Pasadena’s Best: Food and Drink

Photo by Bone Kettle

BEST OF THE BUBBLY

Whether celebrating a relationship milestone or simply the start of the weekend, POP Champagne Bar & Restaurant is the perfect place to pop a cork, considering it has one of the best selections of champagne in Southern California. For a sweet finish, try one of POP’s sinfully sweet house-made desserts, such as the crème brûlée or Meyer lemon tart. 33 E. Union St., Pasadena 

BEST PLACE TO END THE WEEK EARLY

Some weeks you just need to put behind you as soon as possible, and with $9 lunch specials every Thursday and Friday, including $3 happy hour cocktails, Edwin Mills by Equator is the place to do it. The menu includes a burger, fish tacos, sandwiches, and our fave, Oodles of Noodles (pad thai)—a truly memorable dish when you ask to substitute the chicken with pork belly. 22 Mills Place, Pasadena

Ginger Market Cafe – Photo by Jessica Y.

BEST PICNIC PREP
A great way to enjoy a summer afternoon is with a picnic in one of Pasadena’s many beautiful parks. And if you’re not exactly a sandwich artist, Ginger Corner Market has you covered. They’ll pack up your basket with fantastic salads or sandwiches, lend you a picnic blanket, and send you across the street to enjoy your picnic at Grant Park. Grab a drink from the wide selection of craft sodas. 217 S. Michigan Ave., Pasadena

BEST PINT AND PLANETARY LESSON
Held twice a month, “Astronomy on Tap” combines two of Pasadena’s favorite pastimes: science and well-poured drinks. Professors and scientists from Caltech and JPL take the stage at Der Wolfskopf, Old Town’s German-style beer house, to give 15- to 20-minute lectures on all things astronomy, from black holes to dark matter. Happy hour runs throughout the event, and prizes are handed out between talks during rounds of trivia. Arrive early! 72 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

BEST BOWL OF PHO

East meets West at chef Kimmy Tang’s Bistro Mon Cheri. A pioneer of Asian-fusion cuisine, Tang serves a creative array of Vietnamese dishes with European flair, such as ground beef meat balls filled with chocolate lava sauce. One of the biggest draws is pho—traditional Vietnamese soup made with fresh broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat. The restaurant offers daily lunch specials, as well as a multicourse prix fixe dinner. 950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

BEST PLACE TO EAT WITH ELVIS

San Marino’s Colonial Kitchen is easily identified by its brick facade and the American and British flags hanging out front. Inside is all cool leather and dark paneling. And Elvis. This treasure trove of kitschy, eclectic art, including a large collection of Elvis memorabilia, serves classic diner fare. Grab one of the ample booths, or sit at the archetypal diner counter for a little nostalgia and some timeless food. 1110 Huntington Drive, San Marino

 BEST SELECTION OF MEZCAL

There is a reason Maestro is one of Pasadena’s most popular Mexican restaurants. Co-owner Sergio Martinez brings authenticity and respect for the true spirit of Mexico to everything he does. He also brings an encyclopedic knowledge of mezcal to complement the 100-plus varieties of the spirit on offer. Order a flight and Sergio or one of his expert bartenders will be happy to start your education. 110 E. Union St., Pasadena

BEST PLACE TO CONSUME A CANDLE

Chef Ian Gresik and his wife, Nancy, have quickly turned The Arbor into one of Pasadena’s finest, and favorite, places to dine. The menu is classic American, inventively prepared using ingredients from sustainable local farms and purveyors. To start, try the beef chili. It’s delivered to your table with a burning beef fat candle that dissolves, further flavoring the dish. Fascinating and festive, not to mention delicious. 527 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

Whole Ginger Fried Catfish, Parkway Grill, Photo by Parkway Grill

BEST STATEMENT DISH

When it comes to fine dining in Pasadena, Parkway Grill is on everyone’s list. That’s because it’s been serving inventive American cuisine using locally sourced ingredients (including from an on-site herb garden) for 35 years. When you really want to make a statement, order the whole ginger fried catfish, which arrives at your table intact—and as long as your forearm. It’s as delicious as it is dramatic. 510 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena

BEST WINE CONVERSATION

Casually conversing with a winemaker while sipping on the end product of their labor of love in intimate, informal surroundings is a signature experience at Everson Royce, unique to the 6-year-old shop. Whether you’re a novice wine taster or a seasoned connoisseur, the winemaker nights here are sure to delight, leaving a delicious finish as good as the wine. 155 N. Raymond, Pasadena

BEST FRIED CHICKEN

“The most important thing for us is to not make the chicken before its ordered,” says Braise & Crumble co-owner Shannon Hart. “Anything less is against our religion. The religion of chicken.” Hart’s boneless “Hunka hunks” of chicken dredged in her grandmother’s secret spice recipe may not be strictly traditional, but one bite and it will become a ritual. Other Southern-inspired dishes include pulled pork and dusted mac and cheese. 40 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena

BEST FEEL-GOOD BROTH
A nutritious superfood, bone broth is a potent potion said to provide numerous health benefits. It’s routinely sipped for its energy-, beauty-, and immunity-boosting properties. The broths at Bone Kettle are made using time-honored cooking techniques and fresh ingredients reflective of Southeast Asian traditions, offering bold, savory, and complex flavors in every sip. Add-ins include Prime top sirloin, ginger seared chicken breast, Prime fatty brisket, braised oxtails, and crispy tempeh. 67 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena 

Maple Bacon Old Fashioned from Great Maple – Photo by Punn W.

BEST OLD FASHIONED

If you’re looking for a delightful twist on a classic cocktail, a little breakfast protein might be just the ticket. Few cocktails carry the gravitas of the Old Fashioned, and fewer still can pull off the pairing of bourbon and bacon. Which brings us to the Maple Bacon Old Fashioned at Great Maple. Made with fat-washed bourbon to impart the bacon essence, this cocktail wields a distinctive and delicious smokiness. 300 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

BEST WAY TO GET FIRED (UP)

The Royce Wood-Fired Steakhouse at the iconic Langham Huntington, Pasadena, features the finest selection of USDA Prime cuts, Australian wagyu, and Japanese Kobe beef, all expertly prepared on an Aztec wood-fired grill over white oak and seasonal wood and served in an opulent dining room. Ask to be seated near the glass-enclosed veranda and you’ll be savoring your meal with a gorgeous garden view. 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena

KNOCKOUT MEX

Where does world champion boxer Oscar De La Hoya go to satisfy a craving for Mexican food?

“My little go-to spot for authentic Mexican food is El Toreo on Fair Oaks. You don’t really notice it [from the street]. It looks misplaced. But you go in and it takes you back. You have the grandmother there, it’s all family, and the food is phenomenal. And they have a little jukebox, too. It’s pretty cool.” 21 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

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