NFT Los Angeles Pasadena

Pasadena

Essentials
With the aggressive development of Old Town and the Paseo, it may seem like Pasadena is nothing more than an outdoor mall. But its history as LA's artsy half-sibling shines through if you look beyond Colorado Boulevard. Check out the Norton Simon Museum's small but eclectic art collection, enjoy an outdoor concert at the restored Levitt Pavilion, or hike the Arroyo Seco to see a different side of LA's neighbor to the northeast.

Sundries/Entertainment
All that development is good for something--the shopping in Pasadena can't be beat. While Old Town is chock-a-block with chain stores, don't overlook enduring mom-and-pop spots like Canterbury RecordsSee more.

> and Vroman's Bookstore. Those looking to score unique clothing, furniture, and antiques on a budget should prepare to approach bargain shopping nirvana every second Sunday of the month at the famous Rose Bowl Flea Market.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Literary Los Angeles

By Christine Ziemba
L.A.'s independent bookstores are as idiosyncratic as its inhabitants. Its highs as high, its lows as low. The life of an Angeleno-bound textual object is no day at the beach.

Read More...

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

POP Champagne & Dessert Bar
C'mere, beautiful. I know it's been a long week. We've been caught up with work, and neither one of us has gotten enough attention. Trust me, I know. So here's what we're going to do. We're going out. For dessert. AND bubbly. Plus swank, swank atmosphere. (It's got bubble-shaped mirrors--I mean, come on now.) If that doesn't get things simmering, I'm a monkey's uncle. Which I'm pretty sure isn't the case. I'm not sure who drafted this business plan, but it's close to the ideal date spot for overstimulated professionals who appreciate the simpler things among the finer things, ersatz class with no pressure. Skip dinner. Just fill up on crepes and hoist a flute. I have heard people complain about the service, but I've never had any problems. And, once, I happened to drop in while a speed dating session was going on across the room, which would make a fantastic people-watching date, methinks.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Romantix Pasadena
Do you fancy your sexuality a positive thing, a thing that, by rights, should not be weighed down with shame, sleaze and other societal baggage? Are you seeking a warm, welcoming place in which to explore your sexual drives, where your perfectly natural, human desires will not be stigmatized, where you can be horny without humiliation? This is not that place. While Los Angeles is famous for its friendly, relatively guilt-free sex shops (Pleasure Chest, Hustler Hollywood, et al), Romantix Pasadena has all the charm of your uncle’s closet. Fluorescent light isn't kind to anything, but reflecting off boilerplate porn tapes, comically oversized dildos and cheap-looking S/M gear, it feels positively filthy. And that's not to mention the light coating of dust on all the merchandise. For exiting customers, I'd suggest Romantix Pasadena offer complimentary hand sanitizer. However, if you're wallowing in sexual starvation, and you think sex goes better with generous sides of sleaze and guilt (and there's a case to be made for that), go ahead and give it a rummage.



Posted By:  Brian La Belle
Photo:  Brian La Belle

Old Pasadena
Tucked up against the mountains and home to the world famous Rose Bowl, Pasadena feels like a little town in another world when you consider it's just fifteen minutes from downtown LA. At the heart of Old Pasadena is Colorado Street, a stretch of a half-dozen blocks filled with shopping, dining and entertainment to keep you and your guests occupied for hours. Featuring a great mix of chain retailers and small boutiques, there is something for everyone and everything you could hope to find. A wide array of restaurants cover everything from fine dining to a certain American chain featuring large breasted women in tank tops. Take advantage of the super cool diagonal cross walks and pop your head down the side streets for even more stores. Street parking is available if you're not staying long and there are plenty of lots with a reasonable $6 maximum rate. If you're staying downtown ride the Metro Gold Line to the Del Mar stop and walk a few blocks, it's a great trip. I wish I could be a smart ass about Old Pasadena but it's one of the best parts of the LA area I've found since moving here.



