For nearly 100 years, the Michelin Guide has represented the pinnacle of discernment when it comes to identifying the world’s finest restaurants. Since 1926, when the guide first began employing a single star to identify the best, restaurants the world over have sought to impress via particular attention to “the quality of the ingredients used, the creativity of the dishes, mastery of flavor and cooking techniques, and value for money and consistency,” the specific criteria Guide testers use to evaluate all restaurants for potential Michelin Guide inclusion.
Michelin food inspectors eat in over 250 restaurants a year, and travel over 30,000 km world-wide, in search of quality dining experiences. Once a promotional curiosity developed to promote car travel, the famous red guide book is today recognized as the final word on gastronomic excellence in over 30 countries throughout Europe, Asia, and North and South America.
In 2017, the designation of “Michelin Plate” was added to the guide so that deserving restaurants that had not yet earned a star could be included. A Michelin Plate designation is based upon the same five criteria that control the star ratings and they are rigorously applied by the same group of testers. Earning a Michelin Plate guarantees a quality dining experience and places the establishment in rare company.
The Raymond 1886
The Raymond 1886 may occupy an unlikely space beneath the old power plant on Fair Oaks Avenue, but the charm of the original turn-of-the-19th-century house is unmistakable, and the food and cocktails are as remarkable as the surroundings. Once inside the confines of The Raymond, which includes delightful, secluded patio spaces, you’re 100 years away. Featuring American cuisine with global influence, the food is diverse and inventive. The menu begins with intriguing bar bites, like short rib tacos or harrisa-marinated olives, and includes starters such as pork belly and a weekly tartar. Entrées include roasted cod in oyster broth, strozzapreti, and lamb chops with rhubarb, mint and ricotta. The food isn’t the only shining star—the Raymond 1886 is also known for its craft cocktail program. With a menu that changes with the seasons, the 1886 crew is well-versed in the classics yet can wow you with a new twist.
1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
Executive Chef – Florent Couriol
Alexander’s delivers a classic American steak house experience with a twist. Executive Chef Florent Courriol honed his skill with apprenticeships in France under several chefs with Michelin stars to their name, and by traveling the world for 14 years enjoying, studying, and mastering the world’s cuisines. He brings this wealth of experience to Alexander’s, where you’ll find steak house comfort with a distinct Asian influence. Chef Courriol appreciates the bounty our local environment provides and brings a respect for seasonal and locally produced ingredients. Alexander’s features 28-day aged steaks and, in addition to North American beef, offers a selection of cuts featuring imported wagyu beef. The starters are varied and numerous, and range from uni toast to a tartar of beef. And if you are determined not to go for a steak, expect delicious options like black bass or roast duck.
111 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena
The Royce Wood-Fired Steakhouse
When The Royce closed for renovations and rebranding in 2013, its small but loyal following waited with cautious optimism. It was a pleasant surprise then when returning devotees were greeted by a more approachable but no less impressive restaurant featuring an expansive menu of seafood and steaks, cooked to perfection on a woodfire grill.
We recommend starting the evening with the rich, roasted au gratin bone marrow appetizer, served with a crisp frisée salad and warm, wood-grilled bread. If you can’t decide on your main course, get a bit of everything with the Global Cut Tasting, featuring 3-ounce servings of the Moyer Farm NY Strip, Brandt Beef Ribeye, and the Greg Norman Wagyu Outside Skirt.
1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena
Chef – Tim Tang
Fishwives opened recently in 2017, quickly rising in popularity with its unique New England take on seafood cuisine. Upon entering, guests are welcomed by a smorgasbord of clams, mussels and oysters flown in from as far as New Zealand, waiting behind a glass partition to be incorporated into perfectly constructed, one bite wonders. The atmosphere is refreshingly welcome and easygoing with bright white surfaces and cooling tones of gray. With a menu of nine different types of oysters and six shellfish to choose from, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your seafood needs. Everything is about as fresh as it can get with most shipments going from dock to table within 24 hours.
88 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
The casual atmosphere in this small Union Street establishment, with a concrete bar top and blackboard décor, belies the fundamental elegance of the cuisine. Locally sourced and guided by seasonal availability, the menu is a creative reflection of rustic Italian dishes with a distinct Southern California influence. Chef Chris Keyser brings an inventive flair to the farm-to-table palette, and expert wine pairing is always available. For an unforgettable experience, reserve the chef’s table and place yourself entirely in Chef Keyser’s hands. Marie Petulla, Union’s owner, is understandably proud of the Michelin recognition. “It is humbling to be in the company of so many wonderful restaurants,” says Petulla. “Union has always been dedicated to an ethos of sustainability, hospitality and community. We are honored that Michelin recognized our commitment and the joy we bring to our guests.”
