A Local's Guide To Pasadena

February 1, 2018

 

You guys- I can't believe its already been three and a half years since Sean and I moved to Pasadena. So what better way to commemorate our time here than to share the places we love in this city?! We came for jobs, but stayed for the charm.

 

Pasadena is a beautiful city, with a SERIOUS charm factor. From the houses to the shops to downtown, it's just a really cute city, complete with good food, good shopping, and good experiences. We have really enjoyed living here, and have explored the city from top to bottom and left to right. So I thought I would share some of our favorite places to go and things to do in Pasadena. This list might change and evolve because we are always trying something new!

 

I should preface this by saying that this is not a tourists guide to Pasadena. This is a list of places I have actually tried, loved and would personally recommend. When I go to a new city, I don't like going to a bunch of touristy places (i.e. "top 10 things to see!"). So if you want to experience Pasadena like a local, and discover some of it's most charming nooks, this list is for you.

 

I broke it up by area so you can either refer to the map here, or look based on neighborhood!

 

DOWNTOWN PASADENA

Good ol' old town. Shopping, movies, cute little courtyards, good food. The gang's all here! Pasadena's old town is definitely popular and what most people think of when they think of Pasadena. It's a revolving door of restaurants, because the rent is high, and if the food isn't perfect, places go out of business fast. Bad for business owners, good for foodies!

OLD TOWN (WEST)

Rocco's Tavern: Might be our most frequented place in town... [we've officially reached the stage where they recognize us..... jury is still out on if I should be proud of this] It's a sports bar with like 5 TVs on every wall. They serve Italian favorites, wings, fries and pizza. They also have a great bar.

Pro-tip: Go during Happy Hour- Drinks are 2 for 1! Mon-Fri: 11am-7pm | Sat-Sun: 3-7pm. Fave menu items: Italian chopped salad, italian fries, boneless hot honey BBQ wings.

 

White Horse Lounge: An upscale bar + restaurant with a really cute little bar area and reeeeally good cocktails.

Pro-tip: Get the Sucker Punch. It takes 3 days to make, and they make it in-house and it's probably the best cocktail I have ever had.

 

Kings Row Gastropub: The entrance is nested in between a night club and a gelato shop. You'll see a little light up sign with a pig- thats the entrance. Your usual brick walled hipster gastropub, but with unusual rotating cocktails, and a killer menu.

Pro-tip: The cheeseburger, mac and cheese, and cheesy naan are A+++. (I like cheese, ok?!)

 

Neon Retro Arcade: Proudly flying my nerd flag. This is a cute little arcade with old school games like pinball, and it's only $10/hour, and all the games are freeplay. Definitely worth a looksy if you're into gaming.

 

Waffles De Leige: This little shop has Liege waffles and ice cream. If you've never heard of or had a Liege waffle- it's life changing. The outside is crispy and crunchy and the inside is so soft and moist. Worth a visit for a decadent dessert.

 

Indiana Colony: Like a mini packing house. It has about 6 boutique-esque shops like coolhaus ice cream, pie hole, pressed juicery, and its also right next door to Intelligencia, which has great coffee and a super cool vibe. Good for a little afternoon break from shopping!

 

Copa Vida: Cute place for a coffee or tea. Bright open space with seating if you need to get some work done. They also have a pretty decent menu for breakfast or brunch!

 

Der Wolfskopf: This one is off the main drag of old town a little bit- but within walking distance, and worth a visit. It's a german bar with lots of german beer, good cocktails, hot dogs, and board games. (Maybe you're noticing a theme here... but we like games.)

Pro-Tip: For late night drink, go downstairs to their "secret" bar called Rathskeller. It's a little more upscale than upstairs. Think more hipster speakeasy cocktails, less german pub.

 

Blind Donkey: This one quickly became one of our favorite little bars to frequent. They have good cocktails, great fries, shuffleboard and a really relaxed vibe.

Pro-Tip: It's definitely a must if you like Whiskey, which I do not- but they have tons of whiskey you can taste/drink, and its technically known as a whiskey bar.

 

The Speakeasy: Looks like a "New York Deli" on the outside, and a speakeasy on the inside. The drinks are slightly overpriced, but the bartenders are pretty cool and the drinks are good.

Pro-tip: You can email them for the nightly password and you enter through the back alley entrance via the password.

 

One Colorado: Classic Pasadena charming courtyard filled with shops twinkly lights and restaurants. If you're in Old town shopping or dining, worth a walk through.

