Picture this inviting scenario: A balmy morning in majestic Pasadena, one with clear skies, cool winds and a loose vibe. There’s an infectious air of excitement. The urge to indulge in the exhilaration of a day and a night on the town — Pasadena style — is upon you. For 24 hours you throw your arms around the city and surrender to its call to eat, drink, play and chill in grand fashion.
Your day starts off promisingly with a jaunt to Urth Caffé on Colorado Boulevard for some of the best organic tea and coffee anywhere. Urth Caffé is an organic coffee company that exclusively carries its own brand of premium, fresh-roasted whole-bean organic coffee and hand-selected fine teas, with all leaves and bean grown without chemicals of any kind.
After coffee, catch up on the news of the day at Vroman’s Bookstore, a short block to the east along Colorado, where you’ll find the widest selection of newspapers and magazines in the city at their outdoor newsstand.
After coffee, you decide that missing breakfast really wasn’t such a good idea. If that’s the case, treat yourself at Marston’s Restaurant on Walnut Street, across from the band shell at Memorial Park, for a scrumptious morning feast that could include French toast, blueberry pancakes waffles of all kinds and huevos rancheros leading a lengthy list of egg dishes. Recognized in 2003 by Zagat as No. 1 for breakfast in Los Angeles and in 2010 named the Best Breakfast in California by The Food Network Magazine, Marston’s offers a full catering menu and gourmet picnic baskets, tailor-made for a concert under the stars at the Levitt Pavilion just across the street.
After breakfast, treat yourself again, this time to some shopping at some of Pasadena’s premier destinations, places like One Colorado in Old Pasadena, Paseo Colorado in Midtown and South Lake Avenue.
Come mid-afternoon, you’re hungry again. And, if you are in Old Pasadena, you’re in luck. There you’ll find dozens of places to eat, among them Barney’s Beanery. Manager Chris Arambulo recommends their half-off appetizers and mouthwatering Classic Chili, so be sure to sample a steaming bowl. “One of the best things about Barney’s is the food, especially our Classic Chili, which is still made from a 1920s recipe originated at our West Hollywood establishment,” says Arambulo.
With no particular place to go for the next few hours, you might want to try their rotating drink specials and fan-favorite “Cucumber Slumber,” a divine addition to the designer-margarita craze. Barney’s also includes three floors of entertainment, including an upstairs billiards lounge and a basement that hosts a weekly Karaoke Night for raucous summer fun.
Time flies when you’re having fun. Perhaps you’d like to raise the bar on your artistic pleasures. If so, pay a visit to the Norton Simon Museum on Colorado Boulevard, near Orange Grove Boulevard. Then again, if you prefer something a little less challenging, check out a flick while you’re in this part of town. Head over to iPic Theaters at One Colorado in the heart of Old Pasadena, which has given new meaning to the concept of dinner and a movie. Here, you can have a meal with a movie at the same time. Luxuriate in comfy, full-size seats and enjoy being served sumptuous cuisine by conscientious, discreet servers. The full bar, attentive-staff and guest check-in, which allows theater-goers to place dinner orders a full 30 minutes before the film’s start, make this a tremendous bang-for-the-buck.
But wait, a Latin melody catches your ear and the urge to dance compels you to pop into iX Tapa Cantina, next-door to Barney’s Beanery. Here, pulsing beats are being spun by world-renowned guest deejays as club-goers enjoy budget-friendly appetizers, refreshing signature margaritas, fruity sangrias and a wide selection of well-drinks and draft and imported beers.
As you exit, someone whispers “The Speakeasy.” Your curiosity piqued, you decide to have dinner at the atmospheric bar and lounge on Raymond Avenue, an ode to the romantic daring days of Prohibition, complete with a (not-so-) secret password for entry. This sophisticated, one-of-kind restaurant, bar and lounge is a nod to classic film-noir, with the added modern twist of creative cuisine and customized cocktails, plus lively music and top-notch entertainment events.
“The emphasis is on the whole experience inside, as if our customers are transported into another world … the world of the Roaring ’20s,” says Manager Leo Timory.
But the night still holds much more promise. If you’ve got the energy for more pub-crawling, beat feet over to Kings Row Gastropub, set in a marvelous old building in Old Pasadena. This Anglophile’s delight garners rave reviews from regulars and new visitors alike for a variety of reasons. The spacious building is the perfect venue for a night of live entertainment featuring blues, jazz or maybe even a blue-grass band. In addition to the lively British-themed atmosphere, you’ll be thrilled by their impressive selection of beers and ales, including craft and locally sourced beers. With three floors for entertainment and dining, including a beer garden and patio bar, plus a wide variety of cocktails — even a monthly pig roast — Kings Row is the place to be for those who know “how” to be.
After 22 years in the same location, restaurateur Teddy Bedjakian knows “how” to be and a few things about pleasing customers. Bedjakian first opened Equator on Mills Place, an out-the-way alley tucked away in Old Pasadena, back in 1993. Housed in a 110-year-old brick structure, Equator was a coffee shop, as well as Old Pasadena’s first hookah bar and a popular karaoke bar. It was also an Internet café and most recently an Asian fusion restaurant. Today, Bedjakian has shifted gears again, renaming the place Edwin Mills by Equator in honor of a local historical figure. He’s also rewritten the menu, which now includes lamb, pork and turkey sliders, spicy calamari, popcorn chicken and veggie rolls. Bedjakian’s sophisticated gastropub also features food and drink specials throughout the week, as well as quality cocktails and craft beers.
With Edwin Mills closing just before midnight, you wonder if your magical night is destined to end prematurely when someone mentions Wokcano Café. You’re off and running again, only not so far this time, with Edwin Mills located right next door. In no time, you’ll see why it’s become a familiar and beloved stop for scores of late-night Pasadena partygoers and club enthusiasts.
With its restaurant open until 4 a.m., the lounge and patio area make this an ideal destination after a night on the town. It’s no wonder their popular happy hour, with its early start time and late-night fare, are considered staples for the cheerful insomniac. Since this favorite late-night haunt continually gets high marks for the patio-bar and happy-hour specials, your senses and budget will applaud the choice.
As night gives way to day, the lightening sky signals an end to a blast of an evening. Inevitably, coffee and donuts at Winchell’s begins to seem like an imperative, so you head over to the 24-hour establishment for a welcomed jolt of their surprisingly good brew, along with a glass of fresh-squeezed juice, then load-up on a pleasing selection of donuts, pastries, deli-sandwiches, and noshes, new memories in tow.
Let the teeming, gritty Big Apple have its “City that Never Sleeps” moniker. I’ll take Pasadena’s relaxed sophistication, warm-climate and conveniently located nightlife any day. In dreams and in waking life, it remains a delightful option for enjoying a summer evening with singular style.
Eat. Drink, Play, Refresh, Repeat.