Looking for delicious places to eat in Pasadena, California?
One of the many reasons we moved to Pasadena is because we loved the variety of places to eat in this city. We are foodies. We love to eat out. So, it’s important that the community we live in has plenty of fantastic eateries, cafes, cuisines, restaurants, food trucks, hole-in-the-wall spots… really any dining establishment serving delicious food.
In Pasadena, there are many established neighborhood restaurants, which we love. But the best part is that new restaurants and eateries are opening in Pasadena all the time. We try our best to try them all. Which sometimes is quite the fun feat.
One of the biggest tips I have when eating out at any restaurant is to always ask the waiter, what is the restaurant known for? What do people order the most? What is their favorite dish? That’s a great way to find something new to eat that you may not have ordered on your own. You’ll quickly find that will become your favorite.
If this is your first time reading my blog, you should be forewarned that hubby and I are a carb, meat, and dessert-loving couple. We love all kinds of cuisines and dishes. Except hubby doesn’t like fish. But I do!
The restaurants listed below are some of our favorite places to eat in Pasadena. These are in no specific order to these. We love to mix it up with hole-in-wall spots, quick take-out places, casual sit-down dining, and some upscale restaurants that won us over during the years. No need for Tripadvisor or Yelp.
Places to Eat in Pasadena, CA
Russell’s is a local go-to breakfast and brunch spot. Everything you order at Russell’s is delicious. The staff is friendly and the service is always great.
Recently, we went after months of lockdown and we were so happy they had outdoor seating that we almost cried. It was our first brunch out in months.
It’s usually pretty busy and the wait can take some time, but it’s worth it. Back when the counter was open, we’d always just find a spot there.
Foodie Favorites: You won’t go wrong ordering any of the omelets, the Croque Madame, Belgium waffles, and pancakes. If you’re feeling more like lunch, try the Burger and Pie special. Their apple pie is scrumptious – that’s if it is available.
2. Pie ‘n Burger
Everyone always says, if you visit California make sure to eat In-N-Out. Sure. I agree. I love a good drive-thru burger sometimes and In-N-Out is the best fast food burger around. However, if you want an old-school classic and absolutely delicious burger, you have to check out Pie ‘n Burger.
This Pasadena burger spot is a neighborhood favorite. It’s been in the same location since 1963. And it is a regular classic burger joint with the menu board on the wall. Not only do they serve burgers, but they also have the most fabulous pies, shakes, and cakes around.
We are here at least once a month. If we don’t make it for burgers, I’ll send hubby out to pick up a couple of slices. Every Thanksgiving we order apple pie in advance. This year, it was my turn to pick it up and the line was around the corner for pie orders. Don’t worry, on normal days, you should be able to find a seat inside.
If anything, stop by for a slice of pie.
Foodie Favorites: Our go-to order is a cheeseburger with grilled onions and well-done fries with a side ranch. Always order a boysenberry pie with whip cream.
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3. La Grande Orange Cafe
Sitting right at the Gold Line, what once used to be Del Mar Station is now La Grande Orange Cafe and Luggage Room Pizzeria. The inside of the restaurant is beautifully designed with art deco charm and comfortable booths. If you like, you can also sit outside on their charming patio.
So many great memories at La Grande Orange Cafe. It’s one of our favorite spots to bring family and friends to. Breakfast, brunch, or dinner, everyone will enjoy it. Highly recommend ordering a pitcher of white sangria for the table no matter what time of day it is.
Their food is all made from scratch, including their famous English muffins. The staff is so nice, the manager once overhead my pregnant (at the time) sister-in-law “oohed and ahh’ed” over the English muffins on the way out, he gave her a pack for free.
Pre-covid they used to keep fresh batches of chocolate chip cookies sprinkled with sea salt by the door. Everyone would grab one or two on the way out.
Foodie Favorites: Everything on the menu is delicious! A few tips: don’t miss the deviled eggs and their taco plates. They make their own homemade tacos and they are divine. If you decide on a burger, ask the waiter to swap the traditional bun for an English muffin.
4. Luggage Room Pizzeria
Luggage Room Pizzeria is the sister restaurant of La Grand Orange Cafe and it’s right next door. The patio connects both restaurants. This restaurant is named after the fact that it was the former luggage room for the train station. Pretty cool, right?
Luggage room wood-fired pizzas are delicious and definitely a go-to when we are craving a gourmet pizza.
