Away from within
By Dan O'Heron 04/14/2011
School will soon be out for the summer, but for al fresco diners there remain a few classes in alimentary geography.
Along Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena, sidewalks are paved with tables and chairs from which to study all kinds of culinary styles: Afghan, Argentine, Chinese, English, French, Indian, Italian, Jewish, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Mexican, Nepal, Peruvian, Spanish, Swiss, Thai, even Tibetan.
But after you’ve crammed in all that this famous street has to offer, for advanced domestic and international disciplines you’ll want to visit many of the following patios, courtyards and terraces in Old Pas and beyond.
When the wrought iron gates swing open for night school in the patio at point08, mixology and music are the main subjects. More than never making a mistake with a James Bond martini, bartenders cum laude shake up traditional cocktails by using only premium liquors in precisely measured amounts. And by using larger, “harder” ice cubes, nary a drink is diluted — and there’s nothing watery about having Grammy-quality musicians live on stage. Alimentary art in the kitchen ranges from a lobster corn dog to a 30-day, dry-aged filet mignon.
To improve on your English, nearby at Lucky Baldwin’s there’s bangers and mash.
Magically, standing next to one of the potted plants that surround its patio, there’s Rod Serling, smirking and smoking a cigarette, explaining how they manage 67 beers on tap.
You’ll want to learn to say “thank you” in Italian at Villa SORRISO. Besides serving luscious pastas, its charming patio summons the image of a beachfront villa on the island of Lido off Venice, where jet setters change their clothes in open cabanas.
For recess, the new a/k/a leads you to a One Colorado Plaza terrace. Here, you can slip into the silk sheets American bistro comfort food with dishes like apple-buttered, double-cut pork chops and French fries with truffled aioli. More than impeccable, the service is versatile. From the terrace for romance in the evenings, veteran Pasadena restaurateur Robert Simon engages the moon as a hired hand.
Next door, the patio at Il Fornaio offers a refresher course in Italian. In June, with salads, the accent will be Tuscan. Beyond people watching, for scenery you can tilt your gaze upward and see pigeons circling soundlessly. But unlike piazzas in Italy, they’re never given permission to land and share your food.
When it comes to feeding the birds, the patio at midtown’s Rick’s Drive-In is like a park bench. Strutting in little turns, pigeons wait for fragments of French fries. It’s a long wait. Not one scintilla of the best tasting fries around will hit the deck until its cold in the bag.
As an elective for any special occasion, Bistro 45 provides romantic enjoyment when it is required. The roof over its 75-seat patio retracts to let the moon drop in. From tangles of ivy-laced walls, crickets become minstrels for love songs. And, the experience goes all the way with fine food and wine.
For drama students in the Playhouse District, there’s scenery to chew on at the Plaza Las Fuentes. Here, strolling the patio gardens shared by McCormick & Schmick’s and California Pizza Kitchen, they’ll catch the gleam of the Batchelder tiles that cloister infinity fountains and get close-ups of inhabited sculptures like City Hall, the old stone All Saints Church, and the landmark balconied Maryland apartments.
Nearby, in the brick and palmy Arcade Lane, El Portal, unique among the crowded circuit of fine Mexican cuisines, puts on a good show with classic Yucatecan dishes and mariachis on weekends.
The service at Roy’s makes you think of a vacation in Hawaii. You’ll love its blackened ahi and carry a tiki torch for its American Kobe meatloaf. After several Maui pineapple-infused martinis, you’ll want to skip school the next day.
For a history lesson, sojourn to The Oinkster’s Eagle Rock patio. While enjoying “slow-fast foods,” its location off the fabled Route 66 leads naturally to conversations about old family cars. But after several beers, it may turn to tales of mountain rescues on the Eagle rock.
An education on al fresco dining in Greater Pasadena?
Come and get it!