Posted By:  Brian La Belle
Photo:  Brian La Belle

Rose Bowl Flea Market
Billed as one of the biggest in the world, the Rose Bowl Flea Market rolls into Pasadena the second Sunday of each month. There are three distinct areas to see: first are the new items, gadgets and clothing for sale around the base of the stadium; second is the lot near the front gate featuring all things antique; finally, be sure to cross the bridge and check out the insanely large selection of vintage clothing. You can find a great bargain if you look hard but some of the vendors are out of their mind when it comes to pricing their goods. Don't be afraid to haggle, I'm sure the majority of sellers don't want to schlep their goods back home. Food inside is a little expensive and drink prices are insane at $4 for a water or soda, so do yourself a favor and bring something from home. The flea market is massive so ladies this is not the day to make a fashion statement and wear heels. Be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat or whatever else you need to to prevent a sunburn since there is very little shade to duck into.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Burger Continental
Character emerges under pressure. That's why we fall in love with the people who lead us to make fools of ourselves. Burger Continental, an oddly named Pasadena Mediterranean restaurant wherein Cal Tech nerds put away their lunch-beers, is equally famous for its evening show, featuring bellydancers and band. The band plays a few songs to warm up. Then the dancer emerges. She gyrates her way into the crowd, rippling her stomach and waving a dark red scarf, and teasing the customers' attention away from their massive kebab helpings. Eventually, someone will break the tension, get up, and follow the dancer's lead, making "snake arms" as she wraps the scarf around his head. The rest of the table giggles. Flashes ignite. Mildly embarrassing memories are forged. You can tell a lot about people by watching them dance.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Rick's Drive-in
Just what Pasadena needs: more high income housing. If the matter were put to a vote, I am sure that the good residents of Pasadena would choose Rick’s over condos, condos, condos. Rick’s Drive-in, which has been located on the corner of Walnut and El Molino for over 40 years, received their walking papers last spring so that the new owners could build on the land. But Rick’s is still there and you can’t help but having schadenfreude in thinking that maybe the developers have lost their financing. So there’s still time to savor their great burgers (most everyone that I know thinks Rick’s is way better than In N Out.) I like the burgers but my favorite item on the menu is “The Spuderito.” It is made with beans, fries, taco sauce, and cheese wrapped up in a large flour tortilla—it’s like a chili cheese fries burrito—and it’s divine. This is also one of the last places to find a taco burger: a mid-western mom’s version of a sloppy joe made with taco meat. Hopefully, Rick’s will find a new space in Pasadena so that you can enjoy their food for the next 40 years.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Russell Wightman

ArtNight Pasadena
Don’t you wish you could at least plan one weekend this fall where you’ll be able to go out for almost free? If so, you’re in luck (and if not, what the heck?). Twice a year, Pasadena gives a one night, all-access pass to many of its most famous cultural institutions—of which there are lots. They call it ArtNight, and while there is much art of the canvas-on-the-wall variety, it’s also much bigger and better and more fun than just looking at paintings. It’s a night when anyone, from anywhere, can ride around the city, listen to music, get huge discounts on food and drinks at local restaurants, and, naturally, look at paintings, sculptures, videos and every art form in between. And maybe even discuss them, if you don’t mind getting heady like that. All for free. Even better, it’s a night where you group up with some friends, hit some galleries or auditoriums, and catch up and laugh and enjoy each other’s company in beautiful spaces without having to spend any money. It harkens back to the days of sneaking into multiple movie theaters or jumping fences to swim in private pools, because you had no flow, but wanted to do something fun. So here it is. You’re welcome.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  none

Fitzsu Society
It sounds like a euphemism for the big F, or maybe something vaguely Japanese, maybe a sour chew or oyster cracker, but this Fitzsu is neither swear word nor international candy. It’s the most marvelously modern retail store, full of merchandise that keeps me and my comrades entertained for hours on end, as we sweep past floor to ceiling display shelves and point out all the wonderful, weird little inventions. Because above all, that’s what Fitszu is—a store that still sells high-design inventions and gadgets, as well as beautifully designed tableware and accessories. If you don’t give a crap about nicely designed (and often whimsical) wine glasses, date books, or doggy bowls, don’t bother stopping in this place—your Wal-Mart-Pottery-Barn sensibilities will be insulted by both the design and the price. But, if like me, you can find excitement in a parrot-shaped wine opener, a bright wind-up radio, a man-shaped toothpaste cap, or in taking part in their latest events (regularly updated on their website) like book release parties and half-price sales, find a friend and plan to spend a day enjoying just what Fitzsu is.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Russell Wightman

Distant Lands
Tucked away on Pasadena’s Raymond strip, Distant Lands is a veritable pooh-pooh platter of travel needs, providing everything from maps to travel guides to gear at a remarkably fair price. Whenever I visit, I tend to get lost for hours in the pages of Italy, China, or Mozambique. I test out phrases in Spanish and French, try on and rate backpacks, and delight in discovering travel products that I never needed before. I also must watch at least one travel special while I’m there; their DVD and VHS rental program means that I can always take it home with me if I my feet fall asleep or I need to pee. There’s also a top-notch travel agency in the store, with extremely helpful and down-to-earth agents, which is useful when you tend to be a stressful type on the verge of planning breakdown or an imaginative one with little to no cash flow. The owner, Adrian Kalvinskas, and his staff are attentive, friendly, savvy. If you want to spend an afternoon abroad without the exorbitant airfare or stowaway b.o., you must get off your couch and travel to Distant Lands. The store, that is.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Vroman's Bookstore
I’ll be the first to admit that I am often lured by the siren song of cheap books on the Internet. It’s just so easy. There’s no dealing with inept salespeople, who like in the mega-bookstore chain from You’ve Got Mail, know nothing about literature, authors, or where things are located in the store. The only bad latte is the one you make yourself from the Nescafe packet and the only annoying screaming is your husband cheering for his favorite dancer on Fox’s competition. Thus said, there are a few bookstores in the world that make me want to venture out into the world of potentially inept salespeople, bad coffee, and annoying screaming, and Vroman’s is one of them. The walnut bookshelves are packed with not just books, but “May We Suggest” tags, letting you know that someone in the store actually read and enjoyed the book before you plunge into the scary world of ownership yourself. Asking a question about location or author usually gets an associate-guided tour to the exact location or author of said inquiry. I always leave the store feeling like it was the best possible way to spend an hour. It’s enough to make a jaded online shopper starry-eyed again.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Russell Wightman

Father Nature's Lavash Wraps
As gentrification happily settles on a town—such as Pasadena—it leaves some vacancy in its wake, namely small, indie shops and eateries that just can’t compete with the newest incarnation of store-that-sells-the-white-shirt or restaurant-that-puts-remarkable-spin-on-ravioli. When, a few weeks ago, my husband and I were searching around for a quality grub on a shoestring budget, we wandered aimlessly, scratching our heads about where to go. Then, for some reason, I remembered that between the Diesel and Forever 21 shop fronts was the almost-hidden wrap-and-salad place. Father Nature’s is a gem of a hole-in-the-wall, serving both vegetarians and meativores with Mediterranean influenced wraps, salads, and addictive pickled offerings. Our Father Nature’s Wrap (their most popular) featured grilled chicken, pickled turnips, lettuce, tomatoes, tahini sauce, and a bit of hummus, encased in whole wheat lavish bread, packed so full that we were relieved we’d decided to split. While eating inside is no bonus, it’s right across the street from Colorado One Plaza, which is the perfect outdoor to-go spot. With all these unique offerings, it’s clear that Father Nature’s is a force gentrification (the villain of this piece, in case you missed it) will happily leave alone.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Dots Cupcakes
According to trendy mags, cupcakes are “in” right now. But they’ve bee “in” for me ever since my third-grade childhood birthday party where I specifically ordered my mom to make vanilla cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles. So I was delighted when I spotted a cute, retro-pink polka-dotted shop and practically shrieked, “A cupcakery!” (like the little man on Fantasy Island). And this cupcakery really is something to scream about. They have the standards like chocolate-chocolate and vanilla-vanilla, but also more avant-garde flavors like lemon drop, pina colada, and PB&J are available two days per week. My mom might roll her eyes at the $2.75 price tag per cupcake—“I could get a mix for $1.49 at Jewel-Osco”—but I want to stress that these are artisan concoctions. Plus, we should all support local business anyway. I celebrated finding the place with a red velvet topped with cream cheese frosting, and it was properly gooey on top and fluffy on the bottom, falling apart in my hands so that I had to scarf it down to keep it from becoming sidewalk art. Very third-grade birthday party reminiscent.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Canterbury Records
I’ve been around that block hundreds of times, admired the big yellow sign, yet, still had never set foot in Canterbury Records. My friends have raved about, showing me the bargains that they find there—Bad Company for $5, Willie Nelson for $3, Thelonius Monk for $9. This only brought out my cynical side: A shop full of great music at affordable prices—what’s the catch? There is no catch, really, just a shop in the vein of Hornsby and High Fidelity. I half-expected the man and woman working to start arguing about the best album of all time. Instead, what I saw was this: Rows of music, categorized by genre, with huge jazz, Latin, blues, and classical sections. Shelves stacked high of DVDs, both new and classic. I found the new Shins album for $8. A woman came in and asked for 15 copies of the Beatles’ Love album. The clerk didn’t bat an eye, and promptly went in the back and produced 15 copies. She clapped her hands and clutched the CDs to her chest. “Oh thank you,” she said. “I live down the street, but I’ve never been here before. Now I don’t know why I waited.”