When it comes to pizza, we are picky. Not only have our families owned NY pizzerias, but after visiting Italy multiple times, we are spoiled. At least, I am. Hubby just loves any bread and cheese. Ha.
So I am happy to share Luggage Room Pizzeria with you.
Foodie Favorites: Start with the bacon-wrapped dates with goat cheese. You won’t regret it. Any pizza you choose will be amazing. I normally go for the Margherita. Gluten-free crusts are available.
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5. Amara Café
Are you a fan of South American cuisine or you’re looking to try something special? Amara Café is a remarkable cafe in Old Pasadena serving delicious Venezuelan dishes, real Spanish churros, and exceptional coffee and hot chocolate.
Mostly open for breakfast and brunch, you’ll want to get here early or that sweet spot between breakfast and lunch. This great place to meet up with a friend for a quick bite to eat, where the food that is served packs a punch of flavor.
Also, a great place to grab a fabulous latte and a snack, like churros or an empanada, to go for your walk around Old Pasadena.
Foodie Favorites: The Pa’l Pana arepa and the churros,
6. Cafe Santorini
The name of this Mediterranean cafe says it all as every time I eat here I am transported back to our time in Santorini, Greece.
One of my favorite things is their lovely patio that is on the 2nd floor. It’s strung with lights and in the middle of a quiet part of Old Town Pasadena. It has a romantic vibe, but this restaurant is great for date night, a family gathering, or a get-together with a group of friends.
Foodie Favorites: Don’t leave without trying their hummus and stuffed grape leaves. Their grilled Octopus is lovely. For the main entree, I love the lamb souvlaki.
When we crave French toast, we think of Marston’s and their Fantastic French Toast – that’s the name of it on the menu. What makes it fantastic? The fact that it’s dipped in a vanilla batter and then rolled in corn flakes. It is absolutely delicious.
Foodie Favorites: Order Fantastic French Toast and share with your significant other or the table. You can’t go wrong with any of their egg dishes.
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8. ROMA ITALIAN MARKET
Roma Italian market serves one of the best Italian sandwiches in Pasadena. This 70+ year old market is a Pasadena landmark.
This market, the owner, and the sandwich have quite the history and story. 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. Now he sells 600+ of this one sandwich per day.
This is one of our favorite spots to grab a quick bite to go and it is always the sandwich. It is delicious and reminds us of the quick sandwiches we’d pick up when on the run in Italy.
The bread is also reminiscent of the Italian bread we’d pick up at an NYC Italian bakery. The crust is crispy and flaky on the outside, and perfectly soft and chewy on the outside. The mix of tender and thinly sliced Italian cold cuts tender – my favorite way to have cold cuts.
We love to support this local market and the 80+-year-old owner that is there every single time we go. He has freshly baked bread, great frozen ravioli, international treats, cookies, and fruit and vegetables. I always seem to leave with a pack of cookies.
Expect a line at the deli. It goes fast and it is worth it.
Foodie Favorites: The sandwich. They are pre-made and ready to go. Made fresh throughout the day.
9. MAGNOLIA HOUSE
Located on Lake Ave is this open-air and renovated craftsman turned into a cocktail bar, Magnolia House. Not only does this establishment have fabulous drinks, but their menu of small plates is more than that.
For the longest time, we thought it was simply a bar. I love to enjoy a well-prepared Old Fashioned cocktail, but if there is no food, it’s not for me. One day, I saw them advertise their Tuesday special, Old Fashioned, and a burger for $18 (btw this still exists), and out of curiosity decided to check their menu. Lo and behold, they serve weekend brunch and weekly dinners.
We have been here several times already, it has quickly become one of our faves. Even though hubby doesn’t drink, he loves the food here and doesn’t mind the trendy, relaxed cocktail hour vibes it has. We actually love it.
Foodie Favorites: The Korean Pork Belly Fried Rice is scrumptious and quite possibly my top favorite. We just had this recently and could not stop eating it. The lamb riblets are my 2nd favorite as they are just so tender and full of flavor. The fried chicken sandwich and the burgers are seriously good.
10. Union Restaurant
Union is quite possibly one of the best Italian restaurants in Pasadena. Their pasta is made from scratch and just one bite transports me back to Italy. Italy is one of my favorite countries, especially Northern Italy. I crave the food from there all the time.
