All India Café
39 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 440-0309

The name says it all, as this unassuming eatery boasts the cuisine of the entire Indian subcontinent. The home-style cooking uses only natural spices and ingredients, and the professional staff will take the time to explain the dishes to the uninitiated. All India Café offers dishes that are healthful and low in fat. Daily specials include chicken curry, a vegetable special, lentil of the day and rice of the day. $$

Ambiente Restaurant
45 S. Garfield Ave., Alhambra
(626) 300-5447

www.ambiente-la.com
With vivid presentations of fine, pan-Latin cuisines, exhibition “flair” bartending that’ll have you gulping before the first sip, DJ’s spinning electric eclectic, touch and don’t touch dancing, and an “above casual trendy” dress code (meaning no human spectacles allowed), Ambiente provides a place for a lively crowd. In between acts, eating sugar cane shrimp by the fire-pit patio offers a nice change of pace. $$

Avanti Café
111 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-4688

www.avanticafe.com
What popcorn is to the moviegoer or the hot dog is to the baseball fan, Avanti’s gourmet pizza is to the local pie lovers: a can’t-do-without. There’s a pizza for every individual taste, but if it is hard to satisfy everybody at the table with just one cheese topping, try the quatro formaggio. This is a four-cheeser of Gorgonzola, one of Italy’s great cheeses, milder and less salty than Roquefort; a Parmesan of smooth and golden rind and dense, grainy, straw-colored paste; buttery, pale and pungent Provolone; and smoky Mozzarella. Great variety in pasta dishes, too. $

The Barkley
1400 E. Huntington Drive,
South Pasadena
(626) 799-0758
Partner dancing holds sway Friday and Saturday nights. To hit the floor with energy, there’s an 18- to 22-ounce prime rib for the big eater, and some splendid full-meal salads for the better dancer. Complete steak, chop and seafood dinners highlight the menu during the week. And any time is the right time for the classic club sandwich — awarded “the best of its kind” in Los Angeles by Los Angeles Magazine. $$

Barn Burner
1000 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 403-RIBS
Deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas barbecue comes to Pasadena with this new enterprise, operated by the people who own El Cholo and Dona Rosa. When BBQ competitors get a load of the aroma coming out of a 2,000-pound applewood, self-basting smoker, they’re apt to be singing the old cowboy lament “Goodbye Old Paint.” Big country sides like mac & cheese and creamed corn, along with Po-boy sandwiches, are also featured. $$

Beckham Grille Steakhouse
77 W. Walnut St., Pasadena
(626) 796-3399
This is an elegantly-appointed prime rib house, with a British theme. Come for the prime rib and other treats on the sumptuous menu, and while you’re there, relax with a drink at the comfortable bar or take a seat by the fireplace. Stop by after work for happy hour. $$

Bistro Verdu
3459 N. Verdugo Road, Montrose
(818) 541-1532
Coinciding with Hemingway’s description of Paris as “a moveable feast,” Chef/Owner Michael Ruiz brings to Montrose both a French bistro’s small cafe atmosphere and a colonial Mediterranean flair for certain dishes. “I’ve tried to create a neighborhood restaurant,” said Ruiz, “in the truest sense. My wife and I live in the neighborhood and we have neighbors as guests.” They now serve their Sunday country dinners with good-neighbor policy desserts like chocolate/walnut/butterscotch bread pudding, laced with chantilly cream. $$$

Boiling Pot
345 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 796-8870
Hot pot cooking in the 13th century fueled Genghis Khan’s pillaging privileges over half the known world. Today it spearheads the Atkins Diet revolution with “shabu shabu,” personal-griddle cooking. In a rolling boil, customers swish thinly-sliced Certified Angus beef, a garden of veggies, a bevy of small-dish condiments, plus rice and noodles. If you skip the rice and noodles, you have just what the doctor ordered: no carbs. For dessert, baker Julie Nguyen’s “strawberry dream cloud” crowns the victors. $

Brit’s
1770 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 578-1301
Boasting the best fish ‘n’ chips outside Liverpool, Brit’s also offers more than that fast-food staple of Britannia. Appetizers, called “starters” in England, include curried veggie somosa, sausage rolls, banger bites and scotch egg. They also boast main dishes like cornish pastie, shepherds pie and chicken curry, and serve an array of popular stouts and ales. And while Brits in England may look askance at spices, Brit’s in Pasadena knows how to season. $

Buster’s Ice Cream and Coffee Shop
1006 Mission St., South Pasadena
(626) 441-0744

Buster’s is a South Pasadena institution. This friendly, family-run restaurant specializes in a wide selection of Fosselman’s ice cream, but there’s more. They’ve gained a reputation for a selection of coffee drinks, like the frosted mocha, as well as hot and cold teas. Try a smoothie or a mixed yogurt, and sandwiches are also on the menu. Sunday afternoon live jazz offers a relaxing diversion. $

Café Mundial
514 S. Myrtle Ave., Monrovia
(626) 303-2233
Café Mundial is known for its exquisite California cuisine. Open for lunch and dinner, they’re known for their fish, steaks, pastas and more. Try the Burger Mundial, with grilled onions, roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and Dijon. The Black Linguine with seafood is a hit, with clams, shrimp, mussels, bay scallops and calamari in a spicy marinara sauce. Café Mundial offers a fine selection of beer and wines. $$

Café Beaujolais
1712 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles
(323) 255-5111
Old-fashioned French cooking in a homey setting that adds a unique presence to its neighborhood, with the simpler dishes faring the best: snails, steak frites, chocolate mousse are all you need to experience a food-filled flight of fancy to some of the world’s most exquisite tastes. $$$

