Pasadena’s diverse culinary scene is centered around Old Town and offers a variety of restaurants. Whether you are looking for French cuisine or traditional Japanese food, there is something for everyone in Pasadena.
Indulge in ramen bowls that include koku tonkotsu with pork broth fortified with pork back fat, burnt onion oil and crunchy wood ear mushrooms or jun tonkotsu with a smoky miso broth, garlicky scallions and fat-streaked char siu slices.
1. Maison Akira
Located in the quaint theatre district of Old Town, Maison Akira is the love child of chef Akira Hirose. Born in Kyoto, Japan, Hirose trained under French culinary giant Joel Robuchon before finding his way to Los Angeles, where he has served patrons at venues including Citrus, Georgian Room of the Ritz Carlton Pasadena and the Tower Restaurant at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Akira’s classic training is complemented by artistic Asian sensibilities that creates a unique blend of traditional French cooking with Pacific Rim highlights like miso marinated grilled Chilean sea bass. Designed with multiple intimate dining areas accented with mirrors, crystal chandeliers and theatrical red draperies, this is a great spot for special occasions.
While the ambiance is a bit overwrought, the food is outstanding. Starters include escargots de Bourgogne and onion soup gratinee, while mains include shiso dusted tuna with yuzu soy sauce and grilled Maine lobster with wasabi caviar. For dessert, be sure to try the chocolate souffle with shiso ice cream and black truffles.
A local favorite, this spot serves up flavorful Hawaiian and Indonesian cuisine in a laid back space near City College. The crispy and golden Indonesian fried chicken is a must, as is the Spam musubi. The menu also offers a wide selection of sushi and sashimi dishes. While this spot isn’t as big as some of the other restaurants on our list, it’s well worth a visit. The food is always good and the service is attentive, even during busy times.
2. Café Santorini
With its cliff-hugging villages, black sand beaches and soul-stirring sunset views, Santorini has become one of the most celebrated Greek islands, inspiring everything from new wave resorts to fine dining restaurants. Among the best is Café Santorini, a romantic restaurant with a contemporary menu that celebrates local culinary traditions and ingredients. The restaurant is set in a former monastery in Fira, and its menu of modern takes on regional Greek cuisine, including moussaka croquettes and slow-simmered lamb, draws diners from across the island and globe.
This small cafe in Fira offers a variety of breakfast choices, deluxe lunch and dinner dishes and quick snacks like sandwiches and wraps, with plenty of seating both inside and out, plus delicious homemade desserts. Its patio offers stunning views. Reservations are recommended.
In the charming village of Firostefani, this family-run restaurant is a great choice for lunch or dinner, offering a variety of dishes, including traditional greek mezes and fresh seafood. The restaurant is right by the water and has a lovely setting with sea views. Reservations are highly recommended.
Hidden in the lanes below the castle in Pyrgos, this lovely restaurant serves some of my favorite meals on Santorini — think lobster yiouvetsi (a creamy seafood and tomato soup), seared ahi with a porcini mushroom-Marsala sauce and grilled half-chicken with garlic-mashed potatoes and a roasted pepper dip. It also has an excellent wine list, and reservations are recommended.
This seaside taverna is one of the most popular on Santorini, with incredible sunset views and super fresh seafood. The food is grilled or baked in a custom-made open grill, lending lobster yiouvetsi and pork souvlaki an inimitable flavor, while the vegetable fricassee, and goat cheese-topped omelet are good choices for meat-free eaters. The menu is a bit pricey, but worth it for the view and atmosphere.
3. Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery
One of the best places to eat in Pasas, Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery offers some of the city’s most delectable food. Their curated selection of cheeses is a treat for your taste buds, while their mac & cheese is a decadent take on this childhood classic. If you’re looking for a more hands-on experience, you can also book a cheese-making class at the restaurant.
This newcomer to the downtown scene dips a little deeper into Midwestern nostalgia than most other LA restaurants. Its menu features dishes like cornbread eclairs with silky chicken liver mousse, which is sure to trigger some serious nostalgia in native Midwesterners. Other highlights of the menu include saffron cavatelli served with braised lamb and aged sheep’s cheese, which is a flavor bomb you can’t get anywhere else in Los Angeles.
The restaurant is housed in a former fire department horse stable on Green Street, and the space still feels a bit rugged, with wooden rafters soaring above the dining room and patio. But the food at Agnes is far from your local fish fry—wife and husband team Vanessa Tilaka and Thomas Kalb focus on regional American cooking, with dishes like their bucatini carbonara with Marin Sun Farms lamb belly and 14-day dry-aged ribeye pleasing longtime regulars.
One of the best things to do when visiting Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery is to order a cheese platter. The menu includes a variety of different cheeses from around the world, and the platter is a great way to sample all of the flavors. The restaurant also offers a number of other delicious dishes, including their mac & cheese and grilled cheese sandwich. The restaurant is a great place to take your family, friends, or colleagues for an unforgettable meal.
4. Ramen Tatsunoya
If you’ve been to Pasadena lately (or wandered around the convention center or shopped Colorado Boulevard), you’ve likely seen people lined up down the block. This isn’t a line for an errant holiday sale; it’s for bowls of ramen from Ramen Tatsunoya, a Kurume, Japan-based specialist that’s just opened its first long-term LA outpost here.
It’s a small space, so expect to wait. Once you’re seated, a waitress will take your pink tickets and show you to your seat. Each ticket is marked with the hardness of your noodle preference: harigane (extremely hard), barikatai (kind of hard), katai (normal), yawarakai (soft), bariyawarakai (very soft). The waitress will also ask you if you want extra broth or noodles, which she’ll prepare for you if you say yes.
This is a great place to order the traditional tonkotsu ramen and chashu — that fatty, flavorful pork that’s a mainstay of ramen. The broth is thick and meaty, with a hint of fatty sweetness. They’ve also got a jun tonkotsu option that’s lighter and less creamy.
The menu is limited but everything here is high quality, and incredibly tasty. You can order cafeteria-style at the counter, pointing out what you like or asking the servers for recommendations. The jiggly, vinegary adobo chicken and the handmade turon (sticky, banana-stuffed lumpia) are especially good. And for dessert, don’t miss the silky coconut flan. You’ll be thinking about it for weeks. And you’ll definitely want to go back.
5. La Brea Bakery
Popular for its handmade bread, this casual cafe offers sandwiches, soup & other light fare. Disneyland Resort Magic Key holders receive a discount on food and non-alcoholic beverages.
The La Brea Bakery’s 1989 arrival was a seminal moment for California cuisine, ushering in awareness of sourdough and artisan baking nationwide. Nancy Silverton (then handling desserts at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago and later running the bakery at Campanile) and Mark Peel’s concept helped spread a love of artisanal bread and quality ingredients that had long existed in somewhat smaller pockets of the state. The company, now owned by Aspire Bakeries, operates only two cafes today: one on its namesake street in Los Angeles and this location inside Disneyland’s Downtown Disney District.
The restaurant is small and comfortable, with a big window out front that lets in plenty of sunlight and some fresh air. The menu is extensive, with a variety of sandwiches, salads, pizzas and pastas. It also features a large selection of pastries and sweets. If you’re looking for a quick bite, look for the Postmates button at checkout, which allows you to schedule a delivery. The service is fast and the food is delicious! The only downside is that the restaurant closes quite early. Fortunately, there are plenty of other great options in the area!