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LA

Guide

Where To Eat In Pasadena

America’s most suburban suburb might not conjure images of a hot restaurant scene, but the tides are quickly changing.

Written by
20 Spots
Launch Map
20 Spots
Launch Map

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 have always been the neighborhood go-tos and local standbys, but food that’s truly worth the journey? Not so much.

Times are changing, though. 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 in 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

Union

$$$$ 37 E Union St

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.

Benjamin Dell

Arroyo Chop House

$$$$ 536 S Arroyo Pkwy

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.

Pie 'n Burger

$$$$
$$$$ 913 E. California Blvd.

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.

Benjamin Dell

Euro Pane Bakery

$$$$ 950 E Colorado Blvd

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.

Anni Chen / Facebook

Ramen Tatsunoya

$$$$
Ramen  in  Pasadena
$$$$ 16 N Fair Oaks Ave.

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.

Bulgarini Gelato

$$$$ 749 E Altadena Dr

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.

Carmela Ice Cream

$$$$ 2495 E Washington Blvd

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

Benjamin Dell

The Royce Wood-Fired Steakhouse

$$$$
Steaks  in  Pasadena
$$$$ 1401 S Oak Knoll Ave

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.

Benjamin Dell

Marston's

$$$$ 151 E Walnut St

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

Daisy Mint

$$$$ 1218 E Colorado Blvd

Simple, good Thai-Vietnamese food. Get the steak salad and pumpkin curry.

Sushi Kimagure

$$$$
Sushi  in  Pasadena
$$$$ 220 S Raymond Ave

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.

Julienne

$$$$ 2649 Mission St

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.

Benjamin Dell

Parkway Grill

$$$$ 510 S Arroyo Pkwy

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

Racion

$$$$ 119 W Green St

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

Pasadena Sandwich Company

$$$$ 259 Sierra Madre Villa Ave #102

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-y, no doubt sending the nearby Caltech kids into empassioned frenzies.

Benjamin Dell

The Old Sasoon Bakery

$$$$ 1132 Allen Ave

A good spot for sweet and savory Middle Eastern and Eastern European pastries, including made-to-order Georgian khachapuri (pictured).

Benjamin Dell

Little Flower Candy

$$$$ 1424 W Colorado Blvd

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

Lincoln

$$$$ 1992 Lincoln Ave

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.

Panda Inn

$$$$ 3488 E Foothill Blvd

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.

Mediterranean Cafe

$$$$ 273 Shoppers Ln

We had to throw the neighborhood shawarma 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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