|Brunch in the sunny Trattoria Neapolis garden room|
Market on Holly
This Old Town bakery and cafe has great coffee (Handsome Coffee Roasters), an array of fresh-baked pastries, breakfast, great sandwiches at lunch, cheeses and accoutrements, salads and gourmet grab-and-go items. Think: Joan's on Third, with fewer celebrities (57 East Holly St.; 626-844-8811).
Burgers or Bust
There is no shortage of great burgers around Pasadena right now. The ever-growing Umami Burger opened smack-dab on the "hipster" block of Old Town (next to Intelligentsia, across the street from the Apple store and American Apparel). Behind it is Slater's 50/50, where the beef patties are 50% bacon. And down the street there's Haven Gastropub and Brewery, which turns its back room into the burger-only Burger Haven during the week. In the South Lake district, The Counter is good for ultra-customizable burgers, you want to go really old-school, the classic California burger at Pie'n Burger is a must.
Either location - the original stand on Arroyo Parkway or the new sit-down restaurant on Walnut - features one of the best breakfast burritos in town. The beast is overstuffed with hash browns, bacon, cheese, egg and more bacon, and is less than $7. Lucky Boy is also know for its burgers, including a damn-good turkey burger (640 South Arroyo Pkwy, 626-793-0120; 531 E. Walnut St., 626-793-7079).
We still prefer the original bakery that sits east of Lake Avenue, especially for the perfectly flaky croissants, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns and sandwiches on fantastic artisanal breads. But the newer location, just acros from the Paseo Colorado, has a fuller lunch menu. You'll get a good cup of coffee at either, though (950 E. Colorado Blvd.; 626-577-1828).
La Grande Orange
Set in a historic train station, there's a little bit of everything at this spot. The bar has decent classic cocktails, beer and wine; there are delicious house-made English muffins on the breakfast menu; and everything from tacos to fried chicken on the lunch and dinner menus. The wood-fired pizza in the adjacent Luggage Room Pizzeria has a tang in the crust, which comes out bubbly and charred as it should. Bonus: the Gold Line's Del Mar stop is right out the back door (260 S. Raymond Ave.; 626-356-4444).
Sushi Kimagure Ike
One of the best sushi chefs in town opened this omakase-only spot after selling his Hollywood restaurant, Sushi Ike, a couple years ago. It's not only some of the best sushi in Pasadena, but around LA. Sharing the same courtyard as LGO and the Luggage Room, this spot is super tiny and reservations are mandatory (220 S. Raymond Ave.; 626-535-0880).
You'll find mostly Thai specialties at this contemporary little bistro, but also some Korean and Chinese dishes. The panang curry is rich and delicious, and we're crazy for the spicy catfish salad and honey pork. Great for take-out or dine-in, though you'll almost always find a wait for the latter (1218 E. Colorado Blvd.; 626-792-2999).
This growing LA-based chainlet is like a port in the storm when you need a big plate of fresh greens with roasted vegetables, grilled flank steak or buttermilk fried chicken on top. Many ingredients are sourced form local farmers, and the beer and wines are generally from the Central Coast. Like all the others, it's a very casual, order-at-the-counter place with better-than-fast-food fast food (621 East Colorado Blvd.; 626 405-1511).
We recently discovered this Lake Avenue sweet shop (and thoroughly enjoyed our pumpkin ice cream float). You'll find good coffee and pastries sourced from some of the best businesses in LA, plus a nice little sandwich menu (380 S. Lake Ave.; 626-844-3488).
Cham Korean Bistro
This isn't the most authentic Korean food in town, but when you're craving a big late of sizzling bibimbap, it's easier than Koreatown. And also quite tasty. Happy hour features Korean small plates and beer specials (851 Cordova St.; 626-792-2474).
The array of prepared salads, stewed meats, cupcakes and, yes, lemonade, here are astounding. Stand in line and order whatever you want - you can get up to six salads in one container, things like curried cauliflower with almonds, red quinoa with sundried tomatoes, or snap peas with edamame and sesame. The mac and cheese is incredibly rich, if you're craving something a little less healthy (146 S. Lake Ave.; 626-304-7700).
This lavish Italian restaurant is easy on the eyes - we're partial to the bar, which makes some of the better classic cocktails with a twist in town. The menu includes inventive takes on classic dishes, like the deconstructed Caesar, to good wood-fired pizzas, pastas and more. Happy hour includes late-night options, which is almost unheard of in Pasadena (336 S. Lake Ave.; 626-792-3000).
Yes, you can get some of the best-tasting pour over cofee and espresso drinks here, but there's also a well-curated craft beer and wine list to enjoy at this Old Town coffeehouse and bar (55 E. Colorado Blvd.; 626-578-1270).
One of San Diego's (and California's for that matter) best breweries now has a taproom and retail shop near Old Town, right off the of the Gold Line Del Mar stop (and next to La Grand Orange, Sushi Kugimare and Luggage Room Pizzeria). Get growlers filled to go, stop for a pint from one of the 24 taps, or pick up beer-centric gifts (220 S. Raymond Ave.; 626-440-7243).
This was once the only great spot for beer in town, and it still is for an array of Belgian and locally made, like Craftsman, beers on tap. The food is mostly English pub food; you can't go wrong with a plate of fish and chips. There's another location just bit more east down Colorado now, too (17 S. Raymond Ave.; 626-795-0652).
A whiskey bar for Pasadena to call it's own. The selection here is wide and varied; try a flight of bourbons or ryes if you don't know what you want to drink. There are also specialty cocktails and a good beer list - should be since it's co-owned by one of LA's few cicerones (certified beer experts). (53 E. Union St.; 626-792-1833).
Kings Row Gastropub
We love the happy hour at this Old Town pub, especially when it's the all-day one on Tuesdays, and the patio in the back. If it's nice out, they even put TVs out there for the big games. The craft beer list is tops, there are some decent cocktails and the food is good. Try the portabello mushroom fries (20 E. Colorado Blvd.; 626-793-3010).
This is more than just a wine store. There are weekly tastings at the bar, but you can also stop by for a glass of whatever they're pouring that day. ER also has a great selection of beers and spirits for the road (155 N. Raymond Ave.; 626-765-9334).
Congregation Ale House
There are more beer joints than you can shake a mug at in Pasadena now, but this is the only one with a popular Bingo game on Sunday afternoons. Check out the cool glass chillers set in the bar so your beer never gets too warm if you're a slow sipper (300 S. Raymond Ave.; 626-578-0166).
Hidden in the back of The Raymond restaurant is one of LA's best cocktail bars. The low-lit room is perfect for sipping, or grab a seat on one of two patios - one more intimate space under the trellis, or around the side where there's a roaring fireplace on chilly nights (1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave.; 626-441-3136).