26 Wonderful Places to Eat in Pasadena, California We As Locals Love

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Looking for delicious places to eat in Pasadena, California? You’re in the right place.

My husband and I, self-proclaimed foodies, have called Pasadena home for over 10 years. One of the biggest draws for us has been the city’s vibrant dining scene, rich with diverse options that cater to every whim—be it cozy cafes, eclectic cuisines, upscale eateries, food trucks, or those beloved hole-in-the-wall gems.

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In this guide, we’re dishing out our go-to spots in Pasadena. From quick bites to leisurely dining, we’ve gathered a mix of our all-time favorites. Yes, Pasadena’s food scene is ever-growing, and we’re on a mission to experience it all, bite by bite. These are the places we frequent and rave about, no TripAdvisor or Yelp needed.

Bookmark these other related reads in Pasadena:

Perle, nestled in Old Pasadena and recognized in the Michelin Guide, serves up exquisite French cuisine that places it among the top dining destinations in the area. It’s our go-to-restaurant for special occasions.

At Perle, you can indulge in timeless favorites like cheese boards, escargot, and French onion soup alongside heartier classics such as coq au vin, steak frites, and moules à la Normande. The steak frites, paired ideally with a side of béarnaise sauce. And, their apple tarte Tatin truly is amazing, it’s love at first bite due to its perfection.

Their pre-fixe menu, which changes weekly, offers a rotating selection of specialties, ensuring every visit offers something new.

The service at Perle mirrors the quality of its dishes—meticulous and considerate, and it ensures a luxurious and relaxed dining experience. The restaurant’s dim lighting and cozy yet chic decor create an ideal setting for a romantic dinner.

Foodie Favorites: There is nothing we don’t love at Perle, but the apple tarte Tatin is one of the best we’ve ever had.

Amara Café

  • 55 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Casual | Quick, delicious, authentic bites

The Pa’l Pana Arepa, empanadas and Spanish- style churros at Amara’s.

Amara Café is our beloved spot in Old Pasadena. They serve delicious Venezuelan dishes, mouthwatering empanadas, authentic Spanish-style churros, and exceptional coffee and hot chocolate. We recommend getting here early or hitting that sweet spot between breakfast and lunch since the café mainly caters to the breakfast and brunch crowd. It’s our go-to for a quick when looking for a hearty breakfast or lunch without a huge fuss.

If you’re in the mood for a fabulous latte or a satisfying snack like churros or an empanada before strolling around Old Pasadena, this place has you covered

Foodie Favorites: The Pa’l Pana arepa and the churramros.

Oseyo Shabu Shabu

  • 2879 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Casual and easy walk-in

Garlic edamame will start, followed by the Prime Choice Ribeye and Miso Shabu Shabu.


This local Japanese hot pot spot is a winter favorite, especially when the weather turns cold and dreary. Their savory broth quickly banishes the cold. We are here a lot.

Shabu-shabu or hot pot involves a bubbling pot of broth served with vegetables, noodles, and thinly sliced meats or fish. At Oseyo, their miso broth reigns supreme, and you can choose your preferred level of spiciness. Their menu features various cuts of meat and seafood options, accompanied by rice, vegetables, and dipping sauces.

Watch for their special dinner for two, complete with drinks and dessert.

Foodie Favorites: Garlic edamame to start, and the ‘choice ribeye’ or ‘vintage prime ribeye’ for a melt-in-your-mouth experience.

The Arbour

  • 527 S Lake Ave #120, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Reservations recommended | Great for date night

Cherry old fashion and bucatini alla vodka at the Arbour.


On Lake Ave, The Arbour is our top pick for chic, farm-to-table dining. Its straightforward menu streamlines decision-making. This Pasadena gem ticks all the boxes for date night; its intimate setting sets the perfect stage for an unforgettable evening. The food hits the mark. We were impressed by the bucatini alla vodka, a dish we’re usually quite particular about. And those crafted cocktails? That is absolutely on point, especially the cherry old-fashioned. Not to mention, their full bar is a thing of beauty.