They have a fabulous seasonal menu of homemade pasta, appetizers, and main dishes that will feed your soul. Their menu changes as they use high-quality and local ingredients that are in season. It is as close to authentic Italian cuisine as your tastebuds will experience in Pasadena.
We mostly come here for special occasions. It is a little pricey once you start to add up all the courses and the wine. However, we always leave impressed with our bellies full, reminiscing of our many dinners in Florence, Italy. I always look forward to the next time we can dine here.
FYI: The menu on their website may not be fully updated.
Foodie Favorites: The menu changes every season, you can never go wrong with any of their fresh plates of pasta. If you visit soon, definitely try the Torchetti pasta and the Lamb Rack. We actually ordered seconds of the Torchetti. For dessert, the Olive Oil Cake tastes like home.
11. President Thai
When you enter a restaurant and it’s bustling and filled with the nationality of said cuisine, you can pretty much guess that you’ve scored a home run. It’s always busy. I can say President Thai is definitely a favorite place to eat in Pasadena.
The menu is full of yummy authentic Thai dishes. From their curries, noodles, and soups, your tastebuds will be delighted. If you like spicy, they have you covered. Just let them know.
The restaurant is a family affair, meaning they serve family-sized dishes to share. When our family lived nearby, we’d love to have family dinner here and order a variety of items off the menu to share.
Foodie Favorites: The pork jerky is a favorite. All the curries are delish. If they have the mango with sweet rice for dessert, get it. I also love their coconut ice cream.
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12. Oseyo Shabu Shabu
This local Japanese hot pot restaurant is a fave. Especially during the winter when it’s cold, gloomy, and rainy. Their savory broth is comforting and hot, you warm up quickly.
What is shabu shabu or hot pot? It’s boiling water or a broth that is served with a side of vegetables, noodles, and thinly sliced meats or fish. You get to cook your meat in vegetables in that broth. The meat is thinly sliced so it cooks quickly once the water is boiling. Depending on the cut you order, it will be very tender.
Oseyo serves one of the best miso broths. You can get it spicy as you want or not at all. They have another couple of broths you may choose from. We stick to the miso. They have different cuts of meats to choose from ribeye, chicken, and lamb. You can also order seafood. A side of rice is provided along with some dipping sauces.
Sometimes they’ll have a special dinner for two deal that includes drink and dessert.
Foodie Favorites: Start with the garlic edamame. I like to order the choice ribeye or vintage prime rib eye as it is so tender.
13. Dots Cafe
Dots cafe is another neighborhood favorite. This cheery spot is one of those places you step inside of and immediately your mood brightens. The fun colorful decor and positive vibes add to their delicious menu.
They have an amazing coffee selection, baked goods, my favorite local cupcakes, and delicious foods. We ordered plenty of cupcakes and takeout during the pandemic.
Every single week, they post new weekly and weekend menus for family meals that you can order in advance and pick up for dinner. Perfect for those nights you don’t want to cook.
Dots has a second location for their cupcakes, Dot’s Cupcakes, in Old Town Pasadena. Temporarily closed, but we await their reopening.
Foodie Favorite: Their cupcakes are my kryptonite.
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14. Gus’s BBQ
Located in South Pasadena, Gus’s BBQ has been a favorite of ours for years. We frequent Gus’s and like to take our friends and family here for dinner.
Gus’s has the best fried chicken in Pasadena. Their BBQ pork nachos comes in second as one of the best next best things you can order there. The deviled eggs and cornbread appetizers are fantastic. Their house side salad as I love the toasty and buttery cornbread croutons it comes with. Their brisket is tender and delicious. If you’re going to order ribs, order the St. Louis spare ribs.
Oh, feeling like brunch? This is another breakfast and brunch spot. Order the cinnamon bun skillet for the table. The fried chicken and waffles are only available on the weekends. My favorite is their eggs benedict, but instead of the English muffin, I’ll swap it out for their homemade biscuit.
Don’t miss their cocktails. The sangria goes down smooth. A little too smooth if you know what I mean. Their old fashioned cocktail is on point.
Do you love malt shakes? They serve them here and they are made with local favorite Fosselman’s ice cream.
Foodie Favorites: Too many to choose from. If it’s your first time, definitely order the cornbread skillet, fried chicken, and or BBQ Pork nachos.
15. Twoheys Restaurant
Ever wonder where you can have the best sundae ever? Now you don’t have to anymore. Twoheys has the best sundae around. They have a soda fountain area just to make these special sundaes.
