PW readers didn’t bluff or hide their cards in this year’s Best Of round: they bet everything on comfort and escape from the chaotic drama that’s become the stuff of real-life daily headlines. These days we’ve got enough to rival any Hollywood special effects exploding across movie screens.

PW readers continued Lucky Baldwins’ lucky streak by naming it a sure bet for Best Beer Selection and Best Pub Grub. In a surprise upset, Blind Donkey edged ahead of the beloved British pub for a win as Best Bar, thanks to its extensive menu of blended whiskies and single malts from across the US, Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, Scotland, and Taiwan. The 1886 Bar at the Raymond again handily cleaned up as Best Cocktails winner, Kabuki’s dependably affordable offerings again made it a safe gamble for readers for Best Happy Hour, Rocco’s remained Best Sports Bar in readers’ eyes with its family-friendly ambiance and two-for-one happy hour specials, and Mijares Mexican Restaurant continued to shut out the competition to retain its longtime ownership of the Best Margaritas title. Everson Royce’s lip-smacking menu of wines from around the world and thrice-weekly tastings made it readers’ return favorite for Best Wine Selection.

Once again, reggae and classic rock cover bands earned Kings Row Gastropub Best Live Music Bar honors. Pasadena Playhouse’s balance of historical and political conscience with crowd-pleasing entertainment again weighed the odds in its favor as Best Live Theatre Venue, just as Theatre 360 again won the Best Theater Production title with its educational programs for kids and a zesty production of the ’60s musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” And readers continued to pledge their loyalty to the “Intelligent Talk” and thought-provoking programming at KPCC, again naming it Best Radio Station.

There were a few game-changers. Laemmle Playhouse 7’s mix of independent, arthouse, documentary and Hollywood studio cinematic fare garnered it a win this year as Best Movie Theater, suggesting that perhaps PW readers crave escapism salted with art and sociopolitical relevance. They rolled the dice in favor of The Rose at Paseo Colorado (Best Live Music Venue), where they can see and hear favorite veteran artists in comfortable, intimate surroundings, and Ixtapa (Best Place to Dance), where they appreciate no-cover nights and Tuesday salsa dance lessons. And The Colorado, where locals have been savoring conversation and reasonably priced drinks by the old-school rock ‘n’ roll jukebox since 1964, emerged as this year’s Best Dive Bar refuge from the high-stakes craziness of the outside world. You needn’t be a high roller to know that’s no crapshoot.



The Blind Donkey

53 E. Union St., Pasadena

(626) 792-1833

“What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for,” claims this Old Town bastion of distilled grains. You can find the familiar comforts of Bushmills and Jameson here, but the eye-glazingly extensive menu also boasts blended whiskies and single malts from across the US, Ireland, Japan and Scotland, as well as a handful from Canada, France and Taiwan. So why not savor a single pot still Irish whiskey from Powers John Lane, a 90-proof bourbon from Bowen’s in Bakersfield, a Sazerac Rye from Kentucky, a smokier, sherry-finished single malt from Islay’s Ardbeg Uigeadail in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, or Monkey Shoulder’s 80-proof blended malt? Those immune to whiskey’s lure can indulge in tasty Belgian beers, cocktails like Nick of Thyme and the enchanting Lady Grey, boilermakers, and a small selection of wines — plus an only-in-LA comfort food menu that includes veggie burgers, a Green Goddess chicken wrap, and Fried Donkey Pickles fixed up with Bulleit Rye and jalapeno and dill brine.

Reader Recommended

Altadena Ale & Wine House

2329 Fair Oaks Ave., Altadena

(626) 794-4577

Kings Row Gastropub

20 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 793-3010 |

Lucky Baldwins

17 S. Raymond Ave.

(626) 795-0652 |

Lucky Baldwins Trappiste

1770 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-0447 

Lucky Baldwins Delirium Café

21 Kersting Court, Sierra Madre

(626) 355-1440


Stephanie Delgado, Noor

260 E. Colorado Blvd. A209, Pasadena

(626) 793-4518 |

A few years back, Robert Shahnazarian said he was looking for a bartender to work at Noor, a wedding and banquet hall that he owns in The Paseo in Pasadena. The guy he picked at first seemed great, but when he started working at Noor, he brought with him “a Hollywood attitude,” which, Shahnazarian said, “was the exact opposite of what we were looking for.” Then, two years ago, Stephanie Delgado took over the job, and among people attending special occasions at Noor, she was an instant hit. “Stephanie leaves everyone with a smile and a drink just the way they like it,” Shahnazarian said.