California Skewers
122 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 440-8888
The combination of traditional favorites and unique creations, all served on a skewer and made to order in a creative fusion, sets California Skewers apart. Try the signature skewer, the California Chicken, with chicken breast marinated in zesty herbs and striking spices. A variety of skewer combos, wraps, a la carte and interesting sides make this the skewer capital of Pasadena. $

California School of Culinary Arts’ 561 Restaurant
561 E. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 405-1561

www.bistro561.com
Restaurant 561, the fine-dining public eating establishment operated by the California School of Culinary Arts, was honored with the gold award for its contemporary cuisine in 2004 by the Southern California Restaurant Writers. Supervised by Chef David Edens, formerly of Pinot Blanc, and Chef Eric Osley, formerly of Spago Beverly Hills, the restaurant is essentially French, with overlays of Italian and Spanish refinements, as well as California innovation and occasional inflections from the Pacific Rim. $$$

Cameron’s Seafood
1978 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 793-3474
When people are pointing toward a special catch in seafood, Cameron’s is THAR! With a ship’s log inscribed “Our Fish Come from the Best Schools,” you infer that the ship’s cook has a PhD to the Nth degree in fishery. The study he makes of Oysters Rockefeller is fit for John D. himself. Four freshly-shucked bivalve mollusks are returned to the shell with spinach, intense Romano cheese, then breaded and baked atop a gritty bed of rock salt. Oceanic currents of approval follow. $$

Canadian Café
125 E. Colorado Blvd., Monrovia
(626) 303-2303
Savor the flavor of the north in this family restaurant. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Canadian Café offers breakfast classics like Peameal Bacon, omelettes, pancakes and all your morning favorites. Later on, try the Canadian Chalet Rotisserie Chicken, or seafood — like crab cakes and chips, or the British Columbia Burger, with two beef patties, two slices of cheese, onions and a secret sauce. $

Carmine’s
424 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 799-2266
Hand-me-down Carmine Sabatella-Italian family recipes are enhanced by the warm hospitality of the hosts and the generosity of their portions. More and more hungry people are breaking ranks in the lines outside of Cheesecake Factory to get here to size up dishes like “pasta rosa.” A pinkish giant, it heaps with two-inch long mostaccioli (“little moustache”) tubes loaded with gobs of sharp, tangy Romano cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil and garlic. Full bar. $

Carousel Restaurant
304 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale
(818) 246-7775
Whether you’re on a date or in a large group, the Carousel’s fine, fresh Lebanese-Armenian food will definitely satisfy you. Even if you’re not a an expert on Middle Eastern cuisine or eager to try its delicacies such as frogs’ legs and lamb’s tongue, the seafood, kebabs, and vegetarian meals are sure to impress, as will the friendly and accommodating staff. You can even make a fantastic meal out of meze, or appetizers. Regardless of the food, the large and lavish room, filled with Middle Eastern antiques, make the restaurant memorable and a must-see. $$

Carrow’s
815 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 799-0561
Carrow’s is known for its friendly atmosphere where people remember your name. A menu of American favorites, like prime rib, roast sirloin of beef and chicken fried steak. Chicken and seafood also abound, like the Chicken and Shrimp a la Roma and southern-fried chicken. Dinner combos, like steak and grilled shrimp with all the fixings, are a diner’s delight. $

Chandra
400 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 577-6599
As a former teacher of cookery in Bangkok, the owner imparts the wisdom of authentic Thailand hospitality — quality food, generous portions and decent prices. Complete lunch specials are as low as $4.95. For $1 more, you can get barbecued chicken, marinated in coconut milk, garlic, pepper and cilantro. Dinners shine by candlelight. Its location near the Pasadena Freeway also makes Chandra an ideal spot to grab good, hot food to take home. $

Charlie’s Trio Café
47 W. Main St., Alhambra
(626) 284-4943
This Italian eatery has been flipping pizzas and serving other traditional favorites, such as lasagna, spinach and cheese tortellini and pasta primavera, for more than 25 years. Charlie’s also offers unusual dishes like its southwest pasta and linguine diablo with chicken or shrimp, adding a creative kick to its all-Italian menu. $

City Thai
48 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 577-1500
This longtime Old Pasadena favorite has just redefined its menu and redesigned its interior, making a good dining experience great. Come enjoy a wide range of tasty Asian treats, ranging from noodles and curry dishes to a tasty array of wok fried rice selections and stir fry, all at great prices. $

Club 41
41 S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena
(626) 795-4141
Club 41 is under new management, but you can still expect the same relaxed ambience and friendly service. While the menu boasts choices ranging from breakfast items, to soups, salads, sandwiches seafood and chicken and pasta, this place has always been known as a prime chophouse. Dishes like the 16-oz New York Cut are winners with the public. Stop by for live entertainment Friday, Saturday and Sunday, too. $$

The Coffee Table Bistro
1958 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock
(323) 255-2200
For the past seven years, the Coffee Table Bistro has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to a hungry public. The family-run restaurant specializes in freshly-made food. Regulars rave about Coffee Table breakfasts, particularly the omelettes. Other dishes that get a big thumbs-up are the fresh beef chili and the incredible steaks, as well as homemade soups. Open seven days a week. $$

Coffee Tree
696 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 796-8256
In the three years that it’s been open, Coffee Tree has developed a loyal following among coffee lovers. The owners bring a wealth of experience to this European-style coffee house, having previously operated the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Coffee Tree offers whole beans, roasted specifically for them, and a wide array of coffee drinks, as well as loose teas. Try the pastries, too. $

Colombo’s Restaurant & Catering
1833 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock
(323) 254-9138
Just five minutes from Old Town, Colombo’s in nearby Eagle Rock has been serving the Los Angeles/Pasadena area since 1954. Ann and Sam Colombo have served their family recipes in a friendly neighborhood atmosphere. Enjoy choice steaks, fresh seafood, delicious chicken, pizza and many of Sam’s original Italian recipes with many of the sauces made to order. Daily lunch and dinner specials with prime rib are served during the weekend. Relax in a retro-style atmosphere with soft lighting and overstuffed red booths while enjoying a well-stocked bar where the drinks are generous. A private banquet room is available for meetings or special events. Colombo’s offers live entertainment seven nights a week, jazz Sunday through Thursday and “Open Mic” with Linda Lopez at the piano on Friday and Saturday nights. Reservations recommended. $$

Colorado Wine Company
2114 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock
(323) 478-1985
www.cowineco.com
Opening three months ago was an auspicious start to what looks like a memorable season for wine in Eagle Rock, as wine prices are no longer something to get over but something to get with. All bottles from the world over are under $25. Quality? “We reject 19 out of 20 bottles we taste,” said John Nugent, who operates the shop with fiancée Jennifer Morgan, a former New York City party planner. Go Eagles! $$

Damon’s Restaurant
317 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale
(818) 507-1510
Dining among palm trees and images of monkeys might not be your usual steak house experience, but Damon’s Polynesian decor makes eating New York Strip steaks and fresh seafood relaxed and fun. Of course, if you don’t feel like ordering a filet mignon, they also offer classic burgers, garlic bread, and weekly specials, such as chicken fried steak. On top of the good food and fun atmosphere, Damon’s, which is almost 70 years old, knows how to make a Mai Tai. $$

The Derby
233 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia
(626) 447-2430
Many of the people you see leafing through the Daily Racing Form checking past performances are not just denizens of the track down the street — they may own the horse, train it or ride on it. It’s a photo finish as to what’s more important: Toasting great moments in thoroughbred racing at the bar or dining on a fabulous assortment of steaks. It’s another close call as to which steak tastes best — the bacon-wrapped filet mignon or a sirloin, rolled and stuffed with Italian bread, Parmesan and herbs, with a Bordelaise sauce accent. $$$

Diner on Main
201 W. Main St., Alhambra
(626) 281-3488
This retro diner is a place of both reminiscence and discovery, a mingling of people who use cream and sugar, who tried the twist and liked Ike, and a place for Gen-Xers to pick over Thai Cobb salads while drinking Wiki Wiki Woos. With photos of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean hanging on the walls along with a Schwinn bicycle — with an intimate bar and a breezeway patio that shows off both old town considerations and hip possibilities — it recreates a ’50s and ’60s experience and bids the return of the great American diner to popular culture. $

Dona Rosa
577 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 449-2999

www.donarosa.com
Its fast-served, high-quality Mexican food for the finicky shouldn’t surprise anyone. While next of kin to the landmark El Cholo Restaurant, the bakery and taqueria is no poor relation. Its place at the table is secured by a painstakingly prepared menu where a convenience factor rivals taste as a way of courting patronage. You can indulge in traditional breakfasts or regional favorites like burritos, machacas, sopes and huaraches, plus fresh premise-baked goods like sweetly-loaded empanada turnovers. $

E’s Restaurant & Wine Bar
115 E. Colorado Blvd., Old Pasadena
(626) 793-6544 or visit

www.eswinebar.com
Besides being entertaining Friday and Saturday nights, the restaurant serves as a dating service where good-looking food meets compatible wine. Clearly, it is the feeling here that when ideal reciprocal flavors of food and wine are brought together, the two combine for a treat more delicious than either alone could provide. More fun comes from a full bar with a dazzling array of somethingtinis. $$

El Cholo Restaurant
958 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 441-4353

www.elcholopasadena.com
With striking and affectionate references to the past, the restaurant is built along the lines of the 1931 original landmark El Cholo Spanish Cafe on Western Avenue near downtown LA. With pictures, murals, wrought iron railings, burbling fountains, charming alcove extensions, frescoed walls studded with photographs delineating family history, hostesses in folklorico dress weaving about the rooms and waiters strung up in angular “monoz” bow ties — everything works together in a most hospitable way. $$

El Portal
695 E. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 795-8553

www.elportalrestaurant.com
Sponsoring the works of rotating artists for monthly exhibitions blends perfectly with Yucatecan food presentations like the gastronomic baroque of Chef Reyna Guardado’s many-splendored chocolate mole on enchilada. Dark and sweet, soft and rich, it unctuously covers a wrapping, chunked with roasted chicken, chorizo and bell pepper; glazed with ancho chile and melted cheese; pebbled with corn and peas, plus sides of rice, greens and black beans, squiggled with the buttered ivory of Monterey Jack. Full bar, Premium tequilas. $$

Ernie Jr.’s Taco House
2803 W. Broadway, Eagle Rock
(323) 256-1298

Pasadena diners may miss the old place in Old Town, but they only have to drive a few minutes away to Eagle Rock for a taste of the tradition that made Ernie Jr.’s famous. They’re known for their burritos, combos, margaritas and, of course, tacos, all at reasonable prices and in king-sized proportions. The half-century old tradition continues right next door, and it’s worth the drive. $

French 75
3400 W. Olive Ave., Burbank
(818) 955-5100
This lively Parisian bistro specializes in French comfort food and American bistro classics, like French Onion soup, Steak Frites, fresh seafood, traditional crepes and soufflés. The atmosphere boasts “American in Paris” feel, with red leather booths, period lighting, vintage posters, stamped tin ceilings and a red glass bar, featuring Alsatian beers, signature martinis and French and California wines. Locations in Laguna and Irvine, and coming soon to Pasadena. $$$