Foodie Favorites: Try the bucatini alla vodka and finish with the apple strudel.

Dots Cafe

Coconut chocolate cupcake, breakfast sandwich, chicken sandwich and iced coffee at Dot’s Cafe.

Dots Cafe is a neighborhood favorite, instantly lifting your mood with its cheerful ambiance and delightful menu offerings. From coffee to irresistible baked goods and scrumptious meals, it’s a go-to spot for indulgence and convenience. Their cupcakes, in particular, are a weakness we can’t resist.

For those evenings when cooking feels like a chore, Dots has you covered with their weekly new and weekend menus for family meals. Simply pre-order and pick up for a hassle-free dining experience.

Plus, if you’re specifically craving cupcakes, they have a second location, Dot’s Cupcakes, in Old Town Pasadena.

Foodie Favorite: Without a doubt, their cupcakes steal the show every time, but we also love their breakfast sandwich.

Russell’s

  • 30 N Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Great breakfast and brunch

Russell’s scramble and Belgium waffle.

Russell’s is Old Pasadena’s quintessential breakfast and brunch spot. It is reminiscent of a beloved diner where every dish is delicious, the staff greets you with a smile, and the service is great. Despite being casual, the interior surprises with elegant chandeliers and paintings of famous artwork. It’s usually pretty busy, especially on the weekends, and the wait can take some time, but it’s worth it.

Foodie Favorites: You won’t go wrong with ordering their omelets, the Croque Madame, Belgian waffles, and pancakes. I love that you can swap toast out for a pancake or waffle for a small charge.

Pie ‘n Burger

  • 913 E California Blvd, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Super casual | Mostly counter seating | Cash Only

Thin pancakes, the Big Ben (double cheeseburger), and a boysenberry pie slice at Pie ‘n Burger.

Looking for the best hamburger in Pasadena, CA? While In-N-Out is a must-try for fast food lovers if you’re after a classic, delicious burger, Pie ‘n Burger is the spot to visit. This neighborhood favorite that’s been around since 1963 offers old-school luncheonette charm and mouthwatering burgers straight from the grill, complete with a classic menu board on the wall.

But that’s not all—Pie ‘n Burger has the most fabulous pies, shakes, and cakes in town. It’s a regular haunt for us, whether we’re craving burgers or picking up some pie slices to enjoy at home. Come Thanksgiving, we always pre-order their legendary apple pie, and during the holidays, expect lines around the corner for pick-ups. A slice of their pie is a must-try, even if you’re not in the mood for a burger.

Foodie Favorites: Our go-to order includes a cheeseburger with whole grilled onion, well-done fries with a side of ranch, and for dessert, the boysenberry pie with homemade whipped cream steals the show. And don’t forget their thin pancakes for breakfast.

Nick’s Pasadena

  • 336 S Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101
  • Google Map It
  • Reservations recommended

Nick’s on Lake Ave is a recent addition to our Pasadena dining rotation, and we’re hooked. They may have multiple locations in Southerentn California, but this Pasadena spot earned its place on our list. We regret not dining here sooner (took us several years) as their commitment to quality, flavorful food has thoroughly impressed us. But it’s the butter cake has captured our hearts – it’s sublime, truly one of the finest desserts we’ve had the pleasure of indulging in.

Beyond the irresistible butter cake, Nick’s is acclaimed for their signature ribeye melt and the San Francisco Cioppino, both of which are standout choices. Although we often shy away from these dishes elsewhere, at Nick’s, they truly deliver.

Foodie Favorites: Don’t leave without having the butter cake.

Roma Italian Market

  • 918 N Lake Ave, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Quick to-go lunch | expect a line

As told by this LA Times article, it all started when he was asked to make a sandwich that wasn’t on the menu. After begrudgingly making this sandwich for the customer the next day, he had new customers asking for this sandwich.

