No neighborhood in the vast spread of southern California better exemplifies the best restaurants in Los Angeles than the city of Pasadena. Within the city, fine dining is nestled alongside the latest food trends, peppered with traditional Mexican food and other ethnic cuisines. Whether you’re craving a taste of spicy or sweet, here are just a few of the many places in Pasadena that represent the diverse dining that can be found in the city.
The Royce is one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles for fine dining. Located in the historic Langham Pasadena hotel, this modern steakhouse also serves an elegant Sunday brunch with seafood and steak-centric options rather than your usual egg dishes. It’s one of the few luxurious restaurants where you can dress up and, thanks to its widely spaced table arrangements that allow for private conversation, it’s a great place for a date night. Nothing like your average old-school steakhouse with deals on prime rib, the minimalist decor and lavish white leather seating help it stand out from the traditional California architecture of the rest of the hotel, which resembles a cross between a mission and a majestic hacienda.
Close to hotels, Alexander’s Steakhouse is where locals go to splurge on a Chef’s Tasting Menu. A meeting place for movers and shakers with tables spaced widely apart, Alexander’s allows for discreet talks in the starkly refined dining room. Though new to Pasadena, the Bay Area transplant is already drawing favorable reviews, making it one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles, thanks to a modern steakhouse menu that has a decidedly Asian twist. Look for upscale cuts of meat, such as Wagyu along with classic cuts of New York steak and filet mignon, along with some non-steak proteins, and side dishes like truffled potatoes and fried green beans. Dessert options reimagine classics like apple crumbles and banana cream pie into clever updates better than the original.
Union is a new-style Italian place that is adored by locals as well as notoriously finicky food critics. Union attracts not only locals looking for a plate of pasta but also foodies from all over the city wanting to try something other than Americanized spaghetti and meatballs. The chef creates a harmony of northern Italy and California, which incorporates housemade butters and charcuterie along with house-made pasta to create delicious dishes of land and sea, like squid-ink pasta or a hearty pork shank.
El Toreo is a small hole-in-the-wall on Fair Oaks that serves some of the hottest salsa at any of Pasadena’s traditional Mexican food establishments as a precursor to a decadent selection of combination plates, including hard shell tacos and richly sauced enchiladas. The aging booths surrounded by peeling posters and a jukebox blasting Tejano tunes welcomes you in as you sip on your choice of Mexican coke, Jarritos sodas, or beer, while you wait for a steaming platter of refried beans and your entree to arrive.
Mijares is one of Pasadena’s oldest Mexican restaurants. The family-friendly atmosphere and delicious icy margaritas make it a favorite place to celebrate special occasions or just enjoy a night out. With two locations and generations of family working the scenes, Mijares treats everyone like longtime guests. Generous portions of seafood, soups, salads, appetizers, and specialties like carnitas, menudo, and more can be eaten in the Mexican-styled dining room, out on one of the spacious patios, or ordered to go.