For the past month or so I have been on a Mediterranean kick, ordering it for lunch or on the weekends at least once a week. There is a Mediterranean place near my work that has great food, although overpriced and not the most authentic, and a small restaurant near my home that is just not conveniently close enough. Since I have been relentless about having it any chance I can, I decided to visit one of the best in the city.
Cafe Santorini is one of the best known and most loved restaurants in Pasadena, having won Best Mediterranean Food in last year’s Best of Pasadena edition. As many regulars or those who’ve had the pleasure to go at least once know, that came as no surprise. The food is great, the staff is beyond friendly, and the outdoor patio is so charming not many places in close vicinity can top it.
To get into the restaurant there is a small door leading up to a narrow staircase, which opens up to the main dining area. There is a bar just to the left of entering, a hostess at the end of the room, and quiet, intimate dinners happening all around. Luckily there was no wait, so our hostess took us straight to the balcony area which we were pleased about because it was a beautiful evening, and it seemed to be a little louder outdoors. My friend and I decided at the last minute that we’d stop by that evening, so we rushed over in our casual clothing — not realizing several groups were there in celebration of something or on a date, and thus were slightly more dressed up. Despite that, we didn’t feel uncomfortable or as if we had walked into the Chateau Marmont in workout attire.
As soon as we were seated we were brought water and a few minutes later a bread basket. Our waitress was friendly, helping us decide on our starters: Borek and spanakopita ($13) and stuffed grape leaves ($10). The borek and spanakopita was easily our favorite of the two and one of our favorite dishes that night. Both are filled pastries, the borek stuffed with a blend of cheeses, mint and sesame seeds, and the spanakopita filled with onions, spinach and feta. To be honest, I couldn’t even focus on which was which, they were both equally amazing and well worth ordering as shareable appetizers.
For our entrees, my friend ordered the Santorini pizza ($16) and I wanted to have something tried and true, a staple dish: the grilled chicken kebab plate ($20). The Santorini pizza was amazing, with beef soujouk sausage, tomatoes, onions, mozzarella cheese, goat cheese and fresh mint. While I’m not the biggest fan of mint, even I have to admit it really added something to the cheeses and pulled the different flavors together beautifully. My chicken kebob plate was just as I was hoping — perfectly seasoned chicken, delicious rice (my favorite part), and grilled onions, tomatoes and bell peppers grilled to perfection as well. The dish also came with hummus and pita (my second favorite part) and there was enough left over to take home for lunch the next day, which, by the way, was not my plan at all.
Cafe Santorini has a happy hour, and since we missed it that day, we already have plans to go back and take advantage of it. It goes from 4-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 4-6 p.m. on Fridays, serving draft beer, well brands, sangria, wines, as well as specialty cocktails and martinis all between $6 and $7. The happy hour food menu (all $6 each) consists of shrimp curry, hummus and pita, grilled calamari, saffron clams, and soujouk sausage mini flatbread, which is essentially the Santorini pizza in a small flatbread version minus the mozzarella. Happy hour is only served at the bar, but well worth it.
Other notable dishes that I saw whisk by or looked inviting on the menu were the Moroccan lamb shank ($32), braised with dried fruit, balsamic vinegar and served with couscous; the risotto with wild mushrooms ($21), which is gluten-free and vegetarian; and the shrimp capellini al checca ($23), served with angel hair pasta tossed with diced tomatoes, garlic, scallions, chili flakes and basil and served with jumbo shrimp. Several dishes on the menu are marked if they are vegetarian, gluten-free, or vegan, so it’s easy for patrons to know what they can order in spite of dietary restrictions. No matter what, Cafe Santorini doesn’t skip out on the flavor.
They even have two banquet rooms for special occasions or larger events. The Rococo room is the larger of the two, seating up to 150 guests, and the Mezzanine, which seats up to 25 people. Cafe Santorini celebrated their 25th anniversary this past year, and it’s clear that in the time they have been in Pasadena they have become a perfect setting for any occasion.
64 W. Union St., Pasadena
Major Cards/Alcohol Served