The Sunday Drive by Colleen Bennett: Blue Skies and Blue Eyes

March 29, 2009
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Bob's Big Boy

Bob's Big Boy

We had a general idea where we were headed for our Sunday Drive. Peter wanted to explore his boyhood neighborhood of Altadena to roust up some screenplay ideas that have been bouncing around his head. Altadena is located just north of Pasadena, about 25 minutes from La Verne.

We exited the 210 freeway at Madre (not Sierra Madre Blvd), headed north to the New York Drive extension until it meets up with Altadena Drive, then turned right and then down into the crowded Eaton Canyon parking lot. Peter said Eaton Canyon was his playground growing up, 190 acres of zoological, botanical, and geological parkland that on our visit was ablaze with wildflowers and day hikers, many walking their happy, trail-bound dogs.

Before setting out on a hike on the canyon floor, stop inside the Nature Center to see what to avoid on the trail, like poison oak and stinging nettle and, of course, the Pacific rattlesnake.

After spying the stuffed bats, bobcats mountain lions, and assortment of living reptiles, we set out along the one-mile long canyon trail to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road bridge. While we both wanted to venture another half-mile to the Eaton Canyon Falls, which naturalist John Muir once reached on a hot August day in 1877, we decided to save the outing for another day when it would be less crowded and we might have the waterfall all to ourselves.

For now, I’ll leave you with what Muir wrote about his vist: “Half an hour’s easy rambling up the canyon brought me to the foot of “The Fall,” famous throughout the valley settlements as the finest yet discovered in the range. It is a charming little thing, with a voice sweet as a songbird’s, leaping some thirty-five or forty feet into a round, mirror pool. The cliff back of it and on both sides is completely covered with thick, furry mosses, and the white fall shines against the green like a silver instrument in a velvet case.”

Mt. Wilson Toll Road Bridge

Mt. Wilson Toll Road Bridge

After hiking back from the bridge to our car, we continued curving around Altadena Dr. to an open house, a beautiful 1925 Tudor Revival home set back off the busy street. The asking price for the 4,000-plus square-foot, three-story, five-bedroom home at 1242 E. Altadena Dr. was a cool $1.35 million. The brick entrance, the steeply pitched and multi-gabled roof, the sprawling lavender in the garden made us feel as if William Shakespeare or Anne Hathaway was about to greet us with cup of Earl Grey tea. Standing in the sun porch, we gazed down at a lovely stacked brick pool and spa. Again, all this for just $1.35 million.

Cruising past Lake Avenue, we pulled into a derelict Rite-Aid shopping center for a scoop of Bulgarini gelato, a cool hideout that the Los Angeles Times blew the cover on a couple of years back. Owner Leo Bulgarini is master at creating peach, pistachio, dark chocolate and other out-of-this world flavors that have gelato fans all over the Southland seeking out this gelato “G” spot.

Back on Lake Street, we headed south to Woodbury, turned right and headed west, past Lincoln to Arroyo, and turned left to catch the 210 freeway, where we continued west until exiting Ocean Avenue to catch the tail end of the Montrose Harvest Market, held every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (except Super Bowl Sunday, Easter Sunday and a couple of other Sundays).

We first discovered this little corner of the world when Peter’s sister owned a gift shop on Honolulu Ave. On Sundays, the outside vendors take over the streets, selling organic produce, fresh flowers, baked goods, collectibles and antiques. If nothing strikes your fancy, you can seek refuge in any one of a dozen or so eateries. Popular restaurants include the Black Cow Café, Pho 22, Zeke’s Smokehouse and the Star Café.

Altadena Open House

Altadena Open House

As tempting as all these restaurants were, we headed down Verdugo to pick up the 134 and head west to Toluca Lake and Riverside Dr., my old stomping grounds where in the 70s I rented my first apartment and used to eat at a place called Hampton’s, then owned by Paul Newman. The thought of catching a glimpse of Paul Newman was worth paying $7 for a burger back then. Today, Hampton’s, which was sold in 1995, is Mo’s. The burgers, which still come with all kinds of exotic toppings and combinations, now range from about $11 to $15. The patties are pricey, to be sure, but they come with a burger bar, same as Hampton’s, and the sides of coleslaw and pasta, potato, and corn and black bean salad were delicious. The Santa Fe salad we also ordered was just okay. Perhaps, the best part of eating at Mo’s is you instantly feel like you’re a local or studio insider. Peter watched the end of the Duke and Baylor basketball game, and said he could have hung out for hours. Me? I was still waiting for Paul Newman to walk in.



Ironically, right across the street from Mo’s is Bob’s 49, home of the “Big Boy.” Unlike Mo’s, the streamline modern restaurant was packed. I don’t know whether it was because of the food or because “Bob’s 49” is the oldest standing Big Boy in the storied chain, built in, you guessed it, in 1949. The burgers cost half of what they do at Mo’s, and given all the packed booths on a Sunday afternoon, they seemed to taste just as good.

Paul Newman

Paul Newman

On the south side of Riverside is another fast food eatery called the hot dog show. After the hamburger show at Mo’s, and the thought we let history slip through our fingers at Bob’s, we weren’t quite ready to take in the hot dog show. Another time, perhaps, maybe, when we see a live play at the Falcon theater, which is on the southeast corner. What a kitschy corner – hamburgers, more hamburgers, hot dogs and live theater. Is Toluca Lake a great town or what!

Eaton Canyon wildflowers

Eaton Canyon wildflowers

On the way home, we brief got off the 134 at Glendale Ave., to run in to the Fish King, located just north of the freeway. For years, I had heard about the place from friends. The fish market has been serving premium fresh fish and seafood and made-to-order meals since 1948. A woman swore by the sushi, but the price of the wild Salmon at $29.99 a pound was a bit difficult to swallow, so we ordered a delicious slice of carrot, which we set aside for dessert later that night. I’m sure there are better deals at the Fish King; we’ll just have to stop in before eating at Mo’s.

Another great Sunday drive was in the trunk – a little hiking, a little open house looky-looing, a little open market browsing, a little lunch (we split the burger and brought home the salad) and a little history (it’s not every day you stumble on the original Bob’s Big Boy).sd-bobs3

We had traveled 83.5 miles and were gone about five hours. That’s not too long or too far away to visit some old neighborhood haunts under blue skies and in search of blue eyes.

Eaton Canyon

1750 N Altadena Dr
Pasadena, CA 91107

(626) 398-5420


Open House

1242 East Altadena Dr.

Altadena, CA

Bulgarini Gelato

749 E. Altadena Dr.

Altadena, CA 91001

(626) 791-6174


4301 Riverside Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90001
(818) 845-3009

The Fish King

722 North Glendale Avenue
Glendale, CA 91206
(818) 244-0804

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