Anyone else feel like Halloween’s already here? It’s 102 outside today, tree leaves are spinning green not gold in the breeze, and nothing feels at all like fall, yet houses and shops in many local neighborhoods are already kitted out in full-press ghoul-wear for the Great Pumpkin’s arrival, which is still almost a month away. Times like these demand distractions — makeup and make believe, escape and release — in familiar, safe refuges from the “Bride of Frankenstein vs. Radioactive Orange Slime” battle raging across every news cycle like some brain-sucking “Groundhog Day” loop. So let the trick-or-treating begin, because judging by this year’s Best of Pasadena choices, PW readers are more than ready for family-friendly sweets and familiarity. 

Love of creature comforts seemed to drive last year’s Best of Pasadena results, and that craving has only intensified this year. Once again, Mijares Mexican Restaurant received raves for its ridiculously generous margaritas. Once again, the 1886 Bar at the Raymond scored top honors for diligently handcrafting cocktails like its popular Honey-Nut Old Fashioned, while Kabuki won appreciative thumbs up for budget-minded happy hours. Once again, KPCC (Best Radio Station) earned listeners’ loyalty by never underestimating their intelligence or taste. And once again, PW readers gave big love to entertainment establishments like the ArcLight (Best Movie Theater), Levitt Pavilion (Best Live Music Venue), Pasadena Playhouse (Best Live Theater Venue) and Theatre 360’s “Seussical” (Best Theater Production) that showed respect and care for the community in programming choices and inviting settings. 

There were a few surprises. Rocco’s Tavern beat older favorites to be named Best Sports Bar, aided no doubt by its roomy space, two-for-one happy hour specials and Italian-lite menu. And Everson Royce’s discerning selection of wines from around the world (not to mention cozy wine tastings three times a week) nudged aside Vertical Wine Bistro for the Best Wine Selection win.

 

It was no surprise at all that perennial favorite Lucky Baldwins was singled out by PW readers for Best Bar, Best Beer Selection and Best Pub Grub honors. Have you sampled their fish ‘n’ chips, or their cottage pie or homemade chicken curry? Or any of the 60-plus ciders, lagers, stouts, Belgian tripels and at least one “punkin” ale they offer up for patrons? Whether you’re settling into your stool at the main bar in Old Town or at one of its satellite establishments on East Colorado or in Sierra Madre, the people-watching is rich, and the atmosphere is vibrant but not overwhelming. It encourages conversation. These days, whether you’re laughing over your brilliant Halloween costume ideas or fantasizing how megalomaniac tycoons might enjoy Rip Van Winkle’s beer, that’s a sanity saver.

 

BEST BAR

Lucky Baldwins

17 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena 

(626) 795-0652 | luckybaldwins.com

Lucky Baldwin’s Trappiste

1770 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-0447  

Lucky Baldwin’s Delirium Café

21 Kersting Court, Sierra Madre 

(626) 355-1440

Where else can you relax during late-night happy hour (Wednesday and Sunday in Old Town; Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at Lucky Baldwin’s Trappiste on East Colorado and Lucky Baldwin’s Delirium Café in Sierra Madre)? And watch wee-hour soccer matches from England while savoring one of five dozen ales, ciders and pilsners? And try “stein specials” during Oktoberfest (Oct. 8-23)? PW readers once again gave big thumbs up to this comfortable English-style pub, which also earned a repeat Best Pub Grub win.

 

Reader Recommended

1886 Bar at The Raymond

1250 S Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 441-3136 

theraymond.com

Kings Row Gastropub

20 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 793-3010  

kingsrowpub.com

Magnolia House

492 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 584-1126 

themaghouse.com 

 

 

BEST BARTENDER

Alberto Sandoval, Noor

260 E. Colorado Blvd. A209, Pasadena

(626) 793-4518 | noorevents.com

 

 

BEST BEER
SELECTION

Lucky Baldwins

17 S. Raymond Ave. 

(626) 795-0652 | luckybaldwins.com

Lucky Baldwin’s Trappiste

1770 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-0447  

Lucky Baldwin’s Delirium Café

21 Kersting Court, Sierra Madre 

(626) 355-1440

This venerated bar’s comforting atmosphere is a big part of its appeal, but that would count for naught if it didn’t deliver the beery goods. And that it does, with a Current Tap/Cask List that boasts five dozen hearty ales, ciders, pilsners and green beers. Sweet, sour, smoky, hoppy — whether your palate prefers pale ales, lagers, stouts or porters, Hefeweizens, Belgian Tripels or barley wine, they’ve gotcha covered.