I say this legitimately as I never was one to be excited about ordering ice cream at a restaurant until I tried a Twohey’s sundae.
Twohey’s is a diner that’s been around since 1943. They were originally in the neighboring city of Alhambra but this past year moved to a new location in South Pasadena. Oh boy, we are happy. We used to go all the way to Alhambra and now they are so much closer, it’s sort of dangerous.
The new location has a fresh new look and patio area. It’s modern, it’s light and airy. We love what they did with the new spot. The best part besides the spankin’ new decor is that the food is the same. Everything is still as delicious as I remember it.
They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can’t go wrong at any time of day.
If you love a good old delicious diner breakfast, which I love, you’ll find it here. If you’re feeling like pancakes, make sure to order the Old Fashion Pancakes, over the buttermilk pancakes. You will not regret it.
Foodie Favorites: If you’re there for breakfast, the old fashion pancakes are so good. For dessert, obviously the sundae. Their Old Fashioned cocktail is spot-on. Check out Fried Chicken Mondays and all-you-can-eat ribs on Friday.
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16. Foothill Restaurant
Foothill located on Foothill Blvd is a fantastic spot to enjoy beautifully crafted cocktails, a beautiful charcuterie board, small plates, or dinner. Also, weekend brunch is not to be missed.
Currently, they do have inside dining.
However, during the pandemic, they converted their parking lot into a beautiful patio. A patio that does not make you feel like you’re sitting in a parking lot. Beautiful lighting, fake grass, heated lamps, and the San Gabriel mountains in the background add to the charm. Patio dining is still open if you prefer to sit outside.
Since it is a sister restaurant of Twohey’s, you can also get their famous sundae here for dessert.
On the weekends, they have a fantastic Boozy Brunch. Their buttermilk pancakes are delicious. If you want a little spice, try their spicy chilaquiles with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce.
Foodie Favorites: Portabello fries, the charcuterie board, and hubby’s favorite prime rib dip sandwich. Don’t forget to get one of their fabulous cocktails.
17. Entre Nous
It took just one dinner at Entre Nous for it to land on my list of favorite places to eat in Pasadena. The restaurant had me the moment I entered. From the French host and waiter to the charming and delightful atmosphere. The French movie posters on the walls were a nice added touch.
Located on West Green Street, this French Bistro could easily be missed if you don’t explore past Colorado Blvd. I found this restaurant walking from my hair salon and stopped to look at the menu. I was sold and knew I needed to try it. Hubby made reservations.
The French food here is excellent. From the first bite of my brie en croûte, I was in love and knew the rest of the meal would be just as delicious. It was as if we were back in France, even if just for a little while.
We savored both our main dishes and ordered two desserts. We ate every bite and I think “mmm’ed” way too many times during the meal. I can’t wait to return to try more from their menu.
Foodie Favorites: From watching everyone around me order, the escargot and the mussels were two of the top dishes being brought out – I am ordering this next time. If you love melty delicious cheese, the brie en croûte was fantastic. If you’re a meat-eater, the ribeye with the pomme frites or the filet mignon are also great choices we enjoyed them immensely.
18. Agnes Restaurant and Cheesery
On Green Street, you’ll also find Agnes Restaurant and Cheesery one of Old Pasadena’s newest dining locations and cheesery. We recently dined in their cozy back patio and can say without a doubt, you must add it to your list of delicious places to eat in Pasadena.
Every bite we had here was delectable and had my stomach singing praises.
There was nothing that we didn’t like, but if you are a meat-eater Steak de Burgo is excellent – I wanted to bathe in that herb butter sauce it was smothered in. If you plan to get the Bone-in Ribeye with that ask what the market price is as it can get pricey, but believe me worth every bite.
The cheeseboards are great to share and enjoy with one of their wines and cocktails.
Foodie Favorites: Ask for the fried cheese curds, even if you don’t see them on the menu.
19. La Caravana
Do you love Salvadorian food? La Caravana on North Lake Avenue is a family-owned restaurant serving some of the best pupusas and Salvadorian cuisine in Pasadena.
Anytime I eat here, it’s like a treat for my Hispanic heart and tummy. Their pupusas are always made to utter perfection, savory, and with the right amount of stuffing. Get them with pork, cheese, jalapeno and cheese, and many other kinds of stuffings. They are handmade to order. The curtido (slaw) served with them has a nice hint of spice.