Front Runner
285 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia
(626) 574-7223

No doubt about it, horse racing and fine dining run neck-and-neck at Front Runner inside the clubhouse at Santa Anita Park. It’s always a first-place finisher with guests who love California cuisine. You can catch the racing action (in season) from behind the security of a floor-to-ceiling glass wall while enjoying seafood, your favorite chop, a gourmet sandwich, tasty salad, appetizers or a good glass of wine. At Front Runner, you’re always a winner. $$$

Gordon Biersch
41 Hugus Alley, Pasadena
(626) 449-0052

Gordon Biersch has built a reputation for its signature beers and quality menu. Golden Export, Hefeweizen, Marzen, Blonde Bock or a seasonal selection go great with sandwiches like the Marzen barbecue chicken or beer battered fish and chips. Pastas, pizzas and stir fries are excellent, as well as flame-grilled New York strip steak. Wine and cocktails add adventure to the experience. $$

Green Papaya
1800 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra
(626) 282-1291

There’s no need to drive all the way to LA’s Thai Town, thanks to this terrific eatery in nearby Alhambra, which offers a delicious assortment of curries, soup noodles and rice dishes to Boba drinks, beer, wine and cocktails but with a particular focus on its extensive array of seafood entrees. $$

Gus’s Barbecue
808 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 799-3251

Gus’s has been a fixture in South Pasadena for years. Even an earthquake couldn’t kill the tradition started in 1946. The sauces prepared here and lovingly applied to the chicken, ribs, wings and other grilled delights have the critics raving. If you’re just looking for a quick bite, check out Gus’s mouth-watering appetizers for under $5. There’s even a special kids and seniors menu. Relax in the lounge with a cocktail and catch a game. $

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ
70 W. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 405-4842

In its first year in Pasadena, the Gyu-Kaku concept is

interesting: you cook the food the way you like it at your table. Start with appetizers like edamame, crispy seaweed with cream cheese or Ahi Poke. Move ahead to dishes like U.S. Kobe beef, or Japanese pork sausage, chicken basil or shrimp garlic. Try a vegetable dish, like Shiitake with Ponzu or Eggplant Shio or Miso. $$

Hurry Curry of Tokyo
37 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 792-8474

Hurry Curry started in West LA in the 1980s and proved such a hit it just had to come to Old Town eventually. The goal was to provide diners with a taste of the famous curry houses of Tokyo. Japanese chefs recreate the signature flavor of Hurry Curry’s original curry sauce, boasting a blend of 21 spices applied to chicken, beef, seafood, pork and vegetable dishes, at affordable prices. $

Hyper Coffee
203 S. First Ave., Arcadia
(626) 445-0880

Contrary to what the name might suggest, Hyper Coffee is focused on creating a relaxing, soothing and personable atmosphere. You can find everything from lattes to smoothies here, plus pastries, salads and paninis. The relaxing back patio enhances the experience, and is available for meetings and parties. Hyper Coffee is the only local restaurant offering free wireless Internet access and an authentic coffeehouse atmosphere. $

Japon Bistro
927 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 744-1751

There are lots of sushi bars in Pasadena, but only one stands as the home of modern Japanese cuisine. At Japon Bistro, you can belly up to the sushi bar for your favorite rolls and other market-fresh treats from the deep blue sea, or have a seat at an intimate booth or a table. Besides the food, Japon Bistro boasts an impressive sake list the likes of which is not seen elsewhere. $

Kabuki Restaurants
88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 568-9310
3539 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 351-8963

Research tells us that Kabuki is a traditional form of Japanese theater. But if you’re looking for an all-star dining performance, come to one of the many Kabuki Restaurants located hereabouts and see why they’ve been voted “Best Japanese Restaurant” in our reader’s poll for more than a decade. Friendly service and, of course, excellent cuisine prepared by trained chefs make Kabuki a winner in the hearts of diners. $

Kathleen’s
595 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 578-0722

Even though it’s located off Pasadena’s “restaurant row,” Kathleen’s has developed a loyal following over the years. This popular lunch stop provides home-cooking, just like Mom used to make. The salads and sandwiches are huge and hearty, the burgers are fabulous, and there’s a Mexican menu that earned Kathleen’s a “best Mexican food” honor a few years back. Daily fish specials, plus dishes like Chicken Piccata, Spinach Linguine and Quiche are winners with diners. $$

La Adelita
134 E. Colorado Blvd., Monrovia
(626) 359-2212

La Adelita is a small restaurant with a big heart, specializing in the cuisine of the Puebla region of Mexico. La Adelita is known for its mole dishes. Try chicken moles, mole tamales, mole enchiladas and more. The spinach enchiladas are excellent, as are the veggie burritos, fajitas and steaks. Catering is available. Beer and wine. Breakfast is just $3.99, lunch, $5.99 and dinner, $7.99. $

La Parisienne
1101 E. Huntington Drive, Monrovia
(626) 357-3359

Offering a quiet, romantic setting inside an attractive country inn motif, La Parisienne has become renowned for everything from its traditional crepes to such exquisite selections as Ballotine Washington stuffed free range chicken breasts. Magnifique! $$$

Leo’s All-Star Sports Bar & Grille
2941 Honolulu Ave., La Crescenta
(818) 249-5858

Leo’s is an upscale sports bar with a casual atmosphere. The friendly, neighborhood vibe, plus 20 televisions, with all the games, have earned Leo’s the Citysearch designation of “Best Sports Bar.” Karaoke and live bands keep the action rolling. The huge menu includes the best hot wings and Louisiana Clam Chowder in town. A wide selection of tap and bottled beers, plus a full bar keep fans coming back. $