 

Reader Recommended

Congregation Ale House

300 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 403-2337
congregationalehouse.com

 

Slater’s 50/50

61 N. Raymond Ave.

(626) 765-9700 | slaters5050.com

The Yard House

330 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 577-9273 

yardhouse.com

 

 

BEST COCKTAILS

1886 Bar at The Raymond

1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 441-3136

theraymond.com

These folks make a classic old-fashioned like Granddad’s granddad used to make. Behind that handsomely upholstered bar, they also whip up sparkling surprises from a list of more than 600 off-menu delights — like La Vie En Rose, with rosebuds floating atop an inch of foam, and the Rye Romper, a star anise-infused confection of whiskey, pineapple juice, lemon juice, honey syrup and fresh cinnamon. Juices are fresh, liquors are top-drawer, syrups are made in-house, and the tin-ceilinged, speakeasy-vibed atmosphere gives everything an extra touch of class.

Reader Recommended

Magnolia House

492 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 584-1126 | themaghouse.com

White Horse Lounge

41 S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena

(626) 583-9013 

whitehorsepasadena.com

 

 

BEST COMEDY CLUB

Ice House Comedy Club

24 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena

(626) 577-1894 | icehousecomedy.com

It’s been around so long we take it for granted. The Ice House is a Pasadena and comedy institution. Lily Tomlin and the Smothers Brothers recorded comedy albums here. Late-night hosts (Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Bill Maher) and legends (George Carlin, Steve Martin, Robin Williams) honed their rib-tickling craft early in their careers on this stage. It’s still booked five nights a week, and ya never know who’ll be launching from it next.

 

BEST DIVE BAR

Freddie’s 35er Bar

12 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 356-9315 | 35erbar.com

You’d have thought the gentrification gods would have kicked this scruffy dive into oblivion at least a decade ago. But while corporate glamour has dazzled most of Old Town Pasadena, this unsophisticated veteran’s beer specials, free popcorn, plain neon-lit décor and pool tables continue to attract folks who just want to watch a game or debate the finer points of sports, City Hall politics and street fashion with grizzled locals at the bar.

 

Reader Recommended

Altadena Ale House

2329 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Altadena

(626) 794-4577 

altadenaalehouse.com

Old Towne Pub

22 E. Holly St., Pasadena

(626) 577-6583 | theoldtownepub.com

 

The Colorado Bar

2640 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 449-3485 

 

 

BEST GENTLEMEN’S BAR

Knockouts Gentlemen’s Club

1580 Clark St., Arcadia

(626) 303-3003 

With scantily clad ladies, happy hour specials, live pro wrestling and sports on TV, including the Super Bowl and UFC bouts, what’s not to like about the Gentleman’s Bar in southern Arcadia? Plus, according to some reviews, the beer selection is pretty good, and it’s really the sports the fellas want to see, which they can on two 166-inch HD projector TVs and six 60-inch plasma televisions. — KU

 

 

BEST HAPPY HOUR

Kabuki Japanese
Restaurant

88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 568-9310 

kabukirestaurants.com

3539 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 351-8963

Happy hour isn’t just about mai tais and sake at this popular spot. They also have beeritas (margaritas with your choice of beer). You can indulge in $2.95 shrimp sushi, $3.95 California and salmon skin rolls, $4.95 Tokyo quesadilla or Brussels sprouts (a healthy veggie!), $5.95 chicken fingers or $6.95 calamari rings. So you can walk rather than roll out the door, and still have money in your wallet.

