With its tree-lined streets, family-friendly parks, and Craftsman-style homes, Pasadena may very well be Los Angeles’s quintessential suburban paradise. However, scratch beneath the well-manicured lawns to find a neighborhood that is as dynamic and as diverse as any in greater LA. The dining establishments in Pasadena reflect the tastes of its residents and the tourists that visit year-round. From timeless institutions to modern hit-makers, the itinerary below is meant to help both first-timers and locals alike by highlighting some of the most essential places to eat in town.
Breakfast: 7 a.m. — Lucky Boy
Head to this Pasadena institution for the most important meal of the day. Place your order with one of the gruff fellas at the front window and wait for your number to be called a short while later. The dish to get is Lucky Boy’s famed breakfast burrito, jam-packed with hash browns, eggs, cheese, and choice of bacon, sausage, chorizo, or ham. Spanning eight-inches in length and weighing in at close to two pounds, this flour tortilla-wrapped gut-buster has been fueling residents since 1973.
Morning Coffee or Tea: 8 a.m. — Home Brewed Bar
For a thoughtfully crafted caffeinated hit, head to Home Brewed Bar for a cold brew tea or coffee. Order something strong at the counter and sip it slowly while watching the morning hustle and bustle in Old Pasadena.
Morning Snack: 10 a.m. — Roma Market
Snag “The Sandwich” for a mid-morning snack. Renowned city-wide for its simple and satisfying prowess, The Sandwich is the creation of the owner of Roma Market Rosario Mazzeo. Its foundation, a sturdy Italian roll drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, is layered with provolone, mortadella, spiced coppa, and salami.
Lunch: 12:30 p.m. — Super Burger
Located on the not-so-scenic-corner of Altadena and Villa, Super Burger has been around for years. However, it wasn’t until Jean and Ben Khe took over the al fresco stand in 2009 that word began to spread about their incredible burgers. Indulge in a true California classic for lunch and get the cheeseburger, which comes decked-out with two slices of American, sautéed onions, tomato, lettuce, and Thousand Island dressing, smooshed between two toasted buns.
Afternoon Dessert: 3 p.m. — Carmela Ice Cream
Jessica Mortarotti opened this brick and mortar on the edge of Pasadena after years of selling her delightful ice creams from a push cart at local farmers markets. After lunch, swing in for a seasonal scoop made with organic milk. The list of flavors changes from day-to-day, but tubs of the shop’s perennial favorites like salted caramel, mint cacao, lavender honey, and brown sugar vanilla bean are always ready for the regulars.
Happy Hour Drinks and Bites: 5 p.m. — Bone Kettle
Head to Bone Kettle in Old Pasadena for a drink or two before dinner. Sip a glass of the house sangria made with chipotle, orange extract, and pinot noir, while snacking on a few of chef Erwin Tjahyadi’s Asian-inflected small plates like the fried oxtail tips or the mapo tofu fries.
Dinner: 7 p.m. — Union
Nab a table at Union for some of LA’s finest Italian cooking from chef Christopher Keyser. Start with some light appetizers, like the burrata with house-made bread or the polenta with mushrooms, and then settle in to as many pastas as the table can handle. The torchetti, a ridged and tubular canvas, comes topped with a Calabrese pork ragu, a dollop of ricotta, crispy rosemary leaves, and best of all, an intense dried chili oil that the chef calls “pizza grease.”
After Dinner Drinks: 9:30 p.m. — Maestro
Wrap up the day over drinks at this fantastic modern Mexican restaurant. Hone in on the wildly creative cocktails made with rare tequilas and mezcals, like the tequila-forward Mexican Lollipop made with lime, fresh passion fruit, and chamoy, or the Mezcal Campfire with mezcal, lime, and green chartreuse.
Late-Night Bites: 11:30 p.m. — Los California Tacos
Finish the day with a late-night taco run. Parked on South Fair Oaks Avenue, the Los California Tacos truck is as dependable as it is delicious, serving until 12:30 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday and until 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. It’s hard to go wrong with porky hits like carnitas, chicharron, and cabeza.