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The sandwich from Roma Market in Pasadena.
The Sandwich from Roma Market in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

19 Essential Pasadena Restaurants

French bistro fare, Armenian-style cured meat, and more

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The Sandwich from Roma Market in Pasadena.
| Cathy Chaplin

Historically, Pasadena is 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: Pasadena Fish Market, Tibet Nepal House Restaurant, Russell’s, Little Flower, Mijares, Ramen Tatsunoya

Added: Perle, Garo’s Basturma, Union, Su-Beoreg & Monta Factory, Copa Vida, Roma Market

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Su-Beoreg & Monta Factory

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1531 E Washington Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91104
(626) 398-1525
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Come into this family-owned shop for two Armenian specialties: su beoreg and sini-monta. Think of su beoreg like a lasagna — layers of thin, house-made dough complemented with feta, mozzarella, and chopped parsley. Buy a whole pan or snag a slice. The sini-monta are open-faced beef dumplings seasoned with sumac and red pepper slathered with spicy pepper paste and a tangy yogurt-based garlic cream sauce. 

A tray of dumplings with yogurt sauce.
Sini-monta
Joshua Lurie

2. 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

3. Garo's Basturma

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1082 Allen Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104
(626) 794-0460

This deli-slash-grocery store has been making its namesake cured meat for nearly 40 years. The basturma, which is sold by weight and sliced to order, is meltingly tender, with a delicate crust of fenugreek, cumin, black pepper, and paprika.

Basturma at Garo’s Basturma in Pasadena.
Basturma at Garo’s Basturma in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

4. Roma Market

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918 N Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104
(626) 797-7748

The creation of Roma’s owner Rosario Mazzeo, “The Sandwich” consists of a sturdy Italian roll drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and layered with provolone, mortadella, spiced coppa, and salami. It’s renowned city-wide and beyond for its simple and satisfying prowess.

The sandwich from Roma Market in Pasadena.
The sandwich from Roma Market in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

5. 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

6. 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.

Daily lunch combo from Namaste Spiceland in Pasadena.
Daily lunch combo from Namaste Spiceland in Pasadena.
Farley Elliott

7. 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.

8. 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]

9. Perle Restaurant

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43 Union St
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 460-8819
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Dean Yasharian, the longtime executive chef of Chateau Marmont, serves up French bistro fare at this Old Pas hot spot. The menu includes standbys like steak tartare and escargot, along with fetching vegetarian spins, like the coq au vin. The tarte tatin is a must-have for dessert.

Escargot at Perle in Pasadena.
Escargot at Perle in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

10. Union Restaurant

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37 Union St
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 795-5841
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Chef Christopher Keyser prepares some of the best plates of pasta in town. Twisty torchetti comes topped with a spicy Calabrese pork ragu, while the squid ink lumache plays well with Maine lobster and truffle butter.

Torchetti with Calabrese pork ragu at Union in Pasadena.
Torchetti with Calabrese pork ragu at Union in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

11. 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.

12. 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 have finally hit 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

13. Copa Vida

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70 S Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 213-3952
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Copa Vida’s excellent location in Old Pasadena has served the community well with some of LA’s best coffee service, with inventive new drinks and consistent quality from cup to cup. The food menu excels too during the day, with solid breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and salads to fuel lengthy remote work sessions or face-to-face meetings.

Copa Vida
Copa Vida in Pasadena.
Copa Vida [Official Photo]

14. 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.

15. Agnes

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40 W Green St
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 389-3839
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Wife and husband team Vanessa Tilaka and Thomas Kalb bring together fine cheeses and regional American cooking — taking inspiration from the Midwest, California, and beyond — at Agnes. 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

16. The Luggage Room Pizzeria

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260 S Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 356-4440
Visit Website

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.

17. The Arbour

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527 S Lake Ave #120
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 396-4925
Visit Website

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
Visit Website

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. Su-Beoreg & Monta Factory

1531 E Washington Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104
A tray of dumplings with yogurt sauce.
Sini-monta
Joshua Lurie

Come into this family-owned shop for two Armenian specialties: su beoreg and sini-monta. Think of su beoreg like a lasagna — layers of thin, house-made dough complemented with feta, mozzarella, and chopped parsley. Buy a whole pan or snag a slice. The sini-monta are open-faced beef dumplings seasoned with sumac and red pepper slathered with spicy pepper paste and a tangy yogurt-based garlic cream sauce. 

1531 E Washington Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91104

2. 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

3. Garo's Basturma

1082 Allen Ave, Pasadena, CA 91104
Basturma at Garo’s Basturma in Pasadena.
Basturma at Garo’s Basturma in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

This deli-slash-grocery store has been making its namesake cured meat for nearly 40 years. The basturma, which is sold by weight and sliced to order, is meltingly tender, with a delicate crust of fenugreek, cumin, black pepper, and paprika.

1082 Allen Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104

4. Roma Market

918 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91104
The sandwich from Roma Market in Pasadena.
The sandwich from Roma Market in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

The creation of Roma’s owner Rosario Mazzeo, “The Sandwich” consists of a sturdy Italian roll drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and layered with provolone, mortadella, spiced coppa, and salami. It’s renowned city-wide and beyond for its simple and satisfying prowess.

918 N Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104

5. 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

6. Namaste Spiceland

270 N Hill Ave, Pasadena, CA 91106
Daily lunch combo from Namaste Spiceland in Pasadena.
Daily lunch combo from Namaste Spiceland in Pasadena.
Farley Elliott

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

7. 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

8. 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

9. Perle Restaurant

43 Union St, Pasadena, CA 91103
Escargot at Perle in Pasadena.
Escargot at Perle in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

Dean Yasharian, the longtime executive chef of Chateau Marmont, serves up French bistro fare at this Old Pas hot spot. The menu includes standbys like steak tartare and escargot, along with fetching vegetarian spins, like the coq au vin. The tarte tatin is a must-have for dessert.

43 Union St
Pasadena, CA 91103

10. Union Restaurant

37 Union St, Pasadena, CA 91103
Torchetti with Calabrese pork ragu at Union in Pasadena.
Torchetti with Calabrese pork ragu at Union in Pasadena.
Cathy Chaplin

Chef Christopher Keyser prepares some of the best plates of pasta in town. Twisty torchetti comes topped with a spicy Calabrese pork ragu, while the squid ink lumache plays well with Maine lobster and truffle butter.

37 Union St
Pasadena, CA 91103

11. 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

12. 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 have finally hit their stride. Order the pasta Saso, croquettes, and save room for the Basque cheesecake for dessert.

37 S El Molino Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101

13. Copa Vida

70 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105
Copa Vida
Copa Vida in Pasadena.
Copa Vida [Official Photo]

Copa Vida’s excellent location in Old Pasadena has served the community well with some of LA’s best coffee service, with inventive new drinks and consistent quality from cup to cup. The food menu excels too during the day, with solid breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and salads to fuel lengthy remote work sessions or face-to-face meetings.

70 S Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105

14. 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

15. 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

Wife and husband team Vanessa Tilaka and Thomas Kalb bring together fine cheeses and regional American cooking — taking inspiration from the Midwest, California, and beyond — at Agnes. 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

Related Maps

16. 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

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