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Where To Eat in Pasadena

PHOTO: Joe Wolf / Flickr

Pasadena is America’s most suburban suburb of suburbs. We don’t need to verify that statement with facts, it just feels right.

And, like most suburbs, Pasadena is not traditionally known for its vibrant restaurant scene. Sure, there’s always been the neighborhood go-to's and local standbys, but food that’s truly worth the journey? Not so much.

But times are changing. The culinary action in the old ‘Dena is picking up. Should you find yourself on this side of town, or should you (gasp) make your way out here intentionally, you’ll find a plethora of good new options, from legit Japanese ramen to upscale California food. We’ve thrown some local classics on the list as well, because there’s little point to having a Pasadena native (yup, me) write this otherwise. Once you or your friends start having second children, you’ll find this guide real handy, real quick.

The Spots

1

Union

37 E Union St
MAP

Unequivocally the best restaurant in Pasadena. The first time we ate here, it was a revelation—a restaurant that could stand up anywhere, smack dab in the heart of the tourist-trappy parts of Old Town. Get all the pastas, close your eyes, and you could easily be in Brooklyn or San Francisco.

2

Arroyo Chop House

536 S Arroyo Pkwy
MAP

The most fun all-around night out in town. Sure, it’s “just” a steakhouse, but it’s also a damned good one. The cocktails are potent, the apps and sides are exactly what you want them to be, and the steaks are cooked to temperature. The Grand Marnier soufflé is particularly magical.

Photo: Benjamin Dell
3

Pie 'n Burger

Pasadena
913 E. California Blvd.
8.8
MAP

On a good day, the best cheeseburger there is. On a bad day, still an amazing meal. If you’re feeling saucy, accompany with pie or a milkshake and be your best American.

4

Euro Pane Bakery

950 E Colorado Blvd
MAP

Pastries and sandwiches on bread that’s about two notches better than it needs to be. The egg salad is appropriately legendary - five eggs perfectly seasoned, stacked open-face on a nice chewy dough (we recommend rosemary). A filling and delicious lunch.

Photo: Benjamin Dell
5

Ramen Tatsunoya

16 N Fair Oaks Ave.
MAP

The newest hot Japanese ramen import to sport a giant line. Sure, the crowd will move on to the next one in months (weeks?) but this is where it’s at right now.

Photo: Anni Chen / Facebook
6

Bulgarini Gelato

749 E Altadena Dr
MAP

The rare gelateria where the flavors taste like concentrated, intensified versions of the underlying ingredients. The pistachio tastes like someone crushed the nuts and infused them into pistachio milk, and then froze the result. In other words: it’s good.

7

Carmela Ice Cream

2495 E Washington Blvd
MAP

Salted caramel and honey lavender at their absolute finest. Dare we say a notch above Bulgarini? We dare.

8

The Royce Wood-Fired Steakhouse

1401 S Oak Knoll Ave
MAP

Shiny! Expensive! Adults! At present, it’s operating as a steakhouse, but over the last several years The Royce has had a rotating cast of famous chefs serving Michelin-quality meals to the city’s most stuffy visitors. Not really a local’s spot, but good to have in your back pocket in case you’re giving dinner picks to a visiting railroad baron.

Photo: Benjamin Dell
9

Marston's

151 E Walnut St
MAP

There’s only one reason to go: cornflake-encrusted French toast. Sure, they serve eggs and things, but trust us. Get the French toast.

Photo: Benjamin Dell
10

Daisy Mint

1218 E Colorado Blvd
MAP

Clean, simple Thai-Vietnamese food. Not “authentic,” but better than many “authentic” Thai places, whatever that means. Get the steak salad and pumpkin curry.

11

Sushi Kimagure

220 S Raymond Ave
MAP

Appropriately austere and neat, as really good sushi usually is. The omakase won’t stand up to $300 versions, but if you’re consuming those regularly, you’re not reading this article.

12

Julienne

2649 Mission St
MAP

The kind of ladies-who-lunch restaurant that only an old-money area like Pasadena can deliver. The salads and sandwiches are all excellent, with recipes that have been honed over decades. And it shows. The front patio is as see-and-be-seen as Pasadena gets, which may not be saying much.

13

Parkway Grill

510 S Arroyo Pkwy
MAP

Capital-C Classic. Fancy American food, in a nice space filled with a smattering of old people and families. Pasadena in a nutshell.

Photo: Benjamin Dell
14

Racion

119 W Green St
MAP

A reasonable Basque restaurant in Old Town. While others have had better experiences than us, this is your go-to for akin-to-Spanish tapas.

15

Pasadena Sandwich Company

259 Sierra Madre Villa Ave #102
MAP

Sometimes you just want a staggering quantity of meat stuffed between two slices of the bread of your choice. Most people would call this a “deli”, but in California, apparently, we call it a “sandwich company.” Sounds more startup-py, no doubt sending the nearby CalTech kids into empassionaed frenzies.

16

The Old Sasoon Bakery

1132 Allen Ave
MAP

Giant Eastern-European pastries with names we can’t pronounce, like “lahmajoune,” and “shaabiyat.” Legit.

Photo: Benjamin Dell
17

Little Flower Candy

1424 W Colorado Blvd
MAP

Phase 1 in the plan to take over Los Angeles with cute little bags of flavored marshmallows and caramel popcorn.

Photo: Benjamin Dell
18

Lincoln

1992 Lincoln Ave
MAP

From the same people as Little Flower, phase 2 in the plan. This time, with more baked goods, and actual space to eat sandwiches and drink fancy coffee.

19

Panda Inn

3488 E Foothill Blvd
MAP

Oh, you didn’t know that one of the most ubiquitous mall food-court chains in America got started as a full-sized restaurant in Pasadena? Good news: the “Inn” edition is far superior to “Express.” We recommend Moo Shu Pork, Sweet & Pungent Shrimp, Braised String Beans, and a fruity Mai Tai.

Photo: Panda Inn / Facebook
20

Mediterranean Cafe

273 Shoppers Ln
MAP

We had to throw the neighborhood shawerma and falafel shop on here, if only because we ate here twice a week all throughout high school. Get the chicken shawarma with garlic paste, and say hi to the owners for us.

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