37 Union St., Pasadena
By combining the traditions of Mexican cuisine with the flair and mastery of fine dining, the owners of Maestro have succeeded in creating something truly special. The simple interior composed of clean lines and exposed brick wall vastly undersells the vivid complexity of the food about to hit the table. Shrimp and octopus ceviche arrives packed with bright and refreshing flavors, and the rich lamb barbacoa tacos served on street-style corn tortillas inevitably lead to additional orders as soon as the plates clear.
Co-owner Paul Gonzalez explains the inspiration behind Maestro: “There’s not a lot of places doing elevated Mexican food,” he says. “We’ve seen some excellent restaurants in places like Mexico City, Guadalajara and San Miguel, and then you come back to the States and there’s this void. So we wanted to step in and do great Mexican food and great cocktails.”
110 Union St., Pasadena
Arroyo Chop House
Like the Michelin Plate, when it comes to steak the word “prime” puts you in rare company. In fact, only 2% of all-American beef earns that designation. Arroyo Chop House calls itself “the only restaurant in Southern California that serves exclusively USDA prime.” This commitment to the highest quality is everywhere evident in this Smith Bros. homage to the classic steakhouse. From the white tablecloths, to the impeccable table service, to the classic dark wood bar top and soft jazz piano, everything about Arroyo Chop House is truly prime. Needless to say, the steaks are the star—dig into everything from a petite filet to a cowboy rib-eye, to the massive 2 ½-lb Porterhouse for two. All the classic steak house sides are available, but don’t miss the jalapeño corn soufflé or the mac and cheese with black forest ham. Try starters like gazpacho or beef tenderloin tartar. While an array of desserts await those still able, the only real choice is the heavenly Grand Marnier soufflé. Arroyo Chop House is an unrivaled, quintessential steakhouse experience.
536 S. Arroyo Pkwy., Pasadena
Since 1984, Parkway Grill has been at the forefront of Pasadena cuisine. Casual yet sophisticated, its authentic American fare, based on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients (including an organic herb garden on the lot next to the restaurant) includes well-known signature dishes such as whole ginger catfish, lobster crepes, and lollipop lamb chops.
Its open exhibition kitchen features a wood burning grill and one of the first oakwood burning ovens in Los Angeles. The dining room strikes the perfect balance between elegant and rustic, and on most evenings live jazz drifts out softly from the bar. A vintage 1920s bar top from Chicago provides the stage for Parkway Grill’s team of expert bartenders, four of whom have more than 100 years of combined experience behind the bar. Whether coming in for a meal to mark that special occasion, or just stopping by for a cocktail and some jazz, Parkway Grill always delivers.
510 S. Arroyo Pkwy., Pasadena
There’s a strip mall on Arroyo Parkway, unassuming and a bit cramped, that hides one of Pasadena’s absolute best sushi spots. After opening in 2011, Sushi Ichi quickly made its mark with an unflinching dedication to fresh, wonderfully presented dishes. Yes, the menu features perfectly prepared rolls and sashimi sliced with the precision of an architect, but what really sets Sushi Ichi apart is its focus on omakase dining. For the uninitiated, patrons signing up for omakase pay a set price and the chef, usually Ichiro himself, lets inspiration take hold, sending out plate after plate of improvised deliciousness. Ichiro began learning the craft in Tokyo at the age of 18 and his vast experience is evident in everything he makes. Seating is limited to a small sushi bar, which is set aside for omakase, and a handful of tables, so reservations are strongly encouraged.
633 S. Arroyo Pkwy., Pasadena
Saladang has been a Pasadena favorite since 1993. On Fair Oaks, between Del Mar and California in an unassuming corner space next door to its younger, more boisterous sister with the laser-cut steel screens, Saladang Garden, Saladang has been serving traditional Thai fare with extra traditional care. The décor is spare and industrial but the soup is hot, and with several varieties featuring either lemongrass or coconut broth. Enjoy traditional favorites like pad Thai, a variety of house specialties including soy-ginger sea bass or crispy pork belly with Chinese broccoli, and a number of traditional Thai salads.
363 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
Chef – Shigefumi Tachibe
Perhaps most famous for its shabu-shabu, Osawa also has amazing sushi and a number of cooked dishes displaying Chef Shigefumi Tachibe’s inventive style. An open airy space with a shabu-shabu counter where you can get one of three kinds of broth in steaming cauldrons, along with two kinds of noodles, various greens, rice and tofu, the room is humming with activity most days. A reservation is highly recommended. Call the restaurant to reserve the shabu-shabu counter or tables for more than six (other reservations can be accommodated online).
If you’re not sitting at the shabu-shabu counter, in addition to an expansive sushi selection, there are starters like shishito tempura stuffed with spicy tuna, or yuzu pepper duck with eggplant and sweet miso. Entrées include several steaks and fish, such as the baked soy marinated black cod. For a rare treat, try one of the daily specials, which include intriguing creations such as live octopus carpaccio and baked oyster seaweed with soy lemon butter.
77 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena