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The brisket at Rodney’s Ribs is served between plush Hawaiian buns with a drizzle of tangy-sweet sauce.
A brisket sandwich from Rodney’s Ribs
Wonho Frank Lee

19 Essential Pasadena Restaurants

Old-school Mexican, Basque-inspired seafood, and more

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A brisket sandwich from Rodney’s Ribs
| Wonho Frank Lee

Pasadena is (historically at least) better known for its idyllic suburban neighborhoods and annual Rose Parade than for its culinary offerings, but scratch beneath the chain restaurants to find plenty of gustatory breadth and depth. With a slew of new openings over the past year and always-busy standbys scattered around town, Pasadena has quietly become one of the busiest dining scenes anywhere in Southern California. Here now are 19 essential Pasadena restaurants.

Removed: Seed Bakery, Shandong Dumplings, Cafe Santorini, the Delicatessen By Osawa, Alexander’s Steakhouse

Added: Namaste Spiceland, Rodney’s Ribs, Saso, Agnes, Pasadena Fish Market, Osawa Shabu Shabu & Sushi, Old Sasoon Bakery

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Old Sasoon Bakery

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1132 Allen Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104
(626) 791-3280
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Opened by Haroutioun Geragosian in 1986, Old Sasoon Bakery is named after the village in Armenia that his grandparents left after World War II. The beorags (savory hand pies) and the lahmajoun (flat breads) make for perfect on-the-go eating, but sit down for a well-made khachapuri if time allows. This Georgian breakfast staple comes topped with a blend of cheeses, a single runny egg, and a few pats of melted butter — all in a boat-shaped flatbread. 

Khachapuri at Old Sasoon Bakery in Pasadena.
Khachapuri at Old Sasoon Bakery in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

2. Rodney's Ribs

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902 N Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104
(626) 818-7427
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Catch Rodney Jenkins and his smoker-on-wheels Wednesdays through Sundays at the CVS parking lot on North Lake. He’s open for lunch and dinner and serves outstanding pork ribs and beef brisket sandwiches that are smoked on site.

The brisket at Rodney’s Ribs is served between plush Hawaiian buns with a drizzle of tangy-sweet sauce.
Beef brisket sandwich at Rodney’s Ribs.
Wonho Frank Lee

3. Pasadena Fish Market

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181 E Orange Grove Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 792-9233

This no-frills spot turns out incredible Jamaican cooking and expertly fried seafood. As the restaurant is still takeout-only, call ahead to place an order and tuck into all that’s good in the front seat or comfortably at home. Order the well-spiced beef patties, stewed oxtails, and crisp sand dabs.

Jamaican oxtails at Pasadena Fish Market in Pasadena.
Jamaican oxtails at Pasadena Fish Market in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

4. Namaste Spiceland

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270 N Hill Ave
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 345-5514
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Namaste Spiceland is a grocery store-slash-cafe with a location in Pasadena and another in Thousand Oaks. Sip on a mango lassi while perusing its shelves or better yet, sit down for a casual meal that spans both north and south Indian fare. The shop’s owner recommends the googli paratha.

5. Tibet Nepal House Restaurant

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36 E Holly St
Pasadena, CA 91124
(626) 585-0955
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Tibet Nepal House is one of a couple Himalayan restaurants within a few blocks of each other in the heart of Pasadena. While both restaurants served up popular lunch buffets in the Before Times, Tibet Nepal House edges out on having superior momos. The Tibetan/Nepalese dumplings are crimped with care and dutifully constructed, resulting in a slightly chewy skin that gives way to the savory filling.

6. Osawa

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77 N Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 683-1150
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Opened in 2013, Osawa is Pasadena’s go-to for dependably good Japanese cooking that spans from sushi to shabu shabu and more. The menu is in flux given the ongoing pandemic, but rest assured that the ingredients are as good as it gets and the cooking is always skillful.

7. Bone Kettle

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67 N Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 795-5702
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At Bone Kettle, there’s more marrow and bone broth than diners can shake a stick at. Owner Erwin Tjahyadi offers up salads, fried oxtails, Singapore-style chile-fried lobster, a 36-hour prepared broth with options that include a fatty brisket, and a cold bar with oysters and steak tartare.