Le Petit Vendome
906 Granite Drive, Pasadena
(626) 396-9234
958 Foothill Blvd., La Canada
(818) 952-4084

This pleasant gourmet shop is known for its fine selection of handcrafted wines from around the world. They also offer a large selection of distilled spirits, gourmet cheeses, sandwiches, glassware, gift baskets, books and bar accessories. The wine bar hosts classes and private parties, introduces new releases and conducts winery events featuring wine makers and guest speakers. $$

Los Chitas Locos
121 W. Duarte Road, Monrovia.
(626)303-3848

Los Chitas Locos has been a popular Monrovia stop for nearly six years. This is Mexican fast food at its finest. The eatery is known for its tacos, burritos, enchiladas, basically all your Mexican favorites. For a late evening meal deal, check out their 75-cent tacos, served after 9 p.m. $

Malagueta
43 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 564-8696

It’s hot in Rio this time of year, and you can turn up the temperature in your dining experience by stopping into Malagueta. This small but enticing Old Town eatery brings the best of Brazil to a hungry public. Reasonable prices and authentic menu choices have earned this place a big thumbs up from locals. The churrascuria is tops and the atmosphere is sure to please. Malagueta is a must stop for a taste of South America. $$$

Margarita’s
155 S. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 449-4224

The name may say Margarita’s, but this is a full-service Mexican restaurant. You’ll find all your old favorites from Old Mexico right here. Tortillas are hand-made fresh daily, and the weekday Pronto Buffet Brunch lets you eat fast and cheap. Seafood dishes, a la carte, chicken dishes and a host of other fine fare await, along with combos and breakfast dishes. Kids eat free Mondays, and, yes, their margaritas are to die for. Open for Sunday brunch. $

Marla’s Restaurant
39 W. Main St., Alhambra
(626) 282-9300

Situated in refurbished downtown Alhambra, this tasty French eatery has been earning rave reviews in its short life. An easy-going atmosphere with a patio for catching the sights belies the art of cooking within. Try traditional favorites like coq au vin, duck with truffle sauce or braised lamb shank in paprika sauce. Appetizers also get a thumbs-up, like steamed black mussels in a Chardonnay sauce and shallots or baked brie in a puffed pastry. $$

Maru Sushi and Yakitori Bar
1027 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia
(626) 462-0815

Though the actual restaurant may be small, the skilled chefs, fresh ingredients and creative dishes have made Maru a big hit in the San Gabriel Valley. Maru’s eclectic menu combines old favorites like shiokara and nato with original Cal-Asian dishes both traditional and modern sushi lovers can enjoy. $$$

Mezbaan Indian Cuisine
80 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 405-9060

Enter a world of tasty Indian cuisine, right in the heart of Old Pasadena. Whether you’re craving specialties like chicken masala or lobster carahi, seafood or lamb curries, a savory array of rice dishes, or Hyderabadi specialties, this cozy spot has been offering it all at affordable prices since 1982. $

Mi Piace
25 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 795-7529

This Italian restaurant and bakery has been a consistent winner with our readers for years. Set in the heart of Old Pasadena, Mi Piace (Italian for “I like it”) is famous for its Italian dishes with an American flair. The seafood linguini with clams and mussels in an authentic broth makes any Italian food lover’s taste buds go wild, but try the pizza and ravioli too. They also make great shaken martinis! $

Mijares Mexican Restaurant
145 Palmetto Drive, Pasadena
(626) 792-2763

One of the most beloved Mexican restaurants in the Los Angeles area, and for good reason. Sporting a massive six-page menu from which it’s impossible to pick just one perfect item, this restaurant’s outdoor patio seating provides the perfect surroundings for everything south of the border. $$

Monrovian Family Restaurant
534 S. Myrtle Ave., Monrovia
(626) 359-8364

There’s something to be said for the simple pleasures, so if you’re craving home-style cooking and affordable prices, while in a friendly old fashioned coffee shop setting, then head over to the Monrovian. Here, the breakfasts and especially the gyro sandwiches are all the rage and all fall in the under $10 category. $

New Delhi Palace
950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 405-0666
New Delhi Palace has consistently won acclaim as the best Indian restaurant in town. For something like 10 years running, it’s won diner polls to testify to that fact. Whether you choose one of their Tandoori dishes, like chicken marinated in yogurt, ginger and spices, or rack of lamb marinated in yogurt and herbs, a curry specialty, a vegetarian dish or one of their reasonably-priced lunch or dinner specials, a truly authentic taste of India awaits. $

Nikki C’s Restaurant & Bar
470 S. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 792-7437

Celebrating one full year of making taste buds very happy, Nikki C’s specializes in classy dishes with complex flavors and is quickly becoming a local favorite. Appetizers include delicious and decadent bruschetta, zucchini parmesan, stuffed portabella mushroom and a chilled shrimp martini. Try Landon’s salad, with a taste explosion of fruit and nuts, before digging in to signature dishes such as their house special baby-back ribs, chicken marsala, chicken cordon bleu, pan-sautéed halibut and oven baked lasagna. $$

Noda
546 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 793-2600

Get ready, sushi lovers: Pasadena has taken Arcadia’s jewel. The once-favorite Arcadian restaurant, Noda, has recently moved to Pasadena’s South Lake district, and its dinner and lunch combinations will satisfy anyone’s tastes. Try the boat dinner, Noda’s Ark: soft shell crab, four kinds of tempura, sushi, teriyaki, gyoza, salad, soup, rice, and fresh fruit. If you don’t have someone to share that with you, the bento box combinations offer six compartments full of flavor, including two entrees, salad, tofu, dumplings, orange slices, ginger, soup rice, and teriyaki. Wash that down with sake, wine, or beer, and you couldn’t ask for a more complete meal at a reasonable price. $$