Pro-Tip: They have free concerts and movie screenings, so check online to see if they have any events going on!

OLD TOWN (EAST)

Paseo Colorado: A couple blocks down from what is considered "Old Town" is a little shopping center with an arclight movie theater and some shopping and dining options. A little bit more chain stores/restaurants, less local feeling, but still worthy depending on what you're shopping for!

 

Yahaira's Cafe: A cute little mexican cafe that serves up a pretty tasty breakfast/brunch. If it's warm outside, sit outside on the patio. If it's cold outside, sit at the bar and watch them make the breakfast. Free entertainment!

Pro-tip: Get a cup of coffee. Not sure what they do to it but it's not your standard cup of coffee.

 

Urth Caffe: So this one isn't a Pasadena only, buuuut doesn't mean it's not a great place to get a coffee or tea, a pastry or a healthy meal. I love the outdoor patio for lunch on a nice day.

 

Lunasia Dim Sum House: The closest to a traditional dim sum house that you'll get in Pasadena. Do get the green beans, do get the carrot balls (dessert), do get tea (it comes in a cool pot), don't be afraid of the menu. 

Pro-tip: Raise your hand for service. Feels awkward but you do what you gotta do. Parking in the back of the restaurant. If you know how hard parking is in Pasadena, you'll get this.

SOUTH LAKE

Abricott: A quaint little cafe that serves up an interesting menu. It's a fusion of thai, vietnamese & french. Skip it for breakfast, but lunch or dinner menu is pretty good!

Pro-tip: Get the birdnest and curry. Its crispy noodles in a bowl of amazing chicken curry. 

 

BengeesThis tiny little ice cream shop has some seriously good ice cream. You can also get a cronut ice cream sandwich. #yas

Pro-tip: Try the vegan flavors. They are made with cashew milk and its the best vegan ice cream I've ever had. So creamy, so delish.

 

Magnolia House: This restaurant + Bar is sortof like an old house converted into a restaurant. Cute + Quaint.

Pro-Tip: The food is average but the cocktails are great. Worth going for happy hour for a drink and an appetizer - ahem - fries (they could be my fave fries in the city).

 

TPumps: If you are a boba lover -OR- if you're like me, you like the tea part but skip the boba, try this place out. They have sooo many options and you get to completely customize your drink.

 

Nothing Bundt Cakes: Have you had them? If you know, you KNOW! These little puppies are like cupcakes on a whole other level. 

Pro-Tip: White Chocolate Raspberry is my fave flave.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Lincoln: This might be my #1 favorite place in Pasadena. It's a little out of the way but WORTH IT. It's seriously adorable, charming, delicious, inventive. There is even a little store next door that has all kinds of cute lil goodies. AND if you like baking GET HER COOKBOOK. They sell it at the restaurant. It's called Little Flower Baking. You will not be disappointed.

Pro-tip: Where to I begin. My favorites on the menu are the breakfast bowl, huevos rancheros, and pretty much any of their specials (change weekly). And get a pastry. If you love this place as much as I do, also try the owners' other restaurants: Cest La Vie (Montrose) or Little Flower (Pasadena).

 

Seed Bakery: This is one of those cute little hole in the wall bakeries that is like "wha??" on the outside and "awwww!" on the inside. Go for breakfast, and if you are so inclined, pick up a fresh baked loaf of bread!

 

Carmela Ice Cream: Hands down the best ice cream in Pasadena. Period.

Pro-tip: Try the more savory flavors- they are life changing. Browned butter sage is my all-time fave. Their menu is seasonal, so I always try something new!

 

Lavender & Honey: Nestled in bungalow heaven, walking distance from our apartment, and one of the best espresso bars in Pasadena. They also have a small menu of toasts, sandwiches and salads. 

 

United Artists Movie Theater: If you're in the mood for a movie and don't want to pay and arm and a leg, this is your place. Between Arclight and iPic in downtown, movie-going is a $50+ affair. This theater is a little out of the way, but they have the nice recliner seats, you can reserve your seat, and the tix are only like $12-$13.

DEL MAR STATION

Whole Foods Market: The Whole foods on Arroyo Parkway is like a different breed. It has a bar, a restaurant, smoothie bar, coffee bar, grill, sushi bar, bakery, and a huge olive bar (obvi my fave part), just to name a few things..... It's huge! If you need a snack, meal, or just some entertainment, stop by!

 

Dots Cupcakes: A cute lil shop for cupcakes with unique flavors!

