NFT Los Angeles Pasadena East / San Marino

Pasadena East / San Marino

As you venture east past Lake Avenue along Colorado, the cute shops and restaurants segue into drab auto repair shops, dingy motels, and the attendant detritus. But head south and you'll find not only some of the smartest people in southern California (thanks to the presence of Caltech), but also some of the richest. The homes around Pasadena City College make for a fancy Sunday drive.

If you're jonesing to get back to nature, strangely enough, the east side of Pasadena is probably just the place. The 150-acre Huntington Library and Gardens will take you away from it all with wide-open spaces and one of the world's most resplendent cactus exhibitions. Hungry? The Rose Garden Tea Room at the Huntington Library is expensive but well worth it. Posh nosh ain't your thing? Fear not -- there's always See more.

>In-N-Out Burger.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Hoppily Ever After? The Bunny Museum

By Beth Deitchman
Not unlike the Taj Mahal, Pasadena's semi-secret Bunny Museum is a monument to love, a testament to surreal Donnie Darko consanguinity and an opportunity to see endless amounts of live, stuffed and ceramic bunny rabbits in the home of two very special, kind-of-weird bunny-obsessed romantics.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Russell Wightman

Zephyr Cafe
Whenever I hanker for an afternoon caffeine fix (because, let’s face it, I’d happily hook up to the nearest caffeine-filled IV and roll it around with me like oxygen), I don’t hesitate to drag my crashing metabolism to Zephyr Coffeehouse and Art Gallery. There are many reasons for this, but I’ll just give you four. One: Because it’s comfortable–there are lots of readers and quietly conversing patrons, on some nights there is even live music in the background. Two: Because it’s clean. Unlike other chains, the armchairs aren’t dirty and there’s no chance of finding half a Tootsie Roll plastered to your bum when you leave…not that it happened to me, I just hear things. Three: Because it’s beautiful. The old craftsman house is full of nooks and crannies and has brightly colored rooms decorated with constantly changing artwork. And not the Thomas Kinkaide kind, the I-just-barely-make-my-rent kind. Four: And maybe I should’ve mentioned this first–the coffee, tea, and food are really good. Those heavily steeped in tea will find rare, loose-leaf varieties that often elude them, while javaheads will find plenty of unique spins on espresso to keep them caffeinated…until the next crash that is.

Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Christina Wenger

Il Capo Café and Deli
In Argentinean culture, the 29th is lucky and it is imperative to get some gnocchi, put a dollar or two under the plate, and eat for luck. This is why I love Argentinean culture—eating and a few bucks lead to luck. A friend has been raving about this Argentine market-restaurant in Pasadena, so on the 29th, we went for good food and a side of luck. I’ve never been to Argentina, but based on what I know, this place was both authentic and delicious. Lunch requires ordering at the register while dinner offers table service and a little music to boot, but both meals roll out the staples—savory empanadas, juicy steaks, chimichurri, huge sandwiches, and of course, three kinds of gnocchi. It being the 29th and all, we decided on “pink gnocchi,” which comes with a beet-dyed mashed potato edging and though looks like sugary frosting, is amazingly savory and delicious. The packed shelves and refrigerators contain all sorts of goodies, perfect for experimenting South American style in your own kitchen. Admission: We ate the gnocchi with two dollars under the plate and then, afterwards, took the dollars back again. Hey, there was coffee to be bought!

Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

The Huntington
When one of the world’s most famous gardens, library, and art collection is in your neighborhood, you become a member. Then, you go often. You take a friend each time for free. You enjoy the fact that while the plants in your house are just barely alive, there are no such problems here. You pop in to see the changing art and document exhibits. You spend hours in just one garden, instead of racing around to get your money’s worth. You get to know the ebb and flow of the different gardens—desert, Japanese, edible—until they become as familiar to you as your own name. Here is the secret, the one that even the most familiar with the Huntington may not know: On the first Thursday of every month, admission is free to all visitors. However, this is just until September 6; the free days are so popular that the Huntington will soon require everyone to sign up for free days in advance (online or by phone). So go on first Thursday; linger a while; take a friend; get to know just one garden. Act like a member for free.

Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Madeleine's Restaurant
A preface to this radar: I have never eaten at Madeleine’s—I have only gotten the grand tour by a very kind hostess. If the food is as good as the tour, though, no patron will be disappointed. Madeleine’s is a small, family-owned bistro featuring gourmet cuisine in a beautiful, homey setting. To start with, there’s the al fresco patio, where shaded patrons enjoy drinks and delicious looking salads. Then, I sweep past the casual bar and into the more formal dining room, of grand windows and a working fireplace, recalling, perhaps, a Henry James novel. Next, a private area for that large-but-intimate gathering and then, a banquet room—cozy and cheerful, it’s a room in which I like to imagine having a book release party. Finally, I am invited into the wine bar that actually smells of oak and tannins, with a portrait of the owner’s son above the mantle. One look at the outstanding menu and I knew I would be back for more, someday. The prices may be a bit too steep at this point in my artisan existence, but the grand tour let me dream of book release parties and disposable income.

Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Russell Wightman

Pasadena Sandwich Company
The things you overhear at Dog Park—scandalous stories of regular attendees? Check. Overpriced canine gadgetry? Check. Excellent restaurant recommendations? Surprisingly, check. I overheard one of the regulars praising the blasé-sounding Pasadena Sandwich Company for its multiplicity of meaty combinations. So I went, with husband in tow, to check out this mecca of meat. It’s in a small, slightly dingy building, across from the A-list shopping center boasting a Best Buy and an El Torito. Don’t be blinded by familiar names and abundant parking—park along the street, venture into the dark joint, and take a seat at one of the fifteen tables. Take time to pick out a few of the funnier baseball hats that serve as the shop’s décor. Listen as the staff yucks it up with the regulars, joking about surviving the daily grinder. When it comes to ordering, it pays to bring someone along to split because these are seriously the heapingist sandwiches I’ve ever seen. They cover the plate from end to end, their famous meat (or veggies) spilling out the sides, garnished by one lone pickle. And for all the heaping, plus a Coke, you get an under-$10 dollar bill.

Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Alice's Dog Park
Owning a feisty chihuahua is bit like being Naomi Campbell’s maid—you keep your eyes peeled constantly for any signs of trouble. My chihuahua, being a rescue from the mean streets of LA, doesn’t always enjoy company, particularly doggy company. So we take her to Alice’s Dog Park, in Pasadena, where she is forced to interact with all forms of canines and devleop, if not a comfortable companionship, than at least a non-growling tolerance. This off-leash dog park is nestled into the foothills, which on a clear day, makes life feel very Sound of Music. Neat, interesting people abound—as well as some bargain-bin wackies, to—so, there’s plenty of entertainment to be had while the dogs sniff circles around each other. There’s separate areas for large and small dogs (2 ½ acres and 1 acre, respectively), and if you get into a routine of going at around the same time, you’ll pretty much see the same dogs, which has helped our dog a lot. In the few months we’ve been going, she’s gone from squinty and suspicious to less-squinty and less-suspicious of the surrounding canines. Ahh. Progress.

Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Tucked away among the ficus and Southern plantation-like buildings that line Green Street in Pasadena is a delicious little discovery–a restaurant with fresh ingredients, a relaxed vibe, and no corkage fees on the BYO. Café Verde is so tiny, if you’re not careful, you’ll drive right by without noticing its neon green sign. Look for yellow patio umbrellas, a small seating area made up of benches and chairs, and people who look like they’re truly enjoying their food. Standouts on the menu, which can be found in all incarnations of dining, include the eggs benedict, coated in the creamiest hollandaise sauce ever; the pork sandwich, with meat tendered in citrus juice and smothered with onions and chipotle mayonnaise; and the lamb shank, with crispy edges and soft, flavorful meat within. Add to that their freshly squeezed juices–really, when was the last time you had orange juice that three minutes prior was a real orange?–and always amazing service, and you’ve got yourself one perfect morning, afternoon, or evening.

Posted By:  Sarah Wallin Wightman
Photo:  Sarah Wallin Wightman

Pasadena Farmers' Market at Victory Park
In times of green-induced panic, the best alternative is to shop at a market where you know the sellers aren’t playing friendly with the deadly diseases. The next best option is reverting back to your childhood diet and the strict no-green-foods policy by which you operated back then (excepting green M&M’s). But let’s just say you’re at a point in your life where you hanker for tender spinach leaves, spicy arugala, and crisp Romaine. Get your hankerin’ down to Pasadena’s Farmer’s Market at Pasadena High School from 8 am-12 pm on Saturdays. Gone are the nameless, faceless sellers of big market culture. The sellers here are actively involved with their produce and thus, you’ll never find any errant manure has found its way into the chemical composition of your veggies. Some of the not-to-be-missed stands are the “farmer guy,” with dirt under his fingernails from collecting his peas, beans, broccoli, and berries; the “peach people,” a husband-wife team who blow my mind with a different variety of peach every week; and of course, the “herb lady,” a spunky, well-manicured grower and seller of all things green. She’s helping to stamp out worried herbivores, including me, one bunch at a time.

Posted By:  Rin-rin Yu
Photo:  Rin-rin Yu

The Huntington
Built by railroad mogul Henry E. Huntington in 1919, the Huntington estate features 150 acres of botanical gardens of different types, a library of rare collections including the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, a world-class collection of the early editions of Shakespeare’s works, and a gallery of paintings, sculptures, porcelain and furniture. Strolling the botanical gardens takes you through the Japanese Garden, including a bonsai section; the Desert Garden with some magnificently enormous cacti; Shakespeare’s garden with white statues lining a grassy lawn; and winding roots and very tall trees in the Jungle Garden. Though many women are tempted to dress pretty for a romantic Sunday afternoon, wearing good shoes makes the day much more enjoyable. Make sure to reserve a spot for afternoon high tea in the Rose Garden as well. For non-members, entrance fees are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $10 for students and $6 for children 5-11.

Posted By:  Jessica Goeller
Photo:  Jessica Goeller

Sierra Madre Playhouse
If fictional melodrama is more your style, The Sierra Madre Playhouse offers the finest in lighthearted family fare, as well as acting workshops for adults and children. Past productions have included The Seven Keys to Baldpate, Auntie Mame, and Mur-der on the Nile. This volunteer-run theater has been in operation since 1979, and has twice been voted “Best Live Theater” by readers of The Pasadena Weekly. Mingle with the cast after the show, then enjoy a stroll through charming Sierra Madre, or stop into one of the many nearby restaurants and cafés for an after-theater nosh.

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