The Nose Wine Cellar & Bar
696 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 666-6991

Ignite your senses at The Nose Wine Cellar & Bar. The Nose is passionate about their wines, featuring exclusive brands of wines and premium cheeses from around the world. Select your next bottle of wine from their inventory of hard-to-find labels, which tend to be snapped up quickly by discriminating buyers. They serve cheese plates and appetizers all day and then, in the late evening, they feature wonderful after-dinner desserts. Located in Arcade Lane, The Nose is open from 1 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. $$

Orean The Health Express
817 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 794-0861

This is the first and only vegetarian fast-food takeout place in town. Orean produces all your fast-food faves like burgers, hot dogs, burritos, tostadas, pastrami dips and more, without using meat, eggs, fish, milk or refined sugar. For example, try the Orean Salad Burger, made with fresh-cut garden veggies, sunflower seeds, black beans and special sauce in a whole-wheat bun, or the African Burrito, with black-eyed peas, soy cheese, African salsa and tahini sauce. $

The Peach Café
141 E. Colorado Blvd., Monrovia
(626) 599-9092

You don’t have to travel all the way to the Deep South to taste the delectable confections of the region. All you have to do is head over to Monrovia, whose small-town charm plays the perfect host to this breakfast-lunch menu featuring buttermilk pancakes, hickory maple waffles and French toast made of croissants for breakfast, as well as more yuppified panini sandwiches and wraps, while the weekend brunch offers the Peach Café Benedict. Ask for it by name. $

Pepe’s Restaurant
927 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada
(818) 790-3670

Since 1970, featuring solid “grow up with” Mexican dishes from part chili relleno combos to whole enchilada, Pepe’s has satisfied four generations of regulars from high chair to bar stool.

Radhika’s
140 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena
(626) 744-0994

Like all the major cuisines of the world, Indian dishes vary by specific locale. Radhika’s menu specializes in the dishes of northern India’s Punjab and Kashmir regions. Critics say that Radhika’s fried chana samosa, which is potato-filled topped with chickpeas, will warm your heart and palette. Lamb in a lentil stew is also a big winner. To sample it all, try the weekday buffet or come to their Sunday champagne brunch. $$

Ranchero Restaurant
2663 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 793-0446
1501 E. Huntington Drive, Duarte
(626) 358-6398

This perennial Pasadena favorite (now with an added location in Duarte) is known for its friendly mom-and-pop atmosphere, good food, reasonable prices and, of course, its tasty selection of margaritas. Combos like Ranchero Steak with an eight-ounce Spencer steak, fried potatoes, rice, beans and corn or flour tortillas are a big hit. A full range of burritos, tacos, enchiladas and tostadas bolster the a la carte menu. They even serve Mexican pizza. Catering and banquet facilities available. $

Restaurant Lozano
44 N. Baldwin Ave., Sierra Madre
(626) 355-5945

Some restaurants are defined not just by their style of cooking, but by the fact they seem to do absolutely everything well. This is one of those establishments, thanks to a diverse menu offering everything from pan roasted free range chicken and bacon wrapped filets to grilled salmon spaghettini and marinated eggplant sandwiches. In other words, it’s all good, and it’s all pretty affordable. $$

Rigo’s Mexican Restaurant
457 W. Foothill Blvd., Monrovia
(626) 599-9071

www.rigosmonrovia.com
With everything from classic burritos and quesadillas to special shrimp cocktails and Chile Verde, Rigo’s serves hearty portions from a large selection of Mexican food. Although anything from its seafood section could be called a special, Rigo’s claims its specialty is its lengthy breakfast menu, which is served all day. The menu and ambiance is great for children, groups, and seniors, who can order off a special menu. And if you can’t make the trip there, even for its handmade tortillas on Saturdays and Sundays, Rigo’s caters its regular dishes as well as buffets and party platters. $

Robin’s Restaurant
395 N. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 351-8885

This family eatery has taken the gold in our reader’s poll for more than 10 years running. Robin’s is a full-service restaurant, with tons of menu choices, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s also known for being

kid-friendly, where the little ones can find something yummy while Mom and Dad have a drink with dinner. Barbecue is Robin’s claim to fame, featuring real, wood-fired cooking on a real pit barbecue, no gas or electricity. $

Scarlet Tea Room
18 W. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 577-0051

The Scarlet Tea Room offers an elegant setting to enjoy a bite to eat and cup of tea. Portions are larger than most tea rooms, with an extensive lunch menu of gourmet sandwiches and salads. All ingredients are organic, including the teas. All creams, butter, bread, salad dressing and scones are mixed daily. The Scarlet Tea Ceremony is an infusion of all different cultures and offers five courses, freshly made to order. $$

Shakers Family Restaurants
801 N. Central Blvd., Glendale
(818) 246-4994
601 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 799-9168

For years, Shakers Family Restaurants have been known as the place where the locals eat. They’ve received rave reviews for their breakfasts, voted “Best Breakfast” in the Pasadena Weekly’s annual readers’ poll. Belgian waffles, pancakes, homemade muffins and fresh-squeezed juices keep the diners coming back. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ample parking. Beer and wine are served. $

Sesame Grill
1505 Mission St., South Pasadena
(626) 799-4774

Sesame Grill offers a melding of European and Asian cuisines, with an eye-catching dining room and top-notch food. Visitors have raved about dishes like the lobster ravioli with saffron-vermouth sauce, chilled calamari in a vinaigrette sauce, chicken ravioli in a creamy Parmesan sauce and salmon in orange-grapefruit vinaigrette. In addition, the special fried catfish can’t be missed. The chilled eggplant appetizer also gets a big thumbs-up. Service is outstanding, and prices reasonable. $$