Roma Italian Market, a Pasadena staple for over 70 years, serves one of the city’s finest Italian sandwiches—a testament to its enduring legacy. According to an LA Times article, the sandwich’s journey began when the owner reluctantly fulfilled a custom order, only to find it became a daily demand. The market now sells over 600 sandwiches daily.

For us, Roma Italian Market is a quick and satisfying go-to, always centered around their famous sandwich. Its flavors transport us to the bustling streets of Italy, reminiscent of quick bites grabbed on the go. The bread, reminiscent of NYC Italian loaves, boasts a crispy, flaky crust and a soft, chewy interior—a perfect match for the tender, thinly sliced Italian cold cuts.

Foodie Favorites: The sandwich. They are pre-made and ready to go at the counter. Made fresh throughout the day.

Entre Nous

After just one dinner, Entre Nous quickly became one of my favorite spots in Pasadena, and it remains a top choice for us. Tucked away on West Green Street, this French bistro might go unnoticed if you stick to the main thoroughfares. From the moment we stepped inside, we were charmed by the French host, the delightful atmosphere, and the vintage French movie posters adorning the walls.

The French cuisine here is amazing, from the brie en croûte to the escargot, mussels, ribeye steak, and desserts. Each dish feels like a taste of France, even if just for a fleeting moment.

Foodie Favorites: It’s tough to pick just one! For a daring appetizer, try the escargot. If you’re a fan of indulgent cheese, the brie en croûte is a must-try. The mussels are excellent, and meat lovers won’t be disappointed with the ribeye steak with pomme frites or lamb chops.

U Street Pizza

  • 33 Union St, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Casual | Reservations Accepted

Our go-to pizza spot in Old Pasadena is U Street Pizza. While it may not boast authentic New York-style pizza (coming from New York ourselves), its cheese pizza hits all the right notes, from the tomato sauce to the crust. It’s more reminiscent of a visit to Italy, likely due to the high-quality ingredients they import.

Aside from their fantastic cheese pizza, U Street Pizza offers other popular pies like the Vodka pizza and Pepperoni. You can choose from their list of unique pie toppings or create your own. Additionally, their menu features non-pizza dishes like fried calamari and meatballs.

Foodie Favorites: Our go-to orders are the cheese pizza or pepperoni, paired with their chicken vodka parm. We like to finish off with cookies and cream for dessert.

Union Restaurant

Truffle fettuccine, torchetti pasta, cacio e pepe, and olive oil cake from Union Restaurant.

A contender for the best Italian restaurant in Pasadena, Union crafts homemade pasta that might transport you straight to Italy—a country close to my heart, particularly Northern Italy, whose cuisine I adore. They also own U-Street Pizza next door.

At Union, the menu is a seasonal parade of homemade pasta, appetizers, and main courses, each a testament to the freshness of high-quality ingredients, from imported Italian to locally sourced. It’s as close to genuine Italian dining as you can get in Pasadena, and for us, each visit is a special occasion. The costs can add up with multiple courses and wine, but the experience is always worth it.

Foodie Favorites: While the menu shifts with the seasons, their pasta places never disappoint. The Torchetti pasta was so good that we once ordered it twice in one sitting! For dessert, the Olive Oil Cake is a slice of heaven.

Magnolia House

  • 492 S Lake Ave, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Trendy bar and food Scene | Reservations accepted


Magnolia House, located on Lake Ave, is a cozy craftsman transformed into an open-air cocktail bar. While renowned for its fabulous drinks, its menu of small plates offers much more than that. Initially, we mistook it for solely a bar until stumbling upon their Tuesday special—$23 for an Old Fashioned and a burger—prompting us to explore their menu further. We discovered they also offer an amazing weekend brunch and weekly dinners.

This is a fantastic spot for date night or dinner with friends. You can order drinks and share a variety of plates, maybe starting with their Belgian fries.

Foodie Favorites: The chicken schnitzel sando and their burgers are seriously good.

