Restaurants in Review – 2009: Taking a Bite Out of Pasadena by Peter Bennett

December 31, 2009
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Delicious Dots cupcakes in Pasadena.

Delicious Dots cupcakes in Pasadena.

It doesn’t take much to lure to me to Pasadena. It’s close, cosmopolitan and culinary-minded. Pasadena is a gourmet ghetto awaiting your exploration. Best part, It’s only 25 minutes from La Verne. As 2009 comes to a close, I serve up a few bite-size reviews to nibble on:


Yard House

330 E. Colorado Blvd.

Pasadena, CA

(626) 577-9273

I love the Yard House. Its extensive menu of American fusion features more than 130 selections and varieties. It’s comfort food with a twist – truffle fries with shredded parmesan and herbs, deviled eggs with spicy tomato sauce and sweet chili sauce and chive batons, and guacamole and chips topped with pico de gallo and feta..

The salads will please any palette, from the casual premium restaurant’s classic Caesar, to which you can add seared ahi, blackened chicken or grilled shrimp, to the roasted turkey cob with applewood smoked bacon, bleu cheese crumbles and all the other usual suspects. The Yard House has scores of beers on tap, and a generous happy hour, making it the perfect rendezvous for celebrations. If you like, your server will even pour your libation in a glass measuring half of a Yard, from which the restaurant takes its name.


320 South Arroyo Parkway
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 577-6001

Houston’s serves a fabulous Hawaiian rib-eye that has an irresistible, crispy charred flavor I find irresistible. For an appetizer, I recommend the grilled artichoke that comes with a delicious, tangy aioli-type dip. The atmosphere is as good as the food. The open kitchen invites you to peek in and dream of the platter of food that will soon be headed your way. The starter salad with the house dressing is also excellent. If I have one complaint, I hate being charged for bread. Yet, I know if the bread were free, I would have had ordered a couple of baskets, and not enjoyed my dinner nearly as much.


The Panda Inn

3488 E. Foothill Blvd.

Pasadena, CA 91107

(626) 793-7300

This is the original, where America’s fastest-growing Chinese restaurant chain started in 1973, the year I graduated from high school. If only I had decided to start out working in Panda’s kitchen rather than to run off to college and fill my head with impractical ideas. I’d be rich instead of cultured.

The Panda Inn features all the standards like beef and broccoli, cashew chicken, mu shu pork, kon pao shrimp and my favorite, sizzling scallops and asparagus. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach, and I order more than I can eat, but that’s why they invented take-out, or take-home. The Panda Inn never disappoints.



325 N. Rosemead Blvd.

Pasadena, CA

(626) 351-0560

I went to Ichima several times before I finally decided to write it about. I figured the food couldn’t be that good and consistent and so inexpensive as well, but it is. You can order satisfying bento boxes for under $10.

Try the lobster, tootsie, spicy tuna and mango rolls. All the rolls are delicious, and the sushi chefs are friendly, too. Great value, good food.



145 Palmetto Dr.

Pasadena, CA

(626) 792-2763

Mijares is Pasadena’s oldest Mexican restaurant and an LVO favorite. The founder fled the Mexican revolution way back in the early 1900s and ended up in Pasadena, pounding out homemade tortillas, tamales, tacos, enchiladas and burritos. It’s one of Beatle Paul McCartney’s favorite spots when he’s in town. It’s a Pasadena classic now run by the third generation of Mijares heirs. It’s also a great place to knock down a couple of margaritas if your wife is having a baby at nearby Huntington Hospital.

Middle Eastern


1296 E. Colorado Blvd.


(626) 405-1502

This is another Pasadena eatery with a history. The family’s chicken and garlic sauce attracted a strong following in Beirut, Lebanon, before the family pulled up stakes and moved to America.  It’s Mediterranean fare is even more popular here. Its homemade dishes have made it a household name. Zankou offers a variety of shwarmas and shredded sandwiches as well as plates. Plates come with hummus, diced tomatoes, pickled radish, jalapeno, pita bread and amazing garlic sauce. Zankou’s mission is to provide the most natural, fastest, freshest and tastiest Mediterranean food in the world. By all counts, it has succeeded.



3571-A East Foothill Blvd.

Pasadena, CA

(626) 351-6822

Nobody makes coffee as good as Peet’s. I’m an official Peetnik, who was won over years ago by Peet’s commitment to quality. Founder Alfred Peet, who passed just a couple of years ago, was born in Holland and grew up in the coffee trade. Peet even tnh taught the Starbucks founders, who heard about his legendary coffee-making artistry, how to make a good cup. In fact, Starbucks used Peet’s beans in the beginning. Peet’s is the gold standard by which all other brews are judged. Peet’s roasts its beans in small batches and makes a fresh brew every 30 minutes. I’m also push-over for Peet’s pastry case as, and often find myself dipping into the biscotti jar at least once a visit.



400 S. Arroyo Parkway

Pasadena, CA

(626) 568-DOTS (3687)

With cup of Peet’s in hand, I like to drive over to Arroyo Parkway to sample the lush, moist goodness of Dots cupcakes. What I like about Dots is the cupcakery is always rotating its mini cakes, serving different ones on different days. That way, I’m forced to break out of my chocolate or dark chocolate force of habit and get a little adventurous. Dots will tease you with chocolate mint Mondays, tiramisu Thursdays, strawberry shortcake Sundays. Well, you get the idea. Stock up for the ride back to La Verne.

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