Bone Kettle
Bone Kettle’s 36-hour bone beef broth ramen
[Official Photo]

8. Maestro Restaurant

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110 Union St
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 787-1512
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Start with the tacos ahogados, delightful taquitos stuffed with shredded chicken and served in a slurp-able broth, and share the seared scallops served on a bed of huitlacoche (corn smut) rice. A well-made cocktail to sip is an absolute must.

9. Russell's

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30 N Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 578-1404
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There’s no arguing that Russell’s is an absolute Pasadena mainstay, thanks to its perfectly crispy hash browns and old-school hamburger with all the backyard cookout fixings. There may be no busier place to dine in the whole city than this timeless diner on a Saturday morning.

10. Ramen Tatsunoya

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16 N Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 432-1768
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This ramen shop is an offshoot of a famous Japanese brand by the same name. The menu plays to the founders’ tonkotsu sensibilities, with bowls of rich broth, noodles, and pork. There are a couple of additional sushi roll and bowl options on the menu, but mostly this is a place for very good ramen.

11. Saso

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37 S El Molino Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 808-4976
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Find open-air seating, Basque-inspired fare, and excellent cocktails at Saso, a seafood restaurant attached to the century-old Pasadena Playhouse. Chefs Dom Crisp, Dolly Webster, and Timothy Garcia opened during peak pandemic and are just hitting their stride. Order the pasta Saso, croquettes, and save room for the Basque cheesecake for dessert.

Seafood pasta at Saso in Pasadena.
Seafood pasta at Saso in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

12. Me + Crepe

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89 E Green St
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 345-5291
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Vancouver-based mini-chain Me + Crepe is all about the jianbing, one of China’s most popular street foods comprised of paper thin pancakes stuffed with things like fried eggs and Peking duck.

13. Agnes

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40 W Green St
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 389-3839
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Agnes, which wife and husband team Vanessa Tilaka and Thomas Kalb opened earlier this summer, brings together fine cheeses and regional American cooking, taking inspiration from the Midwest, California, and beyond. Grab a seat in the lush 1,200-square-foot patio and dig into cheese and meat boards, scratch-made pastas, and hearth-roasted proteins.

A long eclair-like piece of bread with a wide spread of chicken liver on top, spotted by cherries.
Chicken liver mousse on a cornbread eclair.
Wonho Frank Lee

14. The Luggage Room Pizzeria

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260 S Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 356-4440
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This popular pizzeria from the La Grande Orange restaurant group (whose Pasadena flagship is right next door) is housed in the former luggage area of the train depot. Employing a wood-fired oven and churning out thin crust personal pies, it’s a solid place for quality pizza in the neighborhood.

15. Little Flower

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1424 W Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 304-4800
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Pasadena’s loveliest breakfast may very well be at Little Flower, a freeway-adjacent spot that is as welcoming on weekdays, as it is on weekends. Be sure to grab a bag of the shop’s famous caramels or marshmallows for a sweet pick-me-up on the way out.

16. Mijares Mexican Restaurant

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145 Palmetto Dr
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 792-2763
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Pasadena’s Mijares lays claim as the oldest restaurant in the city, and among the oldest anywhere in Southern California, with a legacy that dates back to 1920. The traditional spot on Palmetto is still going strong after all these years, serving Mexican and Mexican-American staple dishes almost daily.

17. The Arbour

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527 S Lake Ave #120
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 396-4925
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The Arbour continues to surprise Pasadena residents who tend to opt for chain restaurants along Lake Avenue. This modern, upscale California stop is instead a delightful one-off date night destination for reliable cocktails, starters, and mains like duck two-ways and seasonal risotto.

18. Pie'n Burger

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913 E California Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 795-1123
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Pasadena notoriously claims to be the birthplace of the cheeseburger, and while the truth of such things are lost to history, there is no denying the enduring prominence of Pie ‘N Burger. A legend since 1963, this diner turned ode to all things burgers continues to turn out impeccable California classics, complete with special sauce and lightly melted American cheese.

