Though Julia Child was a product of Pasadena, she openly disdained the city, and its culture, and most of all its food. And it's true that Pasadena has traditionally been happy to stick to chain restaurants and small neighborhood places that offer familiarity over excellence. But lately there's been a shift in priorities apparent in Pasadena's restaurant scene. There's some really delicious food to be had there, things that native daughter Julia Child would've approved of heartily, we think. So in honor of her birthday today, we give you our 8 favorite Pasadena restaurants.
Dog Haus Biergarten: This is a hot dog joint. They are also known for their tater tots. So it's not anything approaching elegant, but the food makes people happy. The biergarten location is, by definition, the most fun one, as there is beer, and you can drink it in the sun, but the other location has the same menu (which includes burgers) and uses the same King's Hawaiian buns -- like I said, not fancy, but good.
Little Flower Candy Company: This started, as the name suggests, as a small candy-making operation, with a focus on very fancy marshmallows. But as the business grew, the owner set up show in an out-of-the-way corner of town and expanded into thoughtfully-made breakfast and lunch items, as well as -- this is where Julia would really be proud -- excellent pastries. The almond croissant might be the best in the county.
Euro Pane: There are two locations to this little cafe, and they aren't necessarily much to look at, but the pastries are so good you won't even notice the decor, so focused you'll be on the plate. Get some macarons and lemon bars and scones, and a loaf of bread to take home. And if you're in the mood for something savory, their egg salad, of all things, is infamously good.
The Raymond/1886: This restaurant is in a Craftsman-style former caretaker's cottage (a style Julia would've been quite familiar with!) is quite elegant, with dishes with names like "The Salad of Forgotten Roots" and "Butler's Steak." These are French dishes with Asian touches -- a fusion Julia probably would've appreciated, given the fun time she had dining out when she lived in China. And don't forget to visit the bar, which has one of the more interesting cocktail programs in the L.A. area.
Racion: This relatively new Spanish restaurant is a leader in Pasadena's rebirth -- well, birth -- as a potential culinary destination. It's a tapas menu, so there are both hits and misses on the large menu, but the food is all interesting and made with love. Which is what cooking's all about. In particular try the squid, crab salad, and lamb meatballs.
Trattoria Neapolis: This is such a glorious space. All wrought iron and wicker and marble and all kinds of creative interior design -- really more French than Italian, but a little cultural jumbling never hurt anyone! The restaurant has a ton of funding behind it, and passion, too. Absolutely try the pizza, though the pastas aren't too shabby either.
The Royce: This is a special occasion restaurant. It's in the Langham Huntington hotel, it has a French chef, you should wear nice shoes when you go. It became very famous a few years ago when celebrity chef Michael Voltaggio was at the them; it's a different concept now (more of a straightforward steakhouse), but the quality is still very much apparent.
Pie 'N Burger: This is a special occasion restaurant, too! It's a little Formica-counter time capsule: nothing has really changed much, decor- or food-wise, since it opened in 1963. (The prices have certainly changed, though.) They serve classic SoCal burgers and really fantastic, fresh milkshakes. And pie, of course. Try the strawberry: it's the owner's favorite.
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