A Fond Farewell to Pasadena: Places to Eat

Over the last few years, my coworkers and I have developed some interesting language ticks. This happens whenever a group of people spends time together, and in my experience it’s a pretty fun thing. Probably the most pronounced example of this is the naming of restaurants. We rarely if ever use the proper names of any of the fine dining establishments in Old(e) Town(e) Pasadena — each and every place has its own special name or names. I’ll miss this a lot when I’m in Burbank. Coming up with new ways to say “it’s the cafeteria again today, isn’t it?” will get old after a while.

That said, here’s a few of my favorite renamed restaurants in the ‘dena.

The Dong

Saladang Song, a Thai restaurant just south of the office. The food is OK, but it’s a little expensive. For whatever reason, this is where we always went for group lunches or to interview a candidate.

Jerk City a.k.a. The Jerk a.k.a. Let’s Jerk it

Soda Jerk, defunct. A deadly combination of the worst service in town and the closest restaurant to our office, this rat hole got far more of our business than it ever deserved. It’s been closed for a few months now and I honestly haven’t missed it.

Boring City

The Crown City Brewery, a few blocks east of the office by the gold line. The food was nothing to write home about and it’s a little expensive, but it’s a safe choice so we often ended up eating there when we couldn’t think of anything else. It got the name after we inadvertently went there four days in a row.

It’s more of a dinner place a.k.a. I heard the beers have gotten better

The Union Cattle Company nee The Pasadena Brewing Company. It’s not open for lunch any more, and when it was the food was expensive and the beer horrible. They serve their own line of poorly-executed extract brews. Definitely avoidable. After we tried it out the first time, I urged a second trip as I was told that some of the beers were OK. This definitely isn’t the case.

Oysters and Lamb Chops a.k.a. Is Scott Buying? a.k.a. Corporate Action

De Lacey Club 41, a schwanky eatery for the executive set. Jeremy has a thing for their oysters and lamb chops. Indeed, he was at times compelled to buy lunch for me and Clancey just so we would agree to go there with him. This is also a favorite destination for lunch paid for by the boss, so we aim for it when Scott is buying.

Finally, by tradition we go for cocktails whenever there’s a stock split or a change of senior management or an acquisition, etc. etc. (any sort of corporate action, really). This is the best spot for lunch that also has a full bar.

That Place with the Pub Food

Barney’s, a restaurant so exciting that at times we can’t remember its name despite having gone to it dozens of times. The food is about average. The service is about average, and the beers have only recently achieved average. (Their selection was plain old poor before they put Chimay on the list.)

Eat Fresh a.k.a. Eat Cheap

Subway. Stolen from the restaurant’s commercials, this is (I hope) the only instance of a corporate tag line being used as a name. The alternate name reflects the notion that this is The Place to eat when you’re running low on funds.


Russell’s, notable because it serves breakfast all day long. Sometimes you just need pancakes at noon if you’re going to make it through the day.

Cheap Thai

NaNa, a Thai joint with good lunch specials. It’s not the best in the world, but it’s good enough and the price is right.

Bad Thai

City Thai, home of moderate to poor food and marginal service. I can only remember going there once.

P Thai

President Thai, which no longer delivers to our office and is therefore one of two places that we’ll drive to for lunch. Their lunch specials are really good, and I’m a huge fan of their food.

Zankou Chicken

Zankou Chicken. You don’t really need a name when the restaurant is called “Zankou.” This is the other place that we’ll drive to. If you want a plate full of chicken and hummus and pita and garlic, there is no place better. I like to order some extra falafel.

Fake Zankou a.k.a. Fankou

Rotisserie Chicken on Colorado, the eatery of choice when we just don’t feel like driving to Zankou. It’s a pale imitation both in terms of food and price. I don’t think they even serve falafel, but we can get there on foot.

The Buffet

Mezbaan, an Indian restaurant with a really good lunch buffet. Only advisable if you’re in the mood to put down a metric ton of food.

The Other Indian Place

All India Cafe, which we haven’t been to since Mezbaan started doing a buffet. I’m honestly surprised that it’s still in business.

Corey isn’t coming to lunch

The Kitchen, an Italian joint up by Idealab that I just don’t like. I kick and scream and refuse to go whenever it’s suggested, so whenever I don’t go to lunch, this is the destination.


A pool hall and diner that doesn’t open until noon. We go there seldom enough that it doesn’t really have a proper name.

It isn’t Monday

Kansai, a Japanese noodle joint most notable for not being open on Mondays.


Hurry Curry, a lately-popular curry and rice joint.

Greasy Burger

There use to be a burger stand on the corner of Union and Pasadena that we called greasy burger. The name is now used to elide lunch decision precedence rules which stipulate that if you shoot down somebody’s lunch suggestion you must suggest something different. The name of the Greasy Burger is invoked when you can’t think of anything better. (Kansai is sometimes used for this purpose on Mondays.)

The