Don’t miss trying their other plates like their rice and beans, tamales, yucca frita, and bistec encebollado. If you are a soup lover, theirs will warm your soul – totally reminds me of my Abuela’s sopas.
Foodie Favorites: The Plato Tipico Loco is my favorite dish on the menu because it has a little of everything. It’s also a great introduction to the delicious food they serve. You can always order additional pupusas if you don’t think one is enough.
20. Dan Modern Chinese
Ever have a craving for soup dumplings? This is how we found Dan Modern Chinese during the pandemic. The cravings were serious and Din Tai Fung was just a little too far for delivery. Dan Modern Chinese came up in our Door Dash with excellent ratings and we just had to try it.
How are their soup dumplings? It’s an explosion of savory comfort in your mouth.
I must admit, Dan Modern Chinese soup dumplings are better than Din Tai Fungs. I highly recommend checking them out.
I have not made it to the restaurant yet, but we’ve ordered out numerous times from here. I have yet to be disappointed.
Foodie Favorites: Start off with some scallion pancakes. Xiao long bao’s (soup dumplings) are a must. The short rib dan mein (noodles).
If you’re looking for a delicious Argentinian restaurant in Pasadena that is Malbec.
This restaurant serves Argentinian classics like grilled steaks, chimichurri, empanadas, argentenian provolone and chorizos. All wonderfully prepared that your tastebuds will thank you for it.
We first went to Malbec for Christmas one year and loved the vibe of the staff and patrons celebrating the holiday. We’ve been back several times for the empanadas and skirt steak.
Malbec also has a great selection of South American wines to choose from.
Food Favorites: Empanadas and provoleta. Skirt steak with chimichurri. For dessert, Argentinean custard bread pudding.
22. Los Anayas
Located in the Playhouse District, Anaya’s is a new Mexican restaurant that opened sometime during the pandemic. We enjoyed their outdoor dining. They have great dishes and their margaritas are fabulous.
They have indoor and outdoor dining. The interior has beautiful murals that will quickly catch your eye. If you plan on going on a weekend night, definitely make reservations.
Foodie Favorites: Love the mango margarita.
23. DAddy’s Chicken Shack
Fried chicken sandwiches are all the rage now and Daddy’s Chicken Shack has one of the tastiest in Pasadena.
I say that because I am usually not a friend chicken sandwich lover (hubby is), but I thoroughly enjoy the sandwiches at Daddy’s Chicken Shack. I’ve tried a few in Pasadena. The chicken is crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, well seasoned, and more importantly, it doesn’t taste grease. The coleslaw, brioche bun, and siracha mayo really tie it all together.
This spot is a small place. There is no seating inside. You can take it to go or try to snag one of their few tables outside.
Foodie Favorite: The Big Daddy
24. Top Restaurant
Top restaurant (not to be confused with Tops burgers) is located on Colorado Blvd in an unassuming shopping strip. We found this spot out of curiosity and wondered why it was always so packed. That’s because they serve some of the best Hawaiian and Indonesian food in Pasadena.
Here you’ll find Hawaiian bbq short ribs, spam musubi, oxtail soup, authentic loco moco, chicken katsu, Indonesian fried rice and so much more. Honestly, it’s all amazing. Most meat plates are served with white rice and their yummy mac salad.
As of today, it is still take-out only. It is probably the best way to try Top’s as it’s small and a no-frills kind of place.
You won’t regret ordering from here. The portions are generous and delicious.
Food Favorites: The short ribs and chicken katsu are our favorites.
25. Go China
Go China is your neighborhood spot where you order Chinese take-out and perhaps go in for Christmas dinner.
They serve all the typical meals as well as some special plates that we have come to love like their honey walnut shrimp. It’s one of those places we love to order take-out from cause we know the food will always be good.
While they are busy with take-out, they are a restaurant with a wonderful dine-in area.
Food Favorites: War wonton soup and honey walnut shrimp.
Are you hungry yet? Ready to make a few reservations and Door Dash orders?
I do plan to continue updating this list. I know there are other fabulous dining establishments in Pasadena outside of this list. I purposely did leave off a few franchises and a few fast food spots that I may frequent but thought they’d be best on another future post.
Have you been to any of these yummy places to eat in Pasadena? Which one?
What’s your favorite foodie spot in Pasadena? Where have you not been to and looking forward to trying?
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