Pasadena’s restaurants and pubs have always been the cornerstone of our collective social lives. We walk through their doors and sit at their tables to celebrate accomplishments, reminisce with old friends, and stumble through awkward first dates. Although they’ve survived downturns and recessions in years past, the COVID-19 pandemic has shook and tested them like never before. Determined not to go gently into that good night, these restaurateurs have combined innovative solutions and unbound tenacity to rise above and see this through.
Bacchus’ Kitchen, 1384 E. Washington Blvd.
Although a fiercely loyal following has kept the to-go orders moving over at Bacchus’ Kitchen, head chef and owner Claud Beltran isn’t resting on his laurels. Since closing his dining room, he and his team have come up with a few ways to adapt.
Their always-popular wine dinners have moved over to Zoom where guests can enjoy all the trimmings from the comfort of their couch. Participants come by the restaurant early to pick up their supplies: bottles of wine and each course of the meal, packaged in to-go boxes. When they get home and join the live feed, they’re greeted with a representative from the evening’s featured winery who walks them through the tasting and discusses course pairings before opening the floor up for Q&A.
Wanting to pull together and support other local restaurants, their most recent digital wine dinner featured courses from neighboring eateries Seed Bakery, AltaEATS, and Little Beast, alongside Beltran’s cuisine.
Maestro, 110 Union St.
When trying to figure out how to deliver the flavors and flare Maestro is known for during the quarantine, owners Sergio Martinez, Paul Gonzalez, and Emmanuel Gonzalez went big. While their dining room was empty, the trio offered a massive meal kit for the whole family. Feeding up to six people, the box came packed with rice, beans, a stack of tortillas, salsas, and your choice of carnitas, birria de res, enchiladas, or taquitos- all homemade from scratch. To fully capture a night at Maestro, each order included a bottle of their house-made margarita ready to be poured over ice and enjoyed.
If you’ve been missing one of their barrel-aged cocktails, they’ve got you covered on that front as well. Parched patrons can swing by and grab bottles of their wonderfully complex old fashioned or manhattan cocktails, both aged in American oak barrels for up to 15 weeks. And for the connoisseurs among us, bottles of near impossible to find specialty tequilas from behind the bar are up for sale as well.
Magnolia House, 492 S. Lake Ave.
Where other restaurants have made small adjustments to adapt to the new normal, Magnolia House has undergone a total transformation, right down to the name. Little House, Pasadena’s biggest takeout window, according to their website, is a pop up in a restaurant, dishing out packed burger boxes from the location’s massive front window.
Each burger consists of two seared three ounce patties, crispy on the outside and perfectly juicy on the inside, served on a soft milk bun. There are six burgers to choose from but the most popular by far is The Duke, made with white cheddar, bacon jam, onion strings, and their house spread. Each box has plenty of room for sides which include Belgium fries, fried Greek zucchini chips, and an avocado beet salad.
Bottled cocktails for the table are available, as well as Magnolia House’s selection of wonderfully complex drinks, such as the American Dream with strawberry-infused bourbon, sugar, lemon, and mint or just a perfectly-made old fashioned.
Magnolia House’s full menu (and original name) will be back in time, but for now Little House is a welcome substitute.
Union Restaurant, 37 Union St.
By offering exquisite comfort food at a time when comfort is needed most, Union Restaurant has been instrumental in helping families survive quarantine together. Their family meals, offered to-go or delivered, combine delicious, classic Italian dishes with two house-made sides and an optional bottle of wine—enough food to feed a hungry family of four. Options range from spaghetti and meatballs with arugula salad and garlic bread to an entire oven-roasted chicken with risotto and broccolini.
“During the quarantine we thought there may be a need for this,” owner Marie Petulla says. “People who just want to pick up and keep it simple and have that family dinner experience.”
For a more hands-on approach, Union is also offering pasta kits with all the elements necessary for home cooks to make dinner on their own stove. Kits include made-from-scratch pasta, any required vegetables, and a variety of sauces (also made in-house) to choose from. Just stick to the attached easy-to-follow directions and your family will be rushing to the dinner table in no time.