19. Lucky Boy

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640 S Arroyo Pkwy
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 793-0120
Visit Website

No list of “Essential Pasadena Restaurants” would be complete without the inclusion of Lucky Boy, Pasadena’s after-hours greasy spoon takeout with a killer breakfast burrito. What’s really remarkable is Lucky Boy’s hours — in a city where everything closes early, it’s one of the few spots in that draws out the night owls.

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1. Old Sasoon Bakery

1132 Allen Ave, Pasadena, CA 91104
Khachapuri at Old Sasoon Bakery in Pasadena.
Khachapuri at Old Sasoon Bakery in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

Opened by Haroutioun Geragosian in 1986, Old Sasoon Bakery is named after the village in Armenia that his grandparents left after World War II. The beorags (savory hand pies) and the lahmajoun (flat breads) make for perfect on-the-go eating, but sit down for a well-made khachapuri if time allows. This Georgian breakfast staple comes topped with a blend of cheeses, a single runny egg, and a few pats of melted butter — all in a boat-shaped flatbread. 

1132 Allen Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104

2. Rodney's Ribs

902 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91104
The brisket at Rodney’s Ribs is served between plush Hawaiian buns with a drizzle of tangy-sweet sauce.
Beef brisket sandwich at Rodney’s Ribs.
Wonho Frank Lee

Catch Rodney Jenkins and his smoker-on-wheels Wednesdays through Sundays at the CVS parking lot on North Lake. He’s open for lunch and dinner and serves outstanding pork ribs and beef brisket sandwiches that are smoked on site.

902 N Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104

3. Pasadena Fish Market

181 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91103
Jamaican oxtails at Pasadena Fish Market in Pasadena.
Jamaican oxtails at Pasadena Fish Market in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

This no-frills spot turns out incredible Jamaican cooking and expertly fried seafood. As the restaurant is still takeout-only, call ahead to place an order and tuck into all that’s good in the front seat or comfortably at home. Order the well-spiced beef patties, stewed oxtails, and crisp sand dabs.

181 E Orange Grove Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91103

4. Namaste Spiceland

270 N Hill Ave, Pasadena, CA 91106

Namaste Spiceland is a grocery store-slash-cafe with a location in Pasadena and another in Thousand Oaks. Sip on a mango lassi while perusing its shelves or better yet, sit down for a casual meal that spans both north and south Indian fare. The shop’s owner recommends the googli paratha.

270 N Hill Ave
Pasadena, CA 91106

5. Tibet Nepal House Restaurant

36 E Holly St, Pasadena, CA 91124

Tibet Nepal House is one of a couple Himalayan restaurants within a few blocks of each other in the heart of Pasadena. While both restaurants served up popular lunch buffets in the Before Times, Tibet Nepal House edges out on having superior momos. The Tibetan/Nepalese dumplings are crimped with care and dutifully constructed, resulting in a slightly chewy skin that gives way to the savory filling.

36 E Holly St
Pasadena, CA 91124

6. Osawa

77 N Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

Opened in 2013, Osawa is Pasadena’s go-to for dependably good Japanese cooking that spans from sushi to shabu shabu and more. The menu is in flux given the ongoing pandemic, but rest assured that the ingredients are as good as it gets and the cooking is always skillful.

77 N Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101

7. Bone Kettle

67 N Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103
Bone Kettle
Bone Kettle’s 36-hour bone beef broth ramen
[Official Photo]

At Bone Kettle, there’s more marrow and bone broth than diners can shake a stick at. Owner Erwin Tjahyadi offers up salads, fried oxtails, Singapore-style chile-fried lobster, a 36-hour prepared broth with options that include a fatty brisket, and a cold bar with oysters and steak tartare.

67 N Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103

8. Maestro Restaurant

110 Union St, Pasadena, CA 91103

Start with the tacos ahogados, delightful taquitos stuffed with shredded chicken and served in a slurp-able broth, and share the seared scallops served on a bed of huitlacoche (corn smut) rice. A well-made cocktail to sip is an absolute must.

