Here we are at the finish line. It has been a pleasure writing for the good readers of Pasadena Weekly for the last eight months. I did my best to take you all out and test-drive new experiences just by unfolding the paper. I had my opinions; perhaps you all disagreed, and that’s fine. That’s great, in fact. It doesn’t matter if I think Buffalo Wild Wings is the armpit of humanity in every conceivable way. If you like it, you like it. Nothing I say should change that.
But if you did, on occasion, find my recommendations palatable, here I am now to construct an ideal dining day for you. Consider it my parting gift, although it’s also a bit of a self-serving record of nostalgia. Though I am sure my new San Francisco home will have plenty of hidden tasty spots, greasy spoons and dive bars, I will reread this article with a tear in my eye whenever I’m homesick. Without further ado, here goes my ideal day of consumption in the greater Pasadena area:
Breakfast at Jeremy’s in Montrose. When I first visited this place, it had a B health rating. This in no way prevented many, many, many family breakfasts there in the years to come. The eventual upgrade to an A was just the cherry on top of an already charming, homey, welcoming diner.
At Jeremy’s, the food is always exactly the same — maybe just a bit better than you remember it. The pancakes are truly like yellow cake cooked in a pan. No amount of syrup seems able to overwhelm their pure, delicious power. The corned beef hash scooped up on rye toast with oozing egg yolk washes over the hungover and post-churchgoing crowd alike with waves of comfort. The coffee flows incessantly. Every inch of wall space is covered in grandparent-esque signage, the tabletops similarly unrelentingly adorned with business cards and knick-knacks. The waitresses call you honey as they deliver the crispiest bacon imaginable at lightning speed. It all feels right.
If you’re able to work back up an appetite by the time lunch hits, head up the street to Sianto’s Lebanese Bakery in La Crescenta. Though it was once named Shanto’s and priced at about half the current listings, I am still (and will forever be) a loyal stamp-card holder. The cheese and baby spinach mana’ish speckled with tangy sumac is the best way to eat ridiculous amounts of leafy greens while having the gosh darned flavor experience of a lifetime. A za’atar and lebni wrap with veggies both fresh and pickled probably account for over half the ticks on my loyalty card. Treat yourself to midday dessert in the form of a Nutella and banana wrap with honey and walnuts. Melty, crunchy, sweetness makes an excellent closer to an herbaceous, salty, fulfilling meal.
To hold you over between lunch and happy hour, take the 210 into Alhambra for tea at 7 Leaves. Balanced oolong milk teas and mild taro drinks pair well with boba, custard, jellies, etc. But alas, the pièce de résistance in my book is the mung bean milk tea made with pandan. I always get mine lightly sweetened, and any add-ons depend on my mood. A shocking green akin to matcha, the drink gets an earthy flavor from the mung bean, a nuttiness from the pandan. Truly, this is a marriage created by the boba gods. Nuanced, not overbearingly sweet, refreshing … When I imagine my ideal self, I am wealthy, styled, fit, happy and holding a large mung bean tea from 7 Leaves.
The remainder of the day could take a number of turns. If it’s Tuesday, off to Craft Beer Cellar in Eagle Rock for trivia and brews. The spot is often crowded, but it’s with friendly folks and for good reason. A solid bottle shop and tap list will satisfy most any beer belly, snooty or simple.
Not trivia Tuesday but you’re still feelin’ bevs ’n’ games? Block Party on York Boulevard in Highland Park has beer, wine, cocktails and shuffleboard for your social pleasure. If you’re lucky, the Tacos La Tehuanita truck will be right outside ready to serve you a devilishly crunchy, rich, savory, saucy burnt cheese and asada taco. The vegan ceviche is also an excellent selection for those plant-based and dairy-free folk. Everything, of course, goes beautifully with one of Block Party’s decked-out micheladas. Run across the street to the Hi-Hat and catch up on the up-and-coming music scene if you feel so inclined. Get a Sufjan-themed dessert at Donut Friend if local punk isn’t your jam. There’s always something cool happening in Highland Park.
Still in the area but want something more low key? Just over on Figueroa Street lay a nestled-away pizza spot and a wine bar. Triple Beam sells slices by weight, so hold up your hands to the width of pie that fits your tummy/wallet and enjoy. The pizza is pretty darn close to the real Roman deal so it’s hard to go wrong, but the nettle pizza is a personal favorite (though the menu is constantly adjusting and rotating). Just a few steps away stands Highland Park Wine’s impressive selection curated by the same man who orders wine for the Norton Simon Museum. I do love and appreciate top-shelf wine, but I still recommend going to the reliable and prominent under-$20 bottle display. The workers will cork the bottle for you and your friends to enjoy out on the patio with pizza like a true Italian.
If none of these float your boat, Edwin Mills by Equator in Old Pasadena has incredible happy hour deals and/or live music most nights of the week. After your fill, sneak around the corner to Doghaus for übercrispy tots, dressed-up sausages or bomb burgers.
If it isn’t quite 11 p.m. yet, go back to 7 Leaves for a second helping of mung bean tea.
All done? Me neither. I didn’t squeeze in a Yaki Burger or the complementary rolls at Star Cafe or a cortado at Constellation.
Every visit home will be a marathon of eating, but I hope it can be more of a relay among readers now that I’ve disclosed my favorite spots. Carry on, be good, keep me updated on the best bites and deals. Thank you and farewell.