a light lunch menu and a child’s dinner menu, as well as a selection of beer and wine. And like every great Middle Eastern restaurant, there’s baklava for dessert!

Reader Recommended
Mediterranean Cafe
273 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena 
(626) 793-8844  
kokosmediterraneancafe.com/‎ 

Pita! Pita!
927 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 356-3099 | citycent.com/pitapita

Zankou Chicken
1296 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 
(626) 405-1502 | zankouchicken.com

BEST SEAFOOD
Cameron’s Seafood Market & Restaurant  
1978 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 793-3474 | camerons4fish.com
Cameron’s offers something for every fish lover. This restaurant and fish market, which has been in business since 1984, allows diners to watch as some of the fish entrees are mesquite grilled. Diners can also order a variety of lobster, crab, scampi, baked oyster and pan-crusted and baked fish dishes. And meat lovers need not despair — the exhaustive menu includes steak, chicken and hamburgers.   

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 | roysrestaurant.com

BEST SOUL FOOD
Big Mama’s Rib Shack & Southern Cooking
1453 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 797-1792| bigmamaspasadena.com
Big Mama’s brings the cuisine of the Deep South to North Lake. This is the place to go for some down-home Louisiana-style cooking, like gumbo, blackened fish, po boy sandwiches, jambalaya and red beans and rice with Louisiana hot links. Big Mama also serves a mean fried chicken and shrimp creole. And the barbecue is exceptional — with ribs, beef and chicken cooked over a pit until they are moist and tender.   

Reader Recommended
Bonnie B’s Smokin’ BBQ  
1280 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 794-0132 | bonniebssmokin.com

Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles 
830 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 791-4890 | roscoeschickenandwaffles.com

BEST SOUTH AMERICAN FOOD
Malbec  
1001 E. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 683-0550 | malbeccuisine.com
Named for the signature grape of Argentina’s most popular wine, Malbec serves both traditional and new Argentinean cuisine. That cuisine emphasizes meat dishes, and Malbec offers grilled beef tenderloin and grilled skirt, flat-iron, rib eye and New York steaks. There’s also a selection of homemade pastas and several house specialties, such as flat-grilled sole, chicken with lemon and herbs, and salmon with kalamata tapenade.
Malbec serves Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and caters parties and other events.

Reader Recommended
1810 Argentinean Restaurant  
121 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 795-5658 | 1810restaurant.com

Choza Mama  
96 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 432-4692 | chozamama.com

BEST SPANISH FOOD
La Luna Negra  
44 W. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 844-4331 | lalunanegrarestaurant.com
La Luna Negra brings authentic Spanish cuisine and entertainment to Old Pasadena. It is BEST-known for its wide selection of three types of tapas: salads, cold tapas (such as ceviche and wheels of brie cheese served with tomato, basil and balsamic vinegar or smoked with slivered almonds and served with chutney) and hot tapas (like a whole roasted garlic or fried chili). The restaurant also serves a number of entrees, including various types of paella. Diners can take in a flamenco show with their meal (Thursdays through Sundays at 7 p.m.) or catch a later live-band performance (Fridays and Saturdays after 9 p.m.).

Reader Recommended
Bar Celona  
46 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 405-1000 | barcelonapasadena.com

Racion  
119 W. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 396-3090 | racionrestaurant.com

BEST STEAKHOUSE
Arroyo Chop House  
536 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 577-7463 | arroyochophouse.com
Another one of the Smith Brothers’ popular local restaurants, Arroyo Chop House prides itself on using only USDA-grade prime beef. Its New York, filets, porterhouse, 
T-bone and other steaks are broiled in a 1,500-degree oven and served with a variety of sauces. The dining room’s Arts-and-Crafts-inspired cuisine, with a mural by famed local artist R. Kent Nelson, contributes to the class and good taste that characterize the restaurant and its dining experience.   

Reader Recommended
Houston’s 
320 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 577-6001 | hillstone.com/#/restaurants/houstons

Ruth’s Chris Steak House
369 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 583-8122 | ruthschris.com

BEST TACO
King Taco  
45 N. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 792-0405 | kingtaco.com
Like Taco Bell, King Taco is a Mexican food chain, but that’s where the similarities end. That’s because the food at Pasadena’s King Taco, one of 20 Southern California franchises, is first-rate, as well as low-priced. Tacos, unsurprisingly, are the signature item, made with two warm corn tortillas filled with a choice of meat or chicken and garnished with fresh chopped cilantro, onion and salsa for only $1.29 plus tax. Burritos, tamales, quesadillas, soups, nachos and rotisserie chicken are also available, 

Reader Recommended
La Estrella  
502 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 792-8559 | la-estrellarestaurant.com

Norma’s Tacos 
950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 795-1224

BEST TEA ROOM
Scarlet Tea Room and Fine Dining
18 W. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 577-0051 | scarlettearoom.com
The custom of British high tea is alive and very well, thank you, at the Scarlet Tea Room. Customers can treat themselves to Scarlet’s Three-Course Afternoon Tea (choice of a small pot of tea and four tea sandwiches, scones, and Berry Romanoff) or the Five-Course Afternoon Tea (all of the above, plus petit desserts and sorbet). The Five-Course Evening Tea is served on Friday and Saturday, and adds a glass of champagne to the afternoon items. Those who only want a cup of tea can choose their beverage from a wide variety of selections.  

Reader Recommended
Bird Pick Tea & Herb
10 S. DeLacey Ave., Pasadena
(626) 773-4372 | birdpick.com

Chado Tea Room
79 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 431-2832 | chadotea.com  

BEST THAI FOOD
Saladang 
363 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 793-8123 
Located in a redecorated industrial warehouse, Saladang has become many local diners’ go-to place for Thai food. The menu includes well-known dishes like pad-Thai, shrimp-fried rice, coconut soup, Thai red, yellow and green curries, sate (pork, beef or chicken with peanut sauce) and pun kilb (steamed chicken and peanut-filled dumplings). Saladang also offers some specialty items, like whole, deep-fried catfish, crab pot and barbecued chicken, pork and beef. 

Reader Recommended
Daisy Mint  
1218 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 792-2999 | daisymint.com

President Thai  
498 S. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 578-9814 | president-thai.com

BEST VEGETARIAN FOOD
Real Food Daily  
899 E. Del Mar Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 844-8900 | realfood.com
Real Food Daily takes an array of organic-based plant products to make one-of-a-kind vegetarian soups, salads, entrees and desserts. Main courses include burritos substituting tempeh bacon for beef. There is also pizza with a gluten-free crust, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, spinach, heirloom tomatoes, and basil. Diners can also choose from a selection of veggies, beans, grains and dressings to make their own dishes.  

Reader Recommended
All India Café
39 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 440-0309 | allindiacafe.com 

My Vegan  
633 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 578-9017 | myveganpasadena.com

BEST VIETNAMESE FOOD
Saigon Noodle Restaurant  
28 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 796-9378 
Pasadena-area diners at Saigon Noodle say the food is pho-nomenal, and a lot more convenient than traveling to Alhambra or Monterey Park for Vietnamese food. In addition to its warm, tasty bowlfuls of pho — a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs and chicken or beef — Saigon Noodle features crispy beef and shrimp spring rolls, chow mein and numerous dishes served with fried rice or vermicelli or salad for under $10. 

Reader Recommended
Blue Hen
1743 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock
(323) 982-9900
eatatbluehen.

Golden Deli
815 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel
(626) 308-0803 
9664 Las Tunas Drive, Temple City
(626) 285-2899
goldendelirestaurant.com 

  

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