Lucky Baldwins

17 S. Raymond Ave.

(626) 795-0652 |

Lucky Baldwins Trappiste

1770 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-0447 

Lucky Baldwins Delirium Café

21 Kersting Court, Sierra Madre

(626) 355-1440

This welcoming Pasadena institution once again earned readers’ favor for its deep beer selection (and its pub grub too). And no wonder: its tap/cask list spans the flavor spectrum with more than five dozen pale ales, bitters, ciders, Hefeweizens, IPAs, lagers, pilsners, stouts, witbiers, and malty Belgian tripels from across the United States, Europe and the UK, and the menu’s specialty beers offer more hoppy pleasures. No thin, wimpy brews here.

Reader Recommended

Congregation Ale House

300 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 403-2337

Yard House

330 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 577-9273


1886 Bar at the Raymond

1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 441-3136 |

As elegantly impressive as its speakeasy-style décor is, it’s the cocktails — specially crafted from fresh juices, top-drawer liquors, seasonal and regional ingredients, and syrups made in-house — that keep readers singing this classy bar’s praises. If a classic Manhattan or Sidecar doesn’t suit your mood, knowledgeable bartenders can devise something pleasurable from more than 600 off-menu items. Pimms Cup, anyone?

Reader Recommended

Magnolia House

492 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 584-1126

Parkway Grill

510 S. Arroyo Pkwy., Pasadena

(626) 795-1001 |

White Horse Lounge

41 S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena

(626) 583-9013


Ice House

24 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena

(626) 577-1894

If you’re talking to someone who says they live in Pasadena, but they don’t know the Ice House, rest assured they’re newly arrived from some remote island yet to be connected to the cloud or civilization. The Ice House isn’t just a Pasadena institution; it’s been a renowned shrine on the comedy circuit for decades. George Carlin, Ellen DeGeneres, David Letterman, George Lopez, Bill Maher, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Lily Tomlin and Robin Williams all trod the boards here, and local and touring comics still leave audiences laughing five nights a week.


The Colorado Bar

2640 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 449-3485

You might find a hot rod parked out front or the occasional local band rocking out inside, but what you won’t find is attitude. Since 1964 this unassuming watering hole has been providing reasonably priced drinks and a welcoming, low-key atmosphere to patrons craving a home away from home where the conversation’s entertaining, the pool games are friendly, and the jukebox spins rock ‘n’ roll you recognize.

Reader Recommended

Freddie’s 35er Bar

12 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 356-931535 |

The Rancho Bar

2485 N. Lake Ave., Altadena

(626) 798-7634


Kabuki Japanese


88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 568-9310

3539 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 351-8963

Small plates, salads, sushi and specialty rolls like California Tempura Roll and Asparagus & Salmon Garlic Crunch, plus menu staples like the generously portioned Firecrackers and fried gyoza dumplings, keep readers returning to this popular happy hour spot. Further adding to its appeal: affordable prices, convenient locations in Old Town and East Pasadena, and a choice selection of adult beverages like the Tokyo Mojito that help ease the edge off weeknight stress.

Reader Recommended

Paul Martin’s American Grill

455 S. Lake Ave., Suite 102,

(626) 773-7600

Roy’s Restaurant

641 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 356-4066

We Olive and Wine Bar

32 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 787-1000

Yard House

330 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 577-9273


Kings Row Gastropub

20 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 793-3010 |

Convenience, comfort, and classic rock have proved enduringly attractive to patrons at this central Old Town restaurant. Feel-good reggae chills the air from midafternoon through the evening on Sundays, and Thursday through Saturday a rotating lineup of performers like Dirty Old Krows, Past Action Heroes, Steel Rod, and funky rock guitarist Carl Osterlof help keep the atmosphere casual and loose.

