"If I had stayed in parochial Pasadena I might have become an alcoholic." - Pasadena native Julia Child, confiding to her biographer.
For the first century of the city's existence, since the era when New Year's Day floats were horse-powered, Pasadena has fostered, polished, and preserved its reputation as restaurant-unfriendly. At dusk downtown sidewalks rolled up just as the bungalow shades rolled down. Locals preferred the solace of their own living and dining rooms, their own cocktail/club functions, their lodges of secret societies.
The city was founded by Midwesterners with inherently puritan values. They came to Pasadena to relieve asthma, to land-speculate, to build homes, to plant, nurture, and groom palms, pepper trees, bananas, camphors, and camellia gardens... to live out-of-doors. They could devote any evening in January to relaxing on a craftsman river-rock porch while enjoying star-flooded skies and balmy, orange-scented breezes. Why endure the uninviting conditions of the perpetually muddy/rutted downtown streets, where evening excitement along Colorado Boulevard was limited to Chinese opium dens and railroad-worker saloons?
Many of the nation's finest architects, recognizing the blank (and moneyed) canvas, settled in the region. The result: neighborhoods gushing with dramatic, timeless properties that gave residents another reason to remain home-bound.
Therefore Pasadena was always a challenge for restauranteurs - unsupported eateries came and went. The warning was clear - open in Pasadena at your own risk.
Decades of increasing downtown decay was halted in the 1980's - local conservation groups thwarted the blighted area's destruction and initiated a citywide redevelopment/preservation movement that's become a model for historic preservation projects nationwide. The former slum is now an economic success because it has been sculpted into a shopping and dining destination.
With nearly 600 eateries, Pasadena has more restaurants per capita than New York City.
Pasadena's restaurant boom has been contagious. Downtown Los Angeles, for years a virtual after-dark graveyard, has risen from the ashes with delirious, chef/foodie/hipster-driven fury. Communities historically marooned in their own faceless insulation - Eagle Rock, Silver Lake, Long Beach, Highland Park, San Gabriel, are now lively culinary beacons.
Pasadena dining will be showcased during the citywide Pasadena Restaurant Week, taking place Sunday, April 27th through Friday, May 2. Sponsored by the Pasadena Chamber, participating restaurants will offer prix fixe dinner and/or lunch menus. Dinners will be three-course meals, lunches will be two courses. The restaurants will determine their own pricing individually, either $26, $35 or $44 for dinner and $10, $15, $20 or $25 for lunch. Alcohol, tip and tax are not included in the price.
Restaurants participating include:
View individual restaurant menus for the event here.