While Pasadena may sometimes seem like it has nothing to offer beyond the Rose Bowl, the Rose Parade, one of the best breakfast burritos ever, and secret German bars, there are actually plenty of other reasons to hop on the 110N. These are those reasons: the best places to eat, drink, brunch, and booze in Pasadena.
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Best late-night eats: El Taquito Mexicano truck
Best late-night eats: El Taquito Mexicano truck
Since 1979, El Taquito Mexicano has been serving up tacos well past when all the other kitchens in this part of the city have shut down for the night. Spritz some citrus on an order of chicharrón and al pastor (some of the best anywhere) and you’ll find yourself on a new level of late-night taco eating nirvana.
Best wine bar: Everson Royce
Lead by two-thirds of the Silverlake Wine team, this laid-back wine store/bar hybrid has more than 500 labels for purchase and eight bottles on tap at all times. For $12 you can make your own flight of three wines from whatever is currently on offer, or drop just a couple more dollars and take part in one of its three weekly tastings.
Best coffee shop: Copa Vida
Copa Vida sits among a mess of coffee shops, so what really puts it over the top is the state-of-the-art equipment used to brew the espresso and, in particular, the tea (yes, seriously). While a multi-thousand dollar, perfect-tea-brewing machine may seem totally absurd, you still get to reap the benefits with some really killer brews.
Best pizza: The Luggage Room
As the name suggests, this pizzeria is housed in what was once the Del Mar Train Station’s luggage room, and still maintains a vintage feel with wood-paneled walls and crystal chandeliers, but the real winner’s the chewy-crusted pizza -- especially the daily farmers market specials.
Best secret underground bar: Rathskeller
We gave you the full lowdown on this bar-within-a-bar when it first opened, and it’s still by far the coolest speakeasy around. You can find the entrance right next to the door to the ground floor Der Wolfskopf (both are German-inspired), and there’s no password necessary. Downstairs you’ll find killer cocktails and a wide range of mostly German brews.
Best brunch: Lincoln
Lincoln’s brunch menu ranges from the trendy/health-conscious Breakfast Bowl (featuring beans, greens, and a soft-boiled egg) to the the breakfast muffin (there’s a whole egg baked into the center) to a classic stack of fruit-topped pancakes; it's also got a slew of daily Instagram-worthy baked goods like peanut butter & jelly scones and blackberry & lavender danishes.
Hands down best ice cream ever: Carmela
Not only is Carmela the best ice cream in Pasadena, it’s some of the best ice cream anywhere ever (for realzies!). Flavors like cucumber sorbet, lavender, and salted caramel rotate with wacky seasonal flavors like cantaloupe and heirloom tomato, making the line (there’s definitely gonna be a line) totally worth the wait.
Best cocktails: The Blind Donkey
The Blind Donkey’s the Surly Goat guys’ whiskey-centric bar, which should give you an idea of the quality here: drinks are made not just from the brown stuff but with homespun ingredients like plum vanilla jam and honey-thyme syrup.
Best date spot: Little Beast
Small plates at this renovated, twinkle-lit Craftsman range from crispy barbecued octopus to a nutso Brussels sprouts & sweet potato dish, covered in maple vinaigrette and loaded with cashews and nori; if nothing else, the date conversation can start with “OMG that tastes amazing!”
Best breakfast burrito: Lucky Boy
This is not the first time we have told you about Lucky Boy burritos, nor will it be the last. They are roughly the size of a kitten (and probably weigh as much as a brick), and come stuffed with potatoes, cheese, fluffy scrambled eggs, and fantastically greasy bacon. Just don’t expect them to be nice to you. They won’t be. At all.
Best baked goods: Euro Pane Bakery
Chewy caramel macaroons? Buttery, balanced croissants? Yeah, both are superlative, as is the house-made bread, which sops up whatever they put in their absurdly addictive egg salad sandwich.
Best dive bar: Freddie’s 35er
Right in the center of Old Pasadena, Freddie’s 35er has been serving beer in a can since 1963, which means there are cheap drinks, pool tables, a jukebox, and the game -- whatever game -- on TV. And free popcorn. Win.
Best classic-Pasadena institution: Pie ‘n Burger
You want pumpkin pie in July? Sure. Lemon meringue’s more your deal? Go for it. Pecan? Butterscotch?? Olallieberry??? It's got those too. There is nothing as old school as sitting at the counter of this diner and grabbing a bite -- and seriously, when do you not feel like some pie and a burger? Never. The answer is never.
Best happy hour: Edwin Mills
What was once home to Equator is now happy hour (and brunch) powerhouse Edwin Mills. While it’s still run by cool cat/owner Teddy Bedjakian, the space has graduated from casual cafe to full-blown (and slightly more sophisticated) restaurant & bar with a different happy hour every single night, which means whether it’s a Thirsty Thursday or a Tasty Tuesday, you’re gonna want whatever it's offering.
