Historically, Pasadena is better known for its idyllic suburban neighborhoods and annual Rose Parade than its culinary offerings. However, scratch beneath the chain restaurants to find plenty of gustatory breadth and depth. With a slew of new openings over the past few years and always-busy standbys scattered around town, Pasadena has quietly become one of the busiest dining scenes anywhere in Southern California. Here now are 17 essential Pasadena restaurants.Read More
17 Essential Pasadena Restaurants
French bistro fare, Armenian baked goods, and more
Su-Beoreg & Monta Factory
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.
Old Sasoon Bakery
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 (flatbreads) 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.
Reserve a table at Colette in Hastings Ranch for a taste of expert Cantonese cooking from chef Peter Lai. The crispy chicken stuffed with shrimp paste is a must-order for every table, along with the stir-fried lobster with sticky rice if appetites and wallets allow for something hefty. Be sure to pre-order these labor-intensive dishes beforehand to avoid disappointment.
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 for its simple and satisfying prowess.
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.
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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.
Opened in 2013, Osawa is Pasadena’s go-to for dependable Japanese cooking that spans from sushi to shabu shabu and more. The menu has been in flux in recent years, but rest assured that the ingredients are as good as it gets and the cooking is always skillful.
There’s more marrow and bone broth at Bone Kettle than diners can shake a stick at. Owner Erwin Tjahyadi offers up salads, fried oxtails, Singapore-style chile-fried lobster, a 36-hour bone broth, and a cold bar with oysters and steak tartare.
Dean Yasharian, the longtime executive chef of Chateau Marmont, serves up French bistro fare at this Old Pasadena spot. The menu includes standbys like steak tartare and escargot and fetching vegetarian spins like the coq au vin. The tarte tatin is a must-have for dessert.
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.
CAR Artisan Chocolate
There are many reasons to stop into Haris Car’s Colorado Boulevard cafe and manufactory. The carefully constructed chocolate croissant is a no-brainer, but don’t miss out on the array of cacao-powered drinks and the luscious bars of house-made chocolate. This is a chocolate lovers paradise.
Located a stone’s throw from Pasadena City College, Top Restaurant brings flavorful Hawaiian and Indonesian cooking to a quieter stretch of Colorado Boulevard. The crisp and golden Indonesian fried chicken is the thing to get, while the Spam musubi never fails to hit the spot.
Me + Crepe
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.
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.
Pie 'n Burger
Pasadena claims to be the birthplace of the cheeseburger, and while the truth of such things is 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.
No list of places to eat in Pasadena 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 that draws out the night owls.
The Raymond Restaurant
The Raymond is pure Pasadena, a mix of historic, charming, and lovably straightforward. There are few surprises on the dinner menu here — a little gem salad, a ribeye, some fish, and a pasta or two — but that’s not where the magic of the Raymond resides. It’s all about settling in and enjoying the Craftsman woodwork, the rocky patio, and the tight corridors and rooms. Dining is a more personal act at the Raymond, and servers are quick to stop by tables to offer an even more warming touch. It helps, too, that the 1886 bar is one of the best places to snag a cocktail anywhere in town.