Mercado

  • 140 S Lake Ave #101, Pasadena, CA 91101
  • Google Map It
  • Reservations recommended

Mercado in the Commons on Lake Ave is your go-to for modern Mexican dishes paired with unbeatable margaritas. Though we usually favor smaller, more traditional Mexican eateries, Mercado has impressed us and has become one of our favorite places to eat in Pasadena.

You’ll want to kick things off with their freshly made guacamole and a margarita. For the main course, you can’t go wrong with anything featuring their carnitas. The meat is so tender and flavorful that we are obsessed.

Foodie Favorites: We always get the Tablita which is a butcher block of meats, shrimp and sides. It’s great for sharing amongst 2-3 people and comes with the carnitas. We usually will upgrade the chicken that comes with it for the carne asada.

New York Chicken & Gyro

  • 961 E Green St, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Reservations recommended

New York Chicken & Gyro on Green Street is a fairly new spot in Pasadena, bringing a taste of the East Coast to the West. We were initially skeptical about finding authentic gyros akin to those in New York, so we were thoroughly impressed. The gyros are stuffed with tender, flavorful meat and generously portioned to justify every dollar spent.

Their tzatziki sauce deviates from tradition by using sour cream instead of Greek yogurt—a surprising twist that works. We asked for extra, even though the gyros were already well-dressed. Don’t miss out on their in-house hot sauce, which introduces an additional layer of flavor.

Foodie Favorites: The chicken and lamb gyro combination stands out among the menu highlights.

Ramen Tatsunoya

  • 16 N Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Usually, a line out of the door
bowl of ramen with chashuPin
Koku with extra chashu

Ramen Tatsunoya in Old Pasadena offers the city’s best tonkotsu ramen, with a broth that simmers for over 15 hours, creating a rich and flavorful base that’s simply unforgettable. The Koku, their rich broth variety, features thin noodles and a fatty, indulgent texture that had us hooked from the first sip.

For a lighter option, try the Jun, their original mild tonkotsu broth, which is less creamy but equally tasty. Elevate your bowl with Chasu—slow-cooked pork so tender it nearly disintegrates on your tongue—and an egg for the complete experience.

Don’t skip the fried Gyoza; it’s among the best you’ll find anywhere.

Be prepared for a wait, as Ramen Tatsunoya is a first-come, first-served establishment that’s well worth the line. Once you’ve tasted their ramen, you’ll know exactly why there’s a queue.

Food Favorites: We love the Koku broth, adding extra chashu and a whole egg.

Janejira Thai Restaurant

  • 754 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Reservations recommended

Janeijira Thai Restaurant on Colorado Blvd is a gem among Pasadena’s Thai dining spots. Its compact menu is a highlight, focusing on perfected classics like Pad Thai, curries, and stir-fries rather than an overwhelming variety.

The food here stands out for its flavor and generous portion sizes, all at reasonable prices. The service is as delightful as the meals, with staff who are always warm and attentive. The restaurant’s ambiance is casual yet modern, with a charming flowered wall.

Foodie Favorites: Don’t miss the garlic short ribs and the eggplant stir fry. The pad Thai is also a standout, perfect for sharing.

Gus’s BBQ

  • 808 Fair Oaks Ave, South Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Reservations recommended

Gus’s BBQ in South Pasadena is more than just a restaurant to us; it’s a tradition. We’ve been coming here for years, often bringing friends and family to share the experience. Among their standout dishes, the BBQ pork nachos are a must-try. Don’t overlook the starters; the deviled eggs and cornbread are superb, especially the cornbread croutons in their house salad. The brisket is exceptionally tender, and the St. Louis spare ribs are a must-try for rib aficionados.

Brunch lovers take note: the cinnamon bun skillet is a crowd-pleaser, and their weekend-only chicken and waffles are worth planning for your visit.

Their drinks menu is equally tempting, with dangerously smooth sangria and malt shakes made with locally beloved Fosselman’s ice cream.

Foodie Favorites: First-timers should go for the cornbread skillet or BBQ pork nachos. Trust us, you can’t go wrong.

Twoheys Restaurant

  • 424 Fair Oaks Ave, South Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Reservations recommended

Twoheys: Where the best sundaes are no longer a mystery. Since 1943, Twoheys has delighted diners with its classic American diner fare and standout desserts, especially its soda fountain sundaes. These aren’t just any sundaes; they turned me, a former ice cream skeptic, into a believer.

Originally from Alhambra, the Twoheys relocated to South Pasadena a few years ago. This move brings them closer to us, and while it’s wonderfully convenient, it’s also irresistibly tempting. The new venue sports a modern, airy look with a welcoming patio area—perfect for family gatherings. Thankfully, despite the fresh decor, the food remains unchanged in its deliciousness. The added full bar makes a mean Old Fashioned cocktail.

Twoheys serves satisfying breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Try the Old-Fashioned Pancakes, our favorite alternative to the usual buttermilk variety—the best around.

Foodie Favorites: My go-to breakfast is their Greek omelet and old-fashioned pancakes.

Foothill Restaurant

  • 2835 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Pretty crafted cocktails | Reservations accepted

Foothill Restaurant on Foothill Blvd is a prime spot for beautifully crafted cocktails and delicious dining, including an impressive charcuterie board. While they have modern indoor seating, their transformed parking lot now serves as a charming patio with lush faux grass, chic lighting, and heated lamps, all set against the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Don’t miss their popular Boozy Brunch on weekends, featuring plates like spicy chilaquiles with poached eggs, hollandaise, and classic buttermilk pancakes. We also love their BBQ Jam Burger and Steak Frites for dinner. Being a sister restaurant to Twohey’s, Foothill also offers the famous Twohey’s sundae.

Foodie Favorites: Try the Portobello fries, the prime rib dip sandwich, and any of their standout cocktails.

Agnes Restaurant and Cheesery

Agnes Restaurant and Cheesery on Green Street is a must-visit in Old Pasadena. It combines an excellent dining experience with an exceptional selection of cheeses. Start with one of their boards that offer cheese and meats, which pairs wonderfully with their extensive wine and cocktail offerings. Each board comes with detailed cheese descriptions, a helpful touch for those interested in their retail selections.

There is nothing at Agnes we have not had and not loved. Every dish leaves us happy, from the cornbread éclair with liver mousse to their freshly made in-house pasta dishes and items from the grill, especially the Pachamama Pork Chop.

Tip: Book a dinner reservation for their romantic patio if the weather allows it, though the interior is equally inviting.

Foodie Favorites: Hard to choose.

Dan Modern Chinese

Dan Modern Chinese on Lake Avenue in The Commons, Pasadena, is a must-visit for lovers of soup dumplings and noodles. This restaurant offers a delightful blend of traditional Chinese food with a modern twist, making it one of our favorite spots in town.

The xiao long bao (soup dumplings) here are truly exceptional. Each dumpling features a thin, delicate dough filled with a flavorful soup and tender pork that bursts in your mouth, served steaming hot. Don’t miss their crispy dumplings either, which are perfect with their crispy exteriors and succulent pork fillings. Another standout is the short rib dan mein, featuring chewy, handmade noodles tossed in a savory sauce with tender short rib.

Foodie Favorites: Start with some scallion pancakes. Xiao long bao’s (soup dumplings) are a must. The short rib dan mein (noodles).

El Jarocho Tacos

  • 2435 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Taco Stand | Casual eats

Craving authentic Mexican street food? El Jarocho Tacos, a family-run taco stand, lights up Historic Route 66 on Colorado Blvd every evening. This husband and wife team serves up fresh tacos, quesadillas, tortas, and Aguas Frescas right from their bustling stand.