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Lula Mae
“When life gives you lemons, make vodka.” So the charming introduction on Lula Mae’s website goes and completely sums up this sassy, strange Pasadena gem of a shop. Let me give you a run down of a few items I have been amused and/or delighted by: Subversive cross stitch patters, photos and postcards of Pasadena’s beautiful architecture, baby shirts and blankets in cuddly fabrics, as well as a few subversive ones thrown in for good measure, handmade cards for all occasions, subversive post-it notes and stationary (perfect for the overwhelmed administrator in all of us), “wash away your sins” kits as well as raging, wind-up nuns (cue fight music), bacon shaped band aids, a wonderful owner (Marci Christensen) who must be one of the nicest people on Earth…I could go on, but why bother? The store is small in space, but packed full of hours of examining possibilities, without ever feeling crowded or messy. It’s a weird little dream of a store—but one that you can’t help smiling at.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Firefly Bistro
There’s charm in finding a great deal on good food. And then, there’s a certain charm in splurging on great food, especially food prepared and served with as much thought and care as at Firefly Bistro in South Pasadena. Firefly’s menu changes per season—their chefs keep it interesting, whether it’s a wintery-dish like braised lamb shank, acorn squash risotto, or more summery fare like heirloom tomatoes with olive oil and buffalo mozzarella. And while these dishes don’t come cheap—average price runs between $15-30 for a dinner entrée—the meals don’t disappoint. The wine list is extensive and reasonably priced, as are their mixed drinks and beers. The dessert menu is particularly exciting, in that the pastry chef actually seems to have an imagination and comes up with the most amazing confections, like the grapefruit cheescake and a toasted coconut cream tart. The owners are personable and quick to converse, as are the servers. Even better, all this deliciousness takes place under a semi-permanent tent structure, lit up with twinkly white and decorative lights. Funny how eating in a tent under electric stars can be so charming.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Tonny's
As a high schooler, I spent some memorable moments at the local Taco Bell—writing yearbook stories while munching on a Mexican pizza, helping the valedictorian write her speech while eating tacos. But let’s be honest. It was never good food. It was just all I knew of Mexican food. Tonny’s is one of those 24-hour neighborhood Mexican restaurants where everyone seems to know each other and so, don’t mind the long wait between ordering water and receiving water, not to mention the food. Many people bring books, magazines, or plan to have that all-important “it’s not me, it’s you” talk. It might seem like east-side craziness to do so much waiting, but the food in all its incarnations, is truly amazing. The chile verde, my favorite, has just the right amount of sweet and sour and is large enough for two people to split; the tortillas are always homemade; the juices and smoothies are sweet and made fresh—just beware of the horchata, which has a watered down quality to it. I prefer sitting out on the back patio, with a painted beach scene of Mexico next to me, wishing that my (food) horizons had been expanded earlier in life.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Want to eat like the rich and famous in L.A.? Not me. Okay, truth–I would like to skip the whole waiting for a table part of dining out, but most of the time, I’d rather eat like the chefs themselves. They know food, they like food, they’ve decided to dedicate over half their day to bouillabaisses and salad greens. To me, it seems logical to trust such dedication. The School Café puts us, the commoners, in direct contact with chefs perfecting their craft at Pasadena’s famous Culinary Arts Institute down the street. The breakfast menu has meaty choices, like breakfast burritos, as well as new twists on classics like omlets and pancakes, while the lunch menu is a mix of creative sandwiches, daily soups, and a few pizza and pasta dishes. The pastry case is always loaded with tasty treats, some of them exceedingly beautiful, while the large class windows and a comfortable dining room lets patrons linger over coffee, tea, and all that deliciousness. While it may appear to be standard café fair, in the hands of these chefs, the flavors, the presentation, the taste, is all ________ (fill in the blank with your own unfamous catch phrase once you eat there).