Shiro
308 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia
(626) 821-0880

This French and Japanese hybrid restaurant offers an innovative dining experience with minimalist décor and no-frills ambience. Visitors have rated the sizzling catfish with an Asian flair a top catch. The ginger stuffing with a touch of cilantro really sets it off, and it’s served in a tasty ponzu sauce. Other must-have dishes from the skilled hands of chef Hideo Yamashiro include shrimp ravioli with shiitake mushrooms or the lobster, scallop and sea bass wrapped in spring roll. $$$

Smith Brothers Restaurants:
Parkway Grill
510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 795-1001 $$
Arroyo Chop House
536 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
(626) 577-7463 $$
Smitty’s Grill
110 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 792-9999 $$$
Crocodile Café
140 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 449-9900 $$

This upscale chain of restaurants includes some of the best names in town for fine dining, and features perennial winners in our reader’s poll. For example, Parkway Grill has kept its luster in a competitive town for the better part of two decades. It even boasts its own vegetable and herb garden onsite, along with an eclectic menu. Arroyo Chop House is known for prompt, professional service and an extensive wine list, and, of course, the steak and lamb chops. Smitty’s Grill earns kudos for ribs, seafood and steak, while the Crocodile Café is a winner in California cuisine.

Stoney Point Restaurant
1460 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 449-9715
Stoney Point has stood as a romantic nighttime dinner destination for decades now, with cozy, intimate seating and a relaxing atmosphere. It’s known as Pasadena’s home of Continental Cuisine, as our readers’ poll can attest. Ambience isn’t just a word here, it’s an attitude. Whether stopping in for a lunchtime salmon salad or sandwich, or a dinner entrée like lobster ravioli, the signature Stoney Point Chicken or a great steak, it’s well-worth a trip across the Arroyo. $$$

The Stuffed Sandwich
1145 E. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel
(626) 285-9161
Sam and Marlene Samaniego have operated The Stuffed Sandwich since 1976, and since the beginning diners have flocked in for lunch and dinner. Whether it’s one of their signature sandwiches, salads, soups, spaghetti or barbecue, a meal here is bound to leave you smiling. But The Stuffed Sandwich has also gained a reputation as a beer-lovers’ paradise, serving over 700 bottled beers from more than 40 countries, including more than 130 Belgian ales. $

Suriya Thai Restaurant
125 W. California Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 584-0066

Suriya Thai is known for its tremendous menu, with plenty of choices for lunch and dinner. Whether it’s soup, salad, seafood, a fine curry dish, appetizers or noodles, you’re sure to find something to your liking at reasonable prices. Critics have raved about the fried rice, wonton and barbecued chicken. Or, try the Mongolian stir fry and orange chicken. All choices on the lunch menu come with soup, salad, rice and wonton, so you won’t leave hungry. $

Sushi of Naples
735 E. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 578-1123
Good sushi is not just food, it’s an art form. At Sushi of Naples, talented sushi chefs create dishes that not only taste extraordinary, they’re also beautiful to behold. Premium sushi dishes include bounty from the sea like anago, toro, live orange clam, premium squid and more. They’ve even named a house special roll in honor of Pasadena — the Pasadena Roll — with tuna, salmon, halibut, yellowtail, avocado, masago, cream cheese, cucumber and sprouts. $

Taste of Brazil
4840 Huntington Drive, El Sereno
(323) 342-9422

As one of a few Brazilian restaurants in town, Taste of Brazil specializes in feijoada, considered the Brazilian national dish. This delicacy consists of pork, cooked with black beans, collard greens, special Brazilian condiments, garlic and other special ingredients. Another excellent choice is the peixe Baiana, a filet with sautéed peppers, onions and palm oil. Taste of Brazil offers live music Friday, Saturday and Sunday. $$

Thaitalian
49 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 585-8808

This new restaurant in Old Pasadena fuses two great world cuisines: Thai and Italian. The two go well together, as in dishes like Italian linguini and Thai peanut sauce. The combination of crushed peanuts, green onions, bean sprouts and eggs, expertly cooked in the wok, make a delightful dish. Chef Di Gregorio’s skilled hand makes the blend smooth and satisfying. $$

Tibet Nepal House
36 E. Holly St., Pasadena
(626) 585-9955

Tibet Nepal House is unique as the first and only Tibetan and Nepalese restaurant in Southern California. Various ethnic groups inhabiting the area from the plains of southern Nepal to the Himalayas in Tibet have added their signature to the food of the area, which has been described as a cross between Indian and Chinese. Tibet Nepal House offers a daily luncheon buffet to offer the tastes that fueled the spice trade, prepared by Tibetan chefs. $

Tongdang Thai Kitchen
932 Huntington Drive, San Marino
(626) 300-1010

Authentic Thai recipes without colonial intrusions characterize this exquisite eatery. The spicy lemon grass fish, consisting of a white filet steamed in a lime juice broth, Thai chili, garlic and lemon grass with the aromatic addition of kaffir lime leaves is a good bet and a favorite of diners. $$

Tops
3838 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 449-4412
Tops is legendary for its burgers and fries, which come in abundant proportions. The pastrami sandwich is another perennial favorite here, too. Fries, onion rings and fried zucchini with ranch dressing are all freshly cut and prepared. A huge menu of salads, including a chef’s salad that’s a meal in itself, plus a Mexican menu offer plenty of choices. $