Their street tacos, along with specialties like vampiros and chorizados, are made to order and worth every minute of the wait. Despite sometimes facing a line, the flavors and authenticity more than compensate—providing fantastic Mexican cuisine at reasonable prices.

Keep in mind, it’s a stand, so there’s no seating available. Most folks enjoy their food in their cars or take it to go.

Foodie Favorites: Don’t miss out on the carne asada tacos and the fully-loaded vampiros.

Howlin’ Rays

  • 800 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Casual | best fried chicken sandwich
sand fried chicken sandwich and fries from howlin rays in pasadenaPin

Howlin’ Rays has arrived in Pasadena, bringing its famed Nashville Hot fried chicken sandwiches that have already conquered the taste buds of many, including Phil Rosenthal from “Somebody Feed Phil.” With such a stamp of approval, our expectations were sky-high.

True to its reputation, Howlin’ Rays delivered. The Sando is a marvel of crispy, juicy, tender chicken, customizable with your desired level of heat. I opted for mild, while my husband enjoyed his heat-free, proving the chicken shines with or without the spice. We can say it’s the best fried chicken sandwich in Pasadena.

Don’t overlook the shake fries—seasoned to addictive perfection, they’re irresistible, especially when dipped in the comeback sauce. Beyond sandwiches, Howlin’ Rays offers a whole bird and tempting sides like their praised shells n’ cheese.

Fun Fact: During renovations at their Arroyo Parkway location, a vintage dairy sign was discovered under the awning. Recognizing its historical significance to Pasadena, the sign was preserved, and now you can see the “HR” of Howlin’ Rays illuminated, blending history with modern flair.

Top Restaurant

  • 1842 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Casual | Great take-out

BBQ mixed plate and chicken katsu from Top Restaurant.

The Top Restaurant on Colorado Blvd, not to be mistaken for Tops Burgers, is a hidden gem in an unassuming shopping strip that dishes up some of the best Hawaiian and Indonesian cuisine in Pasadena. We discovered it out of curiosity, drawn in by the consistent crowd it attracted. The menu features delights like Hawaiian BBQ short ribs, spam musubi, oxtail soup, authentic loco moco, chicken katsu, and Indonesian fried rice. Every dish is a hit, served with white rice and a delicious macaroni salad.

Currently, The Top operates mostly take out with limited seating, which is perfect given its small, no-frills setting. This makes it an ideal option for enjoying a hearty and flavorful meal at home.

Foodie Favorites: The short ribs and chicken katsu stand out for their exceptional flavor and generous portions.

Kaiba Japanese Ramen, Sushi & Grill

  • 1713 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena
  • Google Map It
  • Casual | Great value

Kaiba Japanese Ramen, just a stone’s throw from PCC on Colorado Blvd, is a sushi haven that also caters to non-sushi lovers with its varied menu, offering great value across the board. Even if sushi isn’t your dining companion’s go-to, Kaiba’s menu spans from sizzling teriyaki plates to rich tonkotsu ramen and hearty beef udon, ensuring everyone leaves satisfied.

The sushi impresses with both size and quality, while their tonkotsu ramen is a flavor-packed bargain. Don’t miss the beef udon—a comfort dish with thick noodles, tender beef, and a soul-warming broth.

Fast, friendly service completes the experience at Kaiba Japanese, making it a go-to for delicious and affordable meals, whether you’re craving sushi, ramen, or something in between.

Other places to eat in Pasadena that should be on your radar:


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Kathy Ava

Meet Kathy Ava, a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena, and the owner and main writer of Tasty Itinerary. With over 20 years of experience planning trips and logistics at her full-time job and for herself, she's become a pro at crafting unforgettable tasty itineraries. She's always on the hunt for delicious, fun travel destinations and cruise itineraries. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it, so always say yes to dessert.

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2 Comments

  1. I had a very light lunch, so reading this just reminded me of that and has my mouth watering :’) I hope to visit Pasadena thoroughly one day, so I’m def gonna have to refer to this when I do!