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Russell Wightman

One Colorado
No city center? No problem here. One Colorado Plaza is that rare center of shopping, eating, art, and cultural events all in one convenient, turn-of-the-century architectured area. Located in the old alleys between Fair Oaks and Delacey on Colorado Boulevard, what were once back alley entrances have been turned into shops for clothing and jewelry, chain eateries, and whole host of other pleasant retail diversions. The fun at One Colorado, though, really starts at night. Huge screens that broadcast artists and their video art–that rotate frequently, in conjunction with the nearby Armory Center for the Arts–are played throughout the evening. Patrons can watch while eating, shopping, or meandering. Since it’s very dog friendly, many patrons bring their dogs and relax with a coffee or a gelato at the plaza’s public tables and benches. In the summer, movies under a theme–for example, Bond movies–play every weekend night for free; other activities include free dancing (and lessons), concerts, and celeb sightings. It’s also a major stop during Art Night, which happens in Pasadena every March and October. If you’re feeling hectic, stop in, wander, and regain your center.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

There was a time when I wanted nothing more than to be a New Yorker with a Tasti D•Lite within walking distance. I watched Sex and the City with an increasingly greenish expression. So I searched around for a creamy, lip-smacking frozen dessert and discovered a Los Angeles myth—that we’re somehow obsessed with frozen desserts, that they’re everywhere in this hood. Let me put it to bed right now—there are actually very few frozen dessert stops, at least in my neighborhood. So I craved until one day, sans Manolos or relationship drama, I stumbled upon 21 Choices in Old Town Pasadena. From the moment I walked in and was greeted with the sugary smell of waffle cones, the tasty samples, and the superabundance of toppings, I knew I’d found a frozen dessert heaven. 21 Choices serves six different types of frozen yogurt every day and the flavors change daily; among the choices is at least one sugar-free or fat-free option. The choices are updated daily on their website, so you can make sure that they’ll have the famous peanut butter monkey or creamy cappucino.



Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Click and print, right? Snazzy technological advances with digital cameras and photo printers have made it possible to take, see, and print photos all in a few moments. No muss, no fuss. But there are times when photos need to be enlarged, retouched—okay, you need that zit in the middle of your forehead stricken from the record forever and even the best Epson isn’t cutting it. When in said circumstance, the best possible solution is to head straight to Green Street Photo Lab, nestled into the brick brownstones and ficus trees that line the street. Inside, the softly colored yellow walls and wooden floors make you feel as if you just walked into an artist’s loft (not to mention the cute pug behind counter). The owners take their work very seriously and the result is beautiful, artisan-type photos. You can customize your photos with finishes, borders, sizing, and whatever other touches you may dream up; they even provide services like dodging, burning, and color matching. They can print photos from any medium (digital, slide) and though you pay just a bit more, the photos are exclaim-inducing, as in, “Oh my God, what kind of photo printer do you have?”




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