 

Congregation Ale House: Probably our favorite place to bring a deck of cards and play some games with a beer. They also have decent food. Indoor and outdoor seating, with a great beer selection, relaxed vibe and friendly bartenders!

 

Luggage Room: This one goes with the next two on the list. They turned an old train station into 3 eateries, essentially. They are all owned by the same people, and everything the produce is amazing. Luggage room is the pizza restaurant. They serve brick oven personal pies that are seriously good. My favorite is the Avocado Festival. I also love the Chopped salad w/ Salumi!

Pro-tip: Bottles of wine are half off on Wednesdays! Both their signature red and white "LGO" blends are great and end up being like $15 on Wednesdays!

 

La Grande Orange: This is the second restaurant connected to Luggage Room. Its the more upscale of the two, and a smidge pricier. Literally everything on the menu is amazing. My favorites are: del mar salad, the GIANT freaking order of Nachitos, and the short rib tacos.

Pro-tip: Brunch is 5-star. Go for a boozey brunch and get a pitcher of their signature sangria! Brunch gets crowded on weekend mornings, so go early, or try for a ressie.

 

Otis Bar: The third in the chain. This is the bar that is attached to La Grande Orange. Open seating, and they serve the same menu as the restaurant, as well as some of the best cocktails in town.

Pro-Tip: If you like gin, get the negroni. If you make friends with the bartenders, they might even hook you up with a fun drink that is their own creation.

 

Stone Tasting Room + Company Store: Not a full brewery, just a tasting room. But they always have rotating taps with something fun and new to try. You can also fill up growlers and the prices are seriously affordable for fill ups, crowlers, and tasters.

 

Saladang: One of our favorite Thai restaurants in Pasadena. Don't confuse it with the next door place "Saladang Garden"- they are not the same.

SOUTH PASADENA

South Pas Farmer's Market: It is what it sounds like. A farmer's market in southpas, complete with Food, Music, samples, friendly vendors, and more. Every Thursday, starting at 4pm.

 

Modan Artisanal Ramen: Not your traditional ramen place, but its sooo good. The broth is so flavorful, and they have put an interesting spin on ramen. My favorite is actually the vegan one. It has tofu, corn and arugula along with some other veg.

 

Bristol Farms: A health food store... You may have been to one before, in which case this isn't that spectacular. But I just love walking around the aisles and looking at all the unique foods, wines and products they have. They also have a small cafe where you can get a snack or lunch!

 

1886 Bar At The Raymond: A seriously unique and characteristically Pasadena feeling bar and restaurant. It's quite small, and looks more like an old craftsman house than a bar, but they have amaaazing cocktails and although I haven't had dinner there, (it's a little pricey) I've heard the food is good too.

Pro-Tip: Go for happy hour, get some appetizers (yes to tots) and a cocktail and sit on the patio!

 

Grassroots Natural Market & Kitchen: A lot like bristol farms actually, except even more natural. Huge selection of natural foods & products. They have a kitchen where you can get lots of good, healthy meals or snacks. 

THINGS TO DO + SEE

Eaton Canyon Hiking: About a 4 mile hike, round trip. Relatively flat/not too strenuous. Hike ends at a cute little waterfall.

Pro-Tip: Go early. It gets really crowded, and the earlier you go the less people that will be there.

 

Rose Bowl Flea Market: If you are in town on a Flea Market Sunday, its a fun morning activity. Tons of vintage finds, handmade products, and unique stuff! It happens every 2nd Sunday of the month.

Pro-Tip: I recommend going earlier, rather than later to get the most of the products. Bring Cash!

 

The Gamble House: If you are interested in art or architecture at all, The Gamble House is definitely worth a visit. Its a BEAUTIFUL old craftsman with a lot of charming touches. You can find more information on touring on their site, or just go and at least walk around the property and see the house.

 

Huntington Library: The Huntington Library gardens are beautiful and so multifaceted. Gardens, art and architecture all wrapped up in one. Definitely worth a visit if you're into art/nature.

 

Pasadena City Hall: An icon in the City of Pasadena. It is seriously a beautiful building and you can walk around the grounds.

Pro-Tip: If you are there in the summer, they sometimes have movie screenings out front, so check the calendar!

 

Norton Simon Museum: Just off the main street in Downtown, lies the Norton Simon Museum. Its not a huge museum, but its a nice walk through, and they have different rotating exhibits to explore.

 

And that's a wrap. Hope you enjoy Pasadena as much as we have! 

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© 2018 by Hayley D'Auria