 

Reader Recommended

Paul Martin’s American Grill

455 S. Lake Ave., Ste. 102, Pasadena

(626) 773-7600
paulmartinsamericangrill.com

 

Perry’s by Claud Beltran

928 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 898-7900 | dusit.com/dusitd2/Pasadena/dining

 

Roy’s Restaurant

641 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 356-4066 | roysrestaurant.com/locations/ca/pasadena

 

 

BEST LIVE MUSIC
BAR/CLUB

Kings Row Gastropub

20 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 793-3010 | kingsrowpub.com

Location, location, location. Benefiting mightily from its cozy position in the middle of Old Town, this inviting spot puts visitors at ease with its convenience, comfort food, and live musicians playing classic rock, pop and tropical tunes. There’s reggae over brunch every Sunday; acoustic favorites from Creama Quatro most Thursday nights; and rock and reggae from house faves like Dub8, Past Action Heroes and Steel Rod every Friday and Saturday night.

 

Reader Recommended

Coffee Gallery Backstage

2029 N. Lake Ave., Altadena

(626) 798-6236 | coffeegallery.com

Old Towne Pub

22 E. Holly St., Pasadena

(626) 577-6583 | theoldtownepub.com

 

 

BEST LIVE
MUSIC VENUE

Levitt Pavilion

85 E. Holly St., Pasadena

(626) 683-3230 

levittpavilionpasadena.org

From June through September, Thursday through Sunday, friends and families meet up at Memorial Park to listen to diverse acts such as Afro Funke, Brightside, Dustbowl Revival, Pete Escovedo, Barbara Morrison, Glen Phillips, Quetzal and Sara Watkins (all of whom graced the band shell stage this year). Picnic dining under the stars tastes that much sweeter with delicious music filling the air in a family-friendly setting.

 

Reader Recommended

The Rose 

245 E. Green St., Pasadena

(888) 645-5006 | roseconcerts.com

 

 

BEST LIVE
THEATER VENUE

Pasadena Playhouse

39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena

(626) 356-7529 

pasadenaplayhouse.org

You’ve probably heard a gazillion times that the Playhouse, established in 1917, is the State Theatre of California. Did you also know it presented world premieres of works by legendary playwrights such as Noel Coward and Tennessee Williams? And that its Hothouse at the Playhouse program helps develop new plays? Currently hosting a widely lauded revival of “The Fantasticks,” the Playhouse heads into 2017 as Artistic Director Sheldon Epps hands over the reins to Labyrinth Theater Company’s David Feldman. In January, the Playhouse hosts “Shout Sister Shout!” a celebration of rock and gospel trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, followed by a March staging of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” 

 

Reader Recommended

A Noise Within

3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 356-3100 | anoisewithin.org

Boston Court Performing Arts Center

70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena

(626) 683-6883 | bostoncourt.com

 

BEST MARGARITAS

Mijares

145 Palmetto Drive, Pasadena

(626) 792-2763 

mijaresrestaurant.com

As volatile as the restaurant industry is, this family-run Crown City institution has endured for more than nine-and-a-half decades — and, moreover, established a satellite site on Washington Boulevard. Its tastiest claim to fame is its margaritas, which once again earned the resounding approval of PW readers. Served in impressively sized jugs — er, glasses — they’re available in traditional style, as well as special flavors like Blood Orange and Skinny Jalapeño, made with various blends of premium tequilas.

 

Reader Recommended

Amigo’s

1076 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 577-1307

 

El Cholo 

300 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 795-5800

elcholopasadena.com

El Portal

695 E. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 795-8553

elportalrestaurant.com

 

 

BEST MOVIE THEATER

ArcLight

336 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 568-9651 | arclightcinemas.com

Online ticketing, excellent sound and screen quality, and extra-comfy seats that you can reserve in advance have all enhanced the experience of seeing first-run Hollywood flicks at this PW readers favorite. The in-house bar is a nice perk too, as are special Q&A events with filmmakers and cast members. Theaters like this make date night at the movies an event.

 

Reader Recommended

iPic

42 Miller Alley, Pasadena

(626) 639-2260 | ipictheaters.com

Laemmle’s Playhouse 7

673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(310) 478-3836 

laemmle.com/theaters/6

 

 

BEST PLACE TO DANCE

Club 54

54 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 793-0608 | club54lounge.com

Housed in Menage’s old space, this dance and hookah club is a hopping late-night spot. Couches, hookah tables, cool lighting and hot go-go dancers create an alluring atmosphere, and the outdoor smoking area is a boon for nicotine fiends. The big draw here is the dance floor: there are three, on separate levels, with DJs spinning EDM, hip-hop, pop and Latin beats. Just don’t try dancing on the stripper poles.

