While LA is saturated with hipster brunch spots offering bottomless mimosas and “artisanal” food options, Edwin Mills by Equator (22 Mills Place, Pasadena; (626) 564-8656, edwinmills.com) truly stands above the others, not only with their “New American” dining stylings, but also in their humorous take on today’s restaurant culture.
The menu states its options reflect the “diversity, community and history” that is America. And that influence is evident, with such items as the braised short rib chilaquiles. This upgraded take on a Mexican breakfast staple features a duck fat-fried egg on top of corn tortillas, covered with red sauce and topped with crema fresca and radish. The crunch of the tortillas complimented the tender short rib and fried egg, while the radish adds a crisp, peppery kick that adds something special to the taste.
My dining companion ordered the Confused Burrito, a hearty breakfast item containing eggs, potatoes, jack cheese and a choice of bacon, soy chorizo, or chicken andouille sausage, all wrapped in a grilled wheat tortilla. (That’s the “confused” part, according to the menu.)
We ordered it with the andouille sausage, and were a little surprised to see it butterflied in both halves. On the side, we tried the parmesan fries with kalamata aioli — a trifecta of flavors; neither too much parmesan, nor overly greasy from the aioli, and naturally cut to retain the right balance of golden brown crispness.
The restaurant serves brunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and has a two-hour limit on dining, which may be hard to observe with bottomless mimosas for $15. For a $3 upcharge, try their specialty mimosas, featuring 14 more juice options, including strawberry lemonade, mango and pomegranate. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try one of their juice combinations, like “French,” a saccharine pineapple and raspberry combo. Another is the “Blue One,” made of Sprite and blue Curaçao liqueur. The drinks are served by the carafe, so ask for a half if you’re not yet committed to a single flavor.
The highlight of this part of our boozy brunch was the lychee mimosa. The sweet and citrusy Southeast Asian summer fruit is finding its way into the rotation of many a mixologist.
To help work off that midday mimosa buzz, a few places within walking distance will help do the job. Take a break from shopping, walk over to Vanilla Bake Shop (88 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; (323) 204-4075, vanillabakeshop.com) and treat yourself to something sweet.
This intimate bakery owned by husband and wife Amy and Jeremy Berman “offers baked goods inspired by the memory of mom’s kitchen.” I chose two of the half-dozen or so handcrafted donuts to try, the chocolate coco nib and sea salt maple. Both were dense in the best way, The chocolate coco nib was a cake donut coated in a chocolate frosting sprinkled with chunks of cacoa. The sea-salt maple donut was all the things you love about pancakes in a handheld form. I can’t think of a better way to soak up all that champagne. Their menu also features a variety of gluten-free macarons, cupcakes and desserts. Vegan options are expected in coming months.
Or maybe just coffee is what you need. Cafe 86 (36 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 219-6915), is the unsung hero of Colorado Boulevard in that department. Slightly tucked away from the main drag, Cafe 86 offers a cool coffee shop vibe with comfortable couches and seating to rest before heading back out to shop. There are ample tables and outlets if you feel like pulling out your laptop to get work done. Beverage selections include Thai and milk teas (boba optional), along with coffee options like the ube latte or the indulgent Nutella latte. My go-to is the coffee milk tea, a cold-brew milk tea combo that has just enough caffeine to give you that second wind needed after brunch. A notable feature is their ever-changing dessert selection. I popped in Sunday and had to try the matcha brownie, a combination I didn’t know would work as well as it did and for a little over $2 well worth the risk. Their menu is full of budget-friendly and conceptually adventurous drinks and desserts. My coffee milk tea and matcha brownie, for instance, was less than $6. Their halo-halo bread pudding a la mode with ube ice cream is a one of a kind purple dessert, an Asian spin on an American classic.
Finish off your night with a short walk (albeit, off of Colorado) to the Otis Bar (260 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; (626) 356-4444, lgostationcafe.com/the-otis-bar), located inside La Grande Orange restaurant in the Gold Line Station on South Raymond Avenue. While the small plates and tacos are incredible, I would highly suggest an order of the deviled eggs. This updated version of grandma’s cookout go-to features a crispy bacon garnish that pairs well with the classic. If you’re going with a group and are more interested in the drinks and socializing, the Otis Bar chicken nachitos are enough for several; my meager party of two barely made a dent.
The true superstars here are the cocktails and the virtuosos behind the bar who make them. Just ask and they will happily custom build you a concoction made to your preferences, i.e. tequila and cucumber. This bar offers the amenities and ambiance as over-priced cocktail bars without the pretentiousness or the price tag.
Of all the reasons to finish your day here, the best is the ambiance. The Otis Bar sits as an enclosed patio right on the Del Mar Station square. Don’t be put off by the patio aspect, my partner and I did not realize it was an open patio until after our appetizers arrived. On one side is the fully stocked bar and old-school padded brown leather barstools and matching wood tables and chairs; separating the bar from the open air Del Mar Station square is a cut out wall of columns and a neat arrangement of California native plants. As you dine you can watch the Gold Line trains arrive.
While some visitors may not enjoy having the train whistles interrupting their conversations, it added to the experience and charm of dining near the station. Enjoy a night cap at the 7 Sunday night and watch as the sun sets and trains literally pass in the night.