It would be easy enough to say that at Agnes, Pasadena’s highly anticipated new all-day restaurant, cheesery, and marketplace, the details matter. It’s a common refrain for most places, a sort of shorthand meant to overstate the obvious: owners and chefs care about how their restaurants look, about the food they serve, about the people who work at and are served inside. But few places actually look as put together or as purposeful as Agnes on Green Street, at least from day one. Again, it’s all in the details.
For starters, there’s the retro font choices and color schemes, a nod to throwback family dinners and Midwestern hangouts, complete with mid-century plaid upholstery and American comfort food. Of course, this is 2021, so the meats and cheeses on the charcuterie board are thoughtfully sourced — in this case by Vanessa Tilaka, co-owner and cheesemonger, who runs Agnes with partner and husband Thomas Kalb — and much of the jams and preserves are made in-house. Even the wine is picked for its pairing ability in the marketplace up front, and Kalb and co. keep the cooler stocked with takeaway foods for those on the go.
Padded seats tuck into front window spaces where breezes roll through; mobile butcher block tables hold crackers and tinned fishes and everything else one might need to pick up on the quick. The terrazzo tile at the bar, where beverage director Liz Kelso oversees the wine and cocktails, matches the color scheme of seats, and the blonde wood tables match the rest of the room, naturally.
From the open kitchen that runs almost the entire length of the historic Old Pasadena building (built circa 1922) to its brick walls and tall bow truss ceiling, this is a space where everything feels purposeful — nothing seems out of place. There’s the fiery hearth at the far end, a modular steel affair with varying heights for roasting and searing. There’s the hot line and the prep and finishing spaces, open for all to see, where employees like sous chefs Adonis Arias and Cristian Soriano and pastry chef Vivian Penaloza can chat with customers while crafting their meal.
The rest of the restaurant (or maybe its centerpiece, depending on one’s perspective) is a lush 1,200-square-foot patio space at the back of the building, open to the air but shaded from the sun. This is the place for lounging over an early dinner, sipping wine, and passing around a plate of loaded potato dumplings with crispy pancetta on top for all to try. An opening menu, from daytime to dinner, is below.
General manager Kyrsten Salazar’s job is to float between the three worlds: the market up front, the indoor dining area, and the back patio and attached private dining room/communal seating area/prep kitchen space. On the best nights, she’ll oversee 100 seats all told, sweating the details to make sure each is properly distanced during existing COVID-19 protocol times and their diners properly happy all the time.
For everyone else, all that’s left to do is focus on the big picture. The ORA-designed Agnes (Auburn, Esters) opens June 1 at 40 W. Green Street, keeping Tuesday through Saturday hours from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for takeout at the cheesery and marketplace (there’s also an open al fresco street patio in the front), and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner inside and on the back patio, with Sunday brunch still to come.