A key component of healthy aging is healthy eating. As we age, our relationship to food may change along with our bodies. Nutritional needs and appetites may shift. It’s important to find nourishing foods that stimulate your tastebuds and maintain your energy and health. Fresh vegetables and fruits, pure proteins, particularly fish and fiber-rich foods should become your best friends.
Going out to eat with friends every so often is also an important factor in healthy aging, especially if you live alone. Making meals a social occasion helps seniors stay connected and active.
According to a study by Purdue University Professor Richard Ghiselli, seniors tend to be particular about the restaurants they frequent. “Cleanliness” is of utmost concern to seniors but hot on its heels are “noise level” and “tables being far enough apart” (which I’ll call accessibility). They generally prefer full-service restaurants and while some are on a tight budget, many can afford mid- to high-price meals.
With all these variables in mind, here are some suggestions for great senior-friendly restaurant options in the area.
Ratings: 1 = poor; 5 = excellent
Du-par’s, 214 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
Noise Level: 5
Price: 5 (during Beat the Clock hours)
Du-par’s took over the old Hamburger Hamlet on South Lake Avenue a couple of years ago. It still has the great red-leather booths, classic bar and circular fireplace in the back room. Low ceilings, spacious rooms and wood-paneled walls make for excellent acoustics. The wait staff, in old-fashioned uniforms, is uniformly friendly and attentive. Parking and accessibility are easy.
Here’s the deal of the century that most people don’t even know about. Between 4 and 6 p.m. daily, they feature their Beat the Clock menu. Whatever time you place your order, that’s the price of your entree. Ask for grilled salmon tapenade with creamed spinach and roasted potatoes at 4:02 and you pay $4.02. Order almond chicken with creamed corn and steamed broccoli at 5:59 and you pay, you guessed it, $5.59. The portion is not huge, but it’s as much as you’d make at home and very nicely prepared. There are three more menu items to choose from: caprese salad, vegetable pasta and spaghetti and meatballs. A drink is a required side purchase but a glass of wine is a mere $4.
Central Park, 219 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
Noise Level: 4
While interviewing some friends 60 years and above, this restaurant came up a number of times as a favorite. While generally preferred at the lunch hour, Central Park also offers breakfast and dinner in the brick-lined dining room and enclosed patio. Housed in a 100-year-old flower warehouse, there’s a loose theme of old Hollywood and New York with elegant lighting and soft music.
I’ve always found soup and salad to be nutritious and satisfying. They have many healthful options like grilled ahi Nicoise salad, chilled gazpacho, baby kale salad and crab bisque. For those needing a real protein boost, there are burgers and various chicken options. What keeps people coming back though is their delicious crab tower, a layered construct of avocado salad, papaya salad, crab salad, cucumbers, tomatoes and mandarins with Asian slaw and balsamic reduction. At lunch, items range from $5.95 to $16.95.
Luna Grill, 965 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge
Noise Level: 3
Price Level: 5
Sometimes you just want to go out by yourself for a meal, or meet a friend after shopping. For this, I recommend the newish Luna Grill in La Cañada Flintridge. Fairly priced, easy in and out and super fresh, Luna Grill puts a modern spin on Middle Eastern food.
The Mediterranean diet is known to keep cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and other conditions at bay. The whole grains, fresh veggies and good oils the diet is known for can be found in their delicious quinoa tabouleh. If you’re not into quinoa, Luna’s wraps are rather addictive. The simple grilled chicken is my favorite with fresh greens, tomato, onions and their house sauce on multigrain lavash or pita. Another nutritious option is the delicately grilled mahi mahi kabob plate with basmati rice, house salad, cucumber yogurt dip and grilled tomato. That’s a lot of food for $12.25. This is a counter-service restaurant but they do deliver your food to the table. There’s also a self-serve drink station with a nice iced tea selection to keep you hydrated.
Abricott, 238 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
Noise Level: 3
Price Level: 4
Before my mother-in-law passed (after a long life of 92 years), she liked going to Abricott on South Lake. The chairs are a little less stable and a bit too close together, and the noise level can get up there, but the ambience is so cute, particularly the book-lined family room. With Abricott’s unique Asian fusion cuisine, it’s easy to eat your rainbow of colors and discover interesting new flavors from healthful sources like citrus and ginger as opposed to salt and sugar.
I love Abricott’s steak salad with grilled sesame marinated flank steak, greens, avocado, red onion and a lime dressing ($12.95). It’s a bit on the spicy side but chilies are full of antioxidants and might help with insulin regulation. Or try the lemongrass chicken burger with lettuce, onions, tomatoes and a coconut-tamarind sauce ($11.95). They also serve wonderful coffee, decadent desserts and breakfast items, including crepes, all day. The Vietnamese-Thai-French flavor combos are fun and different.
Finally, I must mention a restaurant I reviewed a few weeks ago, True Food Kitchen (168 W. Colorado, Pasadena). Frequented by millennials and vegetarians, it’s a bit on the loud side and has difficult parking. Still, it’s a great choice for meals that are beautifully prepared, flavorful, nutrient-rich and sure to increase your energy and vitality.
So here’s to a long life enjoying delicious food!