Twin Palms
101 W. Green St., Pasadena
(626) 577-2567
Chef Tony Zidar probably makes the best filet mignon in town, an eight ounce steak over Groton potatoes, garnished green beans and carrots with a port wine sauce and blue cheese crumbles topped with herb butter. Described by manager James Myers as an oasis of gracious hospitality, Twin Palms is one of the few local restaurants that manages to be classy and hip at the same time. It has the classy feeling of an outdoor venue thanks to the twin palm trees in the middle of the restaurant, and the live jazz is always hipster-cool. $$$

Twohey’s
1224 N. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra
(626) 284-7387

Twohey’s has pleased several generations of San Gabriel Valleyites. This old-fashioned family restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night. The full menu includes soups, salads, traditional favorites like oven-roasted turkey, meat loaf and liver and onions, steaks, chops, ribs, fountain favorites, and, of course, the world-famous Stinko-Burger. Come see a Valley tradition in action. $

Union Cattle Company
42 S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena
(626) 405-0007
Union Cattle Company has recently expanded from their original location in Hermosa Beach into Old Pasadena. As the name implies, this is the place for steaks and chops. A big, inviting room with a choice of tables or booths, a circular bar and an honest-to-God mechanical bull all add to the western-style fun. Union Cattle Company offers a huge beer selection, and the happy hour specials offer one of the best deals in Old Town. $$$

Village Pizzeria
41 N. Baldwin Ave., Sierra Madre
(626) 355-8817
Village Pizzeria has become an institution in Sierra Madre. They bake the best barbecue chicken pizza in Southern California, along with gourmet pastas, sandwiches and salads. Other big winners include Italian Pesto Pizza and the House Specialty Pizza, with artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes on whole-wheat crust, as well as more traditional-style pies. They make their own dough and sauces fresh daily. Portions are big, service is small-town friendly, and they deliver. $$

Vive
61 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 583-8483

Chef Micah Fields blends the flavors of Latino and Asian cuisine with skill and taste. The “Viva by 4” signature dinner groups Asian baby green salad with crispy egg noodles, citrus segments, tofu squares and a special dressing. Wok-fried shrimp, smothered in citrus tamarind sambal sauce and classic Mexican/Spanish arroz con pollo with asparagus tips and a grilled strip steak with sautéed onions and Cuban black beans make a diner’s dream. $$$

Wheatberry Bakery
165 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
(626) 795-7175
Wheatberry Bakery provides the freshest organic baked goods seven days a week. Breads are baked fresh three times daily, and quality is the highest priority. The atmosphere is pleasant and relaxing; the owners say that diners love to come here to read, study or just relax over one of their fine pastries, gourmet sandwiches, salads or a cup of organic tea. Wheatberry Bakery custom-builds cakes for all special occasions, and they cater as well. They also supply other restaurants and bakeries. $

Wild Thyme Café and Bakery
805 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 799-4169
Diners have come to love this quaint little South Pasadena bistro. Wild Thyme is known for its Brittany crepes, but be sure to sample the incredible selection of desserts, including the raspberry mousse cheesecake and fresh fruit tarts. The individual pizza and fresh fish are other popular items. Beer and wine. $$

Wokcano
33 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 578-1818
Pasadena is known for its mixed menus, and Wokcano offers one to really tempt the taste buds. A happy mix of Chinese cuisine and sushi work very well together. Take your pick of dining in the front restaurant area, a middle patio or sit at the bar and nibble. Wokcano is known for its party catering, too, with the ability to feed a crowd from 10 to 1,000 hungry people. Happy hour specials offer a pleasant after-work time-out. $$

Yahaira’s Café
698 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 844-3254
Building on its reputation for traditional but lighter Mexican breakfast and lunch favorites, Yahaira now opens for dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Among “El Nuevo” specialities are pasilla chiles, stuffed with Yucatecan-style chicken, black beans, Jack Cheese and assorted veggies; served on rice with mild Anaheim sauce and “creme fresca.” Pasilla chiles look like dark bell peppers, but are richer in flavor and impudently medium hot. Dish resembles chile relent but is much lighter. Beer and wine. $$

Yamakawa
10118 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake
(818) 763-8355
This restaurant has everything you need for Japanese food, including fresh sushi, a shabu shabu bar, a full menu with particularly strong tempura and a reputation for the best sushi in the San Fernando Valley. And their service is so excellent you’ll be happy to bow in thanks to their friendly staff. $$

Yasmeen’s Mediterranean Cuisine and Bakery
818 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 799-1790
The flavors of the east meet the west in South Pasadena. Diners at Yasmeen’s sing the praises of their authentic Mediterranean dishes, like a Schwarma sandwich with a Fattoush salad, and grape leaves stuffed with beef, rice, chopped tomatoes and herbs adds a zesty Mediterranean touch. No Mediterranean meal would be complete without a kabob, and the sampler plate of beef, chicken and kafta kabobs are the tenders and most succulent in town. $

Zelo Gourmet Pizzeria
328 E. Foothill Blvd., Arcadia
(626) 358-8298
Zelo brings an interesting twist to their pan pizza: they add cornmeal to the crust for an interesting taste experience. Critics say it’s really different and very good. Zelo also specializes in fresh seasonal salads. The most popular by far is the fresh beet salad with walnuts and blue cheese. Other good bets are the roasted chicken and vegetarian lasagna. A healthy, California-style restaurant. $

Zephyr Coffee House & Art Gallery
2419 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 793-7330
Zephyr Coffee House and Art Gallery offers good coffee, good food and eye-catching art in a pleasant, relaxing setting complete with a garden patio. Live music is also part of the brew, with acts performing several nights a week. Dining choices include panini, crepes, salads, pastries and omelettes. Taste-pleasing desserts and snacks include fresh fruit, ice cream sundaes, muffins and more. Art, coffee, food and music — the basics of the good life all under one roof. $