The Deathwatch is usually for one venue on the verge of going under, that doesn't have a prayer. That is, as we say around here, doneski. But this week is special. And just because we use the stamp, it doesn't mean we advocate the death. Just stating the obvious.
Yes, yes. We're Deathwatching entire neighborhood, a whole downtown area, but there are just too many restaurants in Old Town Pasadena and environs that warrant it. And we're not the only ones to take notice. Tourists continue to line up at the Cheesecake Factory and Buca di Beppo; now more chains (Melting Pot, Gyu-Kaku, and Pinkberry) have moved in. Horrific places like Twin Palms continues to attract the masses, even if the food is inedible. Some newcomers make a go of it—Villa Sorriso has an attractive outdoor lounge and tolerable food; it's sibling Bar Celona found a niche with tapas; and the Scarlet Tea Room charms. Mainstays like Mi Piace and Yujean Kang work enough. But then, someone tries a new concept, a new restaurant, and it just doesn’t take. For this Deathwatch Pasadena edition, we show by example.
La Maschera: If this wine bar with Mediterranean/Moroccan flair opened in any trendy LA neighborhood, it would be a hit. Put it on a side street in Old Town Pas, and it sits idle night after night. There's a sexy lounge, nice wine list, spicy lamb sliders, and personable service. What more could the hordes want? Cheesecake? Estimated time of death: 6 weeks.
Xiomara: We heard a rumor that Xiomara Ardolina has sold her eponymous Cuban restaurant, the original Pasadena location, not the always-empty location on Melrose. In some ways, it's shocking: Xiomara has been a Pasadena staple since it opened in 1991, kind of a go-to place, especially for those mojitos. In other ways, it's not so shocking: With the tired 90s décor and extra competition in the nabe, it's not as busy as it used to be. Bonus DW points for moving the bright and sunny Cuban café from around the corner to the back of the mother ship, in the alley. It's downright dungeon-esque. Estimated time of death: 8 weeks.
Vive: Taking over the fairly popular Nonya space last year, this Latin-Asian-fusion combo doesn't rest its laurels on its menu, not by any stretch. A young Latino crowd lines up here for DJs and drinks on weekend nights, but they'll eventually move on. Without liquor sales, there's little hope after that. Estimated time of death: 6 months.
Thaitalian: With so many failed fusion restaurants in the hood, you'd think people would learn. This is one of those doomed addresses, constantly changing from one thing to the next (previously the short-lived Naya). Pad Thai spaghetti has only so much longevity. Estimated time of death: 90 days.
La Huasteca: This Mexican restaurant should have become a neighborhood favorite when it opened last year. With no trace of the former Ruby's Diner decor left behind, it's a colorful, cavernous space, murals covering the walls, marichis strolling around, potent margs. Food's not bad either. It should be packed all the time. But the lines stop at the Cheesecake Factory a few doors down. Estimated time of death: 6 months.
Any location on the East Side of Paseo Colorado: We go to Pasadena's outdoor mall to prove a point: It takes more than a good menu and following to be successful in the 'Dena. It was a boon to have the Border Grill in Pasadena; once it closed, so did all the other restaurants (Bice, Café Med, Demonico's) in this wasteland. The other side's restaurants are busy, but the only success story on this side: PF Chang's, and to a degree, Bodega Wine Bar. New hopefuls have moved in—a new Mexican place called Paseo Cantina will open this summer, and a make-your-own-wine shop and a Brazilian churrascaria are already open?but wondering where all the business is. Estimated time of death: Just put the whole place out of its misery.
· Pasadena is weak! [Chowhound]