110 Union St
Pasadena, CA 91103

9. Russell's

30 N Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103

There’s no arguing that Russell’s is an absolute Pasadena mainstay, thanks to its perfectly crispy hash browns and old-school hamburger with all the backyard cookout fixings. There may be no busier place to dine in the whole city than this timeless diner on a Saturday morning.

30 N Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103

10. Ramen Tatsunoya

16 N Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103

This ramen shop is an offshoot of a famous Japanese brand by the same name. The menu plays to the founders’ tonkotsu sensibilities, with bowls of rich broth, noodles, and pork. There are a couple of additional sushi roll and bowl options on the menu, but mostly this is a place for very good ramen.

16 N Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103

11. Saso

37 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101
Seafood pasta at Saso in Pasadena.
Seafood pasta at Saso in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

Find open-air seating, Basque-inspired fare, and excellent cocktails at Saso, a seafood restaurant attached to the century-old Pasadena Playhouse. Chefs Dom Crisp, Dolly Webster, and Timothy Garcia opened during peak pandemic and are just hitting their stride. Order the pasta Saso, croquettes, and save room for the Basque cheesecake for dessert.

37 S El Molino Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101

12. Me + Crepe

89 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91105

Vancouver-based mini-chain Me + Crepe is all about the jianbing, one of China’s most popular street foods comprised of paper thin pancakes stuffed with things like fried eggs and Peking duck.

89 E Green St
Pasadena, CA 91105

13. Agnes

40 W Green St, Pasadena, CA 91105
A long eclair-like piece of bread with a wide spread of chicken liver on top, spotted by cherries.
Chicken liver mousse on a cornbread eclair.
Wonho Frank Lee

Agnes, which wife and husband team Vanessa Tilaka and Thomas Kalb opened earlier this summer, brings together fine cheeses and regional American cooking, taking inspiration from the Midwest, California, and beyond. Grab a seat in the lush 1,200-square-foot patio and dig into cheese and meat boards, scratch-made pastas, and hearth-roasted proteins.

40 W Green St
Pasadena, CA 91105

14. The Luggage Room Pizzeria

260 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

This popular pizzeria from the La Grande Orange restaurant group (whose Pasadena flagship is right next door) is housed in the former luggage area of the train depot. Employing a wood-fired oven and churning out thin crust personal pies, it’s a solid place for quality pizza in the neighborhood.

260 S Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105

15. Little Flower

1424 W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105

Pasadena’s loveliest breakfast may very well be at Little Flower, a freeway-adjacent spot that is as welcoming on weekdays, as it is on weekends. Be sure to grab a bag of the shop’s famous caramels or marshmallows for a sweet pick-me-up on the way out.

1424 W Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91105

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16. Mijares Mexican Restaurant

145 Palmetto Dr, Pasadena, CA 91105

Pasadena’s Mijares lays claim as the oldest restaurant in the city, and among the oldest anywhere in Southern California, with a legacy that dates back to 1920. The traditional spot on Palmetto is still going strong after all these years, serving Mexican and Mexican-American staple dishes almost daily.

145 Palmetto Dr
Pasadena, CA 91105

17. The Arbour

527 S Lake Ave #120, Pasadena, CA 91101

The Arbour continues to surprise Pasadena residents who tend to opt for chain restaurants along Lake Avenue. This modern, upscale California stop is instead a delightful one-off date night destination for reliable cocktails, starters, and mains like duck two-ways and seasonal risotto.

527 S Lake Ave #120
Pasadena, CA 91101

18. Pie'n Burger

913 E California Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

Pasadena notoriously claims to be the birthplace of the cheeseburger, and while the truth of such things are lost to history, there is no denying the enduring prominence of Pie ‘N Burger. A legend since 1963, this diner turned ode to all things burgers continues to turn out impeccable California classics, complete with special sauce and lightly melted American cheese.

913 E California Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91106

19. Lucky Boy

640 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105

No list of “Essential Pasadena Restaurants” would be complete without the inclusion of Lucky Boy, Pasadena’s after-hours greasy spoon takeout with a killer breakfast burrito. What’s really remarkable is Lucky Boy’s hours — in a city where everything closes early, it’s one of the few spots in that draws out the night owls.

640 S Arroyo Pkwy
Pasadena, CA 91105

Related Maps