 

 

BEST PUB GRUB

Lucky Baldwins

17 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena 

(626) 795-0652 | luckybaldwins.com

Lucky Baldwin’s Trappiste

1770 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-0447  

Lucky Baldwin’s Delirium Café

21 Kersting Court, Sierra Madre 

(626) 355-1440

This beloved pub is probably the only place in town where you’ll find blackened chicken Caesar salad, veggie burgers and a traditional English breakfast on the menu. PG Tips tea too. Not to mention Irish bacon, pork bangers, beans on toast, fish ‘n’ chips, pigs in a blanket, cottage pie, ploughman’s cheese plate, and crumpets with lemon curd. You can wash ’em all down with traditional British and Irish ales.

 

Reader Recommended

Der Wolfskopf

72 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 219-6054 | derwolfskopf.com

Kings Row Gastropub

20 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 793-3010 | kingsrowpub.com

 

 

BEST RADIO STATION

KPCC

474 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(866) 893-5722 | scpr.org

It’s no small achievement to be one of the most reliable sources for news and “Intelligent Talk” in one of the world’s foremost metropolises, and that’s what Southern California Public Radio’s flagship station continues to be. Tune in to 89.3 FM to “AirTalk,” “The Frame,” “The Loh Down on Science,” “The Mash-Up Americans,” “Off-Ramp,” “Take Two” and more for lively, provocative reports and ideas, smartly delivered.

 

BEST SPORTS BAR

Rocco’s Tavern

44 W. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 765-6810 | roccostavern.com

Part of a chain with outlets in Culver City and Studio City, Rocco’s has ingratiated itself with Pasadenans with large TV screens that loom all around beneath vaunted ceilings, so patrons can watch in-season games while chowing on pizza, white fries, buffalo wings and various Italian-seasoned faves. Beer pitchers, specialty drinks like the Jersey Shore Lemonade mojito and five kinds of Bloody Marys, plus two-for-one happy hour specials, sweeten the deal for local sports fans. 

 

Reader Recommended

Buffalo Wild Wings

1000 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 993-6400

buffalowildwings.com

Slater’s 50/50

61 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 765-9700 | slaters5050.com/locations/pasadena

 

 

BEST THEATER
PRODUCTION

“Seussical” at Theatre 360 in First Baptist Church of Pasadena

75 N. Marengo Ave., Pasadena 

(626) 577-5922 | theatre360.org

“Horton Hears a Who!” and other books by Dr. Seuss inspired this family-friendly musical, which proved to be a hit with PW-reading families. The pleasures of the performance itself weren’t the only thing that made this award-winning children’s theater’s latest production a winner; youth also gained valuable theatrical experience — and confidence-boosting communication skills — working onstage and backstage.

 

 

BEST WEDDING/
BANQUET HALL

Noor

300 E. Colorado Blvd.,
No. 200, Pasadena

(626) 793-4518 | noorevents.com

Expert chefs, friendly bartenders and especially knowledgeable on-staff event planners have made this flexible space a popular location for weddings. With two chandeliered ballrooms — the Ella and the larger Sofia — as well as two patios looking over Colorado Boulevard, Noor can be dressed up for cozy cocktail gatherings as well as swankier birthday and holiday parties or business occasions.

 

Reader Recommended

Altadena Town & Country Club

2290 Country Club Drive, Altadena

(626) 794-7163 | altaclub.com

Castle Green

50 E. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 792-4444 | castlecatering.net/the-romanesque-room

 

 

BEST WINE SELECTION

Everson Royce

155 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 765-9334 | eversonroyce.com

Better have time on your hands when you step into this brick-walled shop. You won’t want to rush while perusing its array of Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Viogniers, Pinot Noirs, Cabernets, Grenaches, Syrahs, Petite Sirahs, Zinfandels and blends. If you favor earthier European terroir or juicy South Pacific varietals, there’s also an abundant selection from Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand and Spain. Dedicated oenophiles may want to check out the thrice-weekly wine tastings and wine club.

 

Reader Recommended

Bodega Wine Bar

260 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 793-4300 | bodegawinebar.com

Vertical Wine Bar

70 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 795-3999 

verticalwinebistro.com