Entrepreneurs Rick and Elise Wetzel may have founded Wetzel’s Pretzels and Blaze Pizza, each of which has hundreds of locations, but the duo does not consider themselves to be restaurateurs. Having risen through the ranks at the Nestlé USA office in Glendale, where they met, the Wetzels primarily consider themselves to be marketers who love creating and building brands. Their newest project, Taco Social, will take an eclectic approach to the taco, with creative spins on the L.A. staple like banh mi, shrimp po’boy, and Nashville hot chicken tacos. The first Taco/Social opens this fall in Eagle Rock.
Pasadena is a tentpole of the San Gabriel Valley. Once you’ve set up shop in Santa Monica, downtown, and West Hollywood, this is the place you’re going to drop a restaurant. Examples are True Food Kitchen, Shake Shack, and Granville, which has a great location on Lake Avenue, with some of Pasadena’s best rooftop dining.
All these restaurants in town—Agnes, Entre Nous, Union, Bacchus’ Kitchen, AltaEats—are chef-run restaurants. That’s different than 20 years ago. That chef-run scene was not there back then. Now we have dining options close to home that are as good as the Arts District and Westside.
One concept we wish we’d come up with ourselves is Kitchen United Mix on Madison Avenue. We love what they’re doing over there, especially the new Kitchen United MIX that combines several restaurants under one roof.
Local restaurants with strong brands that could grow beyond the Pasadena area include Gus’s BBQ and Jones Coffee Roasters. Gus’s is such a great blend of really good barbeque served in a family setting, and their cast-iron cornbread with pepper jelly is worth the trip alone. Jones is a third-generation family coffee grower that roasts its own beans and runs great neighborhood cafés, each with its own cozy, eclectic vibe. We love to walk over to the Raymond location and grab a cup with friends.
Pasadena is kind of this Midwestern town plunked down in the middle of the L.A. metropolis. The Rose Bowl was created as a marketing stunt to get people from Michigan and Wisconsin and Ohio to come out here in January and see how nice the weather is. The place where we go to see the Midwestern vibe in action is Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream for sure. We’re still waiting for Culver’s to come to Pasadena!