Reader Recommended

Edwin Mills

22 Mills Place, Pasadena

(626) 564-8656 |

Old Towne Pub

22 E. Holly St., Pasadena

(626) 577-6583


The Rose at Paseo


245 E. Green St., Pasadena

(888) 645-5006

This 1,500-capacity “dinner theatre concert venue” has found its footing and demographic after a rocky start. Part of a chain that also includes the Canyon Club (in Agoura and Santa Clarita) and the Saban Theatre (Beverly Hills), it hosts Soulful Sunday Brunches hosted by former House of Blues Gospel Brunch singer Sylvia St. James, occasional comics, and a steady parade of tribute bands. But its real appeal lies in providing an intimate space where audiences can enjoy longtime favorites like Rickie Lee Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Los Lonely Boys, Ozomatli, Robben Ford and Stanley Jordan in comfort.

Reader Recommended

Ambassador Auditorium

131 S. St. John Ave., Pasadena

(626) 794-1199

Boston Court Performing Arts Center

70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena

(626) 683-6801 |

Coffee Gallery Backstage

2029 N. Lake Ave., Altadena

(626) 798-6236 |

Levitt Pavilion

85 E. Holly St., Pasadena

(626) 683-3230


Pasadena Playhouse

39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena

(626) 356-7529

The State Theatre of California (since 1917) once again earned readers’ favor. This year’s productions — including “Hold These Truths,” about reluctant Japanese-American civil rights hero Gordon Hirabayashi, and “Shout Sister Shout!,” about musical trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe — have asked provocative questions about American history and constitutional rights. Forthcoming stagings of Thornton Wilder’s iconic “Our Town,” “Bordertown Now” and “King Charles III” promise to do the same.

Reader Recommended

A Noise Within

3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 356-3100 |

Boston Court Performing Arts Center

70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena

(626) 683-6883 |



Writing songs since the age of 6, this singer-songwriter has amassed a catalog of over 3,000 songs spanning pop, R&B/soul and J-pop genres as well as full theater and film scores. While she’s best known in Pasadena for playing hotspots like Madeline Gardens, she has been a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame since her early 20s and is Hammond Organ’s official licensed clinician, giving lectures and workshops at Sam Ash Music Stores nationwide.



145 Palmetto Drive, Pasadena

(626) 792-2763

Quantity has something to do the enduring popularity of this family-run establishment’s margaritas — you could just about dive into the glasses they’re serve in. But quality is the key ingredient in their hand-shaken and fruit-and-liqueur margaritas, as well as specials like the Skinny Jalapeño. In business for nine-and-a-half decades, they’ve earned the right to claim that theirs are the best in town.

Reader Recommended

El Cholo

Paseo Colorado, 300 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 795-5800

El Portal

695 E. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 795-8553


Laemmle Playhouse 7

673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-6500

Conveniently situated next door to Vroman’s Bookstore and up the street from Pasadena Playhouse, this popular link in the Laemmle cinema chain impressed readers with its clean, welcoming interior and balanced slate of releases. You’ll find first-run studio fare here along with the kind of quality independent and foreign films, documentaries and classic revivals that Pasadenans used to have to travel to the Westside to see.

Reader Recommended


300 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 568-9651 |


42 Miller Alley, Pasadena

(626) 639-2260 |



119 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 304-1000

No-cover Tuesday nights offer an easy introduction to this sleekly appointed, two-level venue, with beginner and intermediate salsa dance lessons plus videos, a DJ and drink specials. Patrons can also move to the grooves spun by DJs on no-cover College Cantina Thursdays, and by resident mixer Culprit after the live Corazon di Mariachi dinner show on Fridays and Saturdays. Did we mention there was no cover charge?

Reader Recommended

Lindy Groove at Pasadena Masonic Hall

200 S Euclid Ave, Pasadena

Club 54

54 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena

(626) 793-0608 |


Lucky Baldwins

17 S. Raymond Ave.

(626) 795-0652 |

Lucky Baldwins Trappiste

1770 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 844-0447 

Lucky Baldwins Delirium Café

21 Kersting Court, Sierra Madre

(626) 355-1440

Comfort food comes with a Brit twist at this beloved pub: eggs with Irish bacon or pork bangers, traditional meat or cottage pies, bangers and mash, homemade chicken curry, crumpets and English muffins, and the house specialty: fish ‘n’ chips. You’ll also find California-style sandwiches on the menu, along with a broad array of British ciders and ales and PG Tips tea.

Reader Recommended

Congregation Ale House

300 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 403-2337

Kings Row Gastropub

20 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 793-3010 |



474 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(866) 893-5722 |

Pasadenans can rightly feel a flush of pride that Southern California Public Radio’s flagship station is rooted here. KPCC has earned multiple Golden Mike awards from the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California for its news reporting, and listeners continually dial in 89.3 FM to hear Larry Mantle’s “AirTalk,” John Horn’s culture-oriented “The Frame” and A Martínez’s thought-provoking “Take Two,” plus regular programming from the BBC, NPR and PRI. “Intelligent Talk,” indeed.

Reader Recommended


1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica

(310) 450-5183


1149 S. Hill St., Suite H100, Downtown Los Angeles

(213) 225-7400


Rocco’s Tavern

44 W. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 765-6810

Two-for-one happy hour specials, the ever-popular chicken wings and pizza, an open-air layout and friendly vibe continue to make this a comfortable place to gather with friends, co-workers and family. The beer pitchers are a big hit with sports fans, as are the large TV screens positioned throughout the space — get there early if you’re going on game night.

Reader Recommended

Buffalo Wild Wings

1000 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 993-6400

T. Boyle’s Tavern

37 N. Catalina Ave., Pasadena

(626) 578-0957


“Bye Bye Birdie” at Theatre 360 in First Baptist Church of Pasadena

75 N. Marengo Ave., Pasadena

(626) 577-5922 |

The award-winning children’s theatre company once again won plaudits this summer with its lively production of the Tony-winning musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” Originally staged in 1960, its Elvis-like lead character doesn’t seem all that different from modern-day heartthrobs, and the play’s mix of innocence, cynicism and sly humor still gets audiences tapping their feet. Beyond that, kids were being schooled onstage and off, developing professionalism and practical skills that can be utilized in real life as well as the theatrical world.

Reader Recommended

“Lear’s Shadow,” Ensemble Shakespeare Theatre

Lineage Performing Arts Center

89 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 844-7008 |



260 E. Colorado Blvd., A209, Pasadena

(626) 793-4518 |

For a polished, memorable presentation, this flexible event space is increasingly the go-to destination for couples planning their dream wedding and reception. Personable bartenders and experienced chefs bring the human touch to two chandeliered ballrooms, a 1920s-style foyer, and an outdoor terrace complete with a fountain — which staff event planners can refashion for more intimate gatherings like cocktail, graduation and holiday parties.

Reader Recommended

Altadena Town & Country Club

2290 Country Club Drive, Altadena

(626) 794-7163 |

Happy Trails

207 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 796-9526

Pasadena Convention Center

300 E. Green St., Pasadena

(626) 793-2122


Everson Royce

155 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 765-9334

Once again, PW readers gave this Old Town shop winning thumbs up. Within its brick walls you’ll find jammy California zinfandels, earthy Oregon pinot noirs, a complement of hearty red and crisp white wines from various US vineyards, plus an array of Bordeaux, burgundies, champagnes and rhones from France, and other lip-smacking fruits of the vine from Argentina, Australia, Chile, Italy and Spain. With thrice-weekly wine tastings, Friday Night Flights, a wine club, and special events like its spring “Parmesan Crack” collaboration with Milk Farm, it’s a haven for discerning oenophiles.

Reader Recommended


21 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena

(626) 577-9463

Vertical Wine Bar

70 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 795-3999