Best of Pasadena – Editors’ Favorites

Our Pasadena Magazine team shares their Pasadena picks from the last year…

Samantha Brooks, Editor in Chief 

The Pasadena Showcase House debuted the week after our May/June design issue shipped, and I couldn’t wait to see the final product. So many great spaces, but the Young Gentleman’s Quarters by Hermogeno Designs, the Pool House by The Art of Room Design, and of course the kitchen by Jeanne Chung especially spoke to me.

When I was working on last year’s holiday gift guide, I couldn’t resist doing a little shopping myself. I bought a rustic wooden bowl at Hollis for our kitchen countertop, and it looks just as good empty as it does cradling lemons and limes.

We are truly blessed with an array of amazing dining options, but if it were my last day on Earth, there’s no way I’d be able to pass up the cheeseburger at Houston’s.

“Borderlands,” the new permanent collection installation at The Huntington, is a fresh way to refocus the eye on some important pieces as well as interweave in new works.

I try to abstain from sweets as much as I can, but I will definitely get weak in the knees for SusieCakes’ Celebration Cake. Birthdays just feel incomplete without it.

Sara Smola, Managing Editor

North Pas coffee spot Lavender & Honey is single-handedly responsible for my afternoon pick-me-up—and the extra 5 pounds on my waistline—thanks to its carb-laden pastries and tartines.

While working from home has been nothing new to me, being confined to a single space for over a year was highly motivating for me to step up my bedding game. I know I’m not supposed to work where I sleep, but Parachute’s cozy linen set makes it near impossible to get out of bed.

After living in sweatpants for so long, I’m finally adding some new pieces to my wardrobe. San Marino boutique Serafina carries ready-to-wear dresses from my favorite labels, like Ulla Johnson, Cara Cara, and Mille, that are perfect for the upcoming weddings and vacations on my calendar.

Altadena Beverage & Market has become my go-to for locally made provisions and hostess gifts. On a recent visit, I picked up bagels and a bottle of Sādhanā by Cellador Ales.

Viewing Norton Simon’s virtual exhibit “Representing Women: Gender and Portraiture in 17th-Century Europe” was inspirational in seeing how far my gender has progressed—while also serving as a reminder of how much further we still need to go.

Dora Dalton, Copy Editor

A former Pasadena resident, I now live in North County San Diego. When I get back up to see family, I enjoy visiting old favorites and discovering new ones. When you no longer have access to Vroman’s, you realize what a rarity a truly great bookstore is. I could spend hours here browsing—and the children’s section is unbeatable.

Norton Simon remains one of my favorite museums ever. The best place for a meditative afternoon, starting with Rodin’s moving The Burghers of Calais.

I was excited on a recent visit to see that San Francisco superstar Tartine had opened a small outpost on Green Street. I daydream about the Morning Buns.

Another new find, seriously good strip mall ramen at Tatsu Ramen on Arroyo Parkway.

Finally, Eaton Canyon, where I learned to love hiking. I once made the perilous climb to the backside of the waterfall, where my daredevil boyfriend picked up a rattlesnake with his bare hands. Not recommended but memorable!

Jennifer Ashton Ryan, Editor/Writer, Family

I’m renovating a 1912 craftsman, so Pasadena Architectural Salvage is on my weekly rounds for finding hardware, lighting, and old doors.

My daughter has taken a few acro classes at The Vault Dance Studio on Palmetto, and I’ve been very impressed with owner Christina Bircher, both her expertise and the positive effect she has on her students.

For a takeout option that doesn’t spike my blood sugar, I’ve been ordering the Berry Blast from Robeks.

I go to Jones Coffee Roasters on Raymond when I have an hour with my laptop because I can always find an open seat in its large open-air area.

Tacos Poncitlan finally opened on Allen and the Tacos Dorados plate has my number. The dish comes with three hard-shell potato tacos topped with carnitas, salsa, and purple cabbage.

Carole Dixon, Writer/Editor, Food


Ironically, there is always something new to see in Old Pasadena and fun finds walking through all the small side streets. I really like Agnes for trying new cheese and stocking up on wine and artisan chocolates.

When I’m back in the car, I like taking Colorado Blvd. all the way to Glendale and Eagle Rock or Highland Park without getting on the freeway. It’s much more scenic and I always discover a cool shop or café along the way.

One of those is Mini Kabob for a grilled chicken skewer on a bed of rice and veggies. It’s in a small house on a residential street, so you need to know where to look, but it’s the best food you will ever eat in your car—plus it’s owned by the nicest family who are all there working every day.

Also family owned, when researching a mole story last fall, I was surprised to find a sublime (off-the-menu) version at Mijares using banana peel in the chocolate recipe passed down through many generations. I also discovered (past the sprawling interiors) that it has a quiet back patio perfect for a casual Friday long lunch.

When I have writer’s block, a wander around Descanso Gardens is always inspiring. I found a great gardening book in the gift shop last time, Epic Tomatoes, which I bought for my brother who plants the best ones every year.