Best hot dog: Dog Haus
At Dog Haus, everything is served on toasted King’s Hawaiian rolls (you know, those sweet rolls that glisten as if touched by the butter gods) with endless genius topping combinations like the Sooo Cali (wild arugula, spicy basil aioli, crispy onions, avocado, and tomato) and the Tae Kwon Dog (bulgogi glaze, kimchi, a fried egg, and Korean chili powder). Bonus: at the Old Town location, you can also choose from the rotating selection of 20+ beers on offer and grab a seat outside at the biergarten.
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Best brewpub: Lucky Baldwins
Best brewpub: Lucky Baldwins
With the kitchen serving a full three meals a day (including fish & chips), Lucky Baldwins is a family-friendly British pub with 63 beers on tap that run the gamut from California-based (including a couple Pasadena-based) to ones imported from that place with the dentally challenged folks across the pond (God Save the Queen).
Best sushi: Sushi Ichi
OK, Thrillist editor Jeff Miller’s a die-hard fan of nearby Sushi Kimagure Ike, but if you’re not into omakase, Sushi Ichi offers a much more casual experience -- there’s no pre-set menu, just whatever is fresh and written on the specials board. The amberjack is a house favorite, and the tako sashimi is out of this world.
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Alexandra Pastron is a Southern California native living in New York City, but promises if you take her to get tacos she won’t talk about how much better the Mexican food is in LA… or about In-N-Out, Coachella, and the beach, for that matter.
1. El Taquito Mexicano490 N Lake Ave, Pasadena
2. Everson Royce155 N Raymond Ave, Pasadena
3. Cope Vita70 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena
4. The Luggage Room Pizzeria260 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena
5. Der Wolfskopf72 N Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena
6. Lincoln1992 Lincoln Ave, Pasadena
7. Carmela Ice Cream & Sorbet2495 E Washington Blvd, Pasadena
8. Little Beast Restaurant1496 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles
9. Lucky Boy531 E Walnut St, Pasadena
10. Euro Pane950 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena
11. Freddie’s 35er12 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena
12. Pie 'n Burger913 E California Blvd, Pasadena
13. Equator Cafe22 Mills Pl., Pasadena
14. Lucky Baldwins17 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena
15. Sushi Ichi633 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena
One of the top factors in deciding where to eat at 3am is, well, what's open? Here's some knowledge for you: Taquito Mexicano is open. And it's tasty. And cheap. And will most certainly satisfy your late night craving for starch, cheese, and spicy sauce. Go wild!
Brick walls expose themselves to unsuspecting patrons. "We were just here to sip on these small batch wines!" They yell. Little did they know they would be assaulted from all sides by reddish blocks and mortar masquerading as rustic interior architecture.
Could be considered more of a laboratory than a typical coffee shop with it's state of the art tea brewing equipment. The several thousand dollars worth of machinery will work up herbal concoctions that will awaken your senses and palate whether you choose caff or non-caff.
This Pasadena hotspot is slinging some of the best pies in all of LA.
This German beer hall in Old Town Pasadena has a lot in store for you -- a spacious hall where you can enjoy tons of German brews, from the rare to the regular, plus hearty eats like schnitzel and Bavarian pretzels. Hidden downstairs is a secret bar that you just might be lucky enough to enjoy, filled with specialty beers, secret craft cocktails, and, thankfully, ALSO hearty eats like schnitzel and Bavarian pretzels.
A petite patisserie by the folks who brought you Little Flower Co. Give them your money and they will give you baked goods. Then you eat the baked goods, or perhaps give them to a friend. The world is yours, we all just live in it.
This Pasadena creamery is run by a married couple who source locally grown and organic herbs, spices, and flowers to churn out their inventive list of ice cream flavors. This is not the place if you're craving plain old-fashioned strawberry or chocolate -- you're in for clever concoctions like lavender honey and rosemary with toasted pine nuts. If you're really in the mood for something traditional, you won't regret dipping a spoon into their classic rocky road.
An Eagle Rock progressive food hub, with great comfort grub, beer, and wine.
This fast food, cash-only joint is doling out some of the best breakfast burritos in the city.
The smaller the shop, the bigger the flavor –– that's what the always say, right? Well, if not they should. This itsy bakery pounds out the sweetest, tastiest treats to it's hoards of bustling patrons at all hours of the day.
In true dive bar fashion, the 35er is a destination for beer in a can and free popcorn for patrons.
This Pasadena institution has been there since 1963 and has weathered every burger trend you can imagine, with a no-frills approach (seriously, your burg options are hamburger, cheeseburger, turkey burger, and that's it) that hits home in the classic, Thousand Island-topped sense every time.
The Equator Cafe is located in Old town Pasadena, where the hustle and bustle from LA slows down a bit. Come here to enjoy a meal with good friends and without the noise.
Forget Alec, YOU are the luckiest Baldwin of the lot, spoiled for choice with the wide selection of international brews. Okay, so it really has nothing to do with the Baldwin brothers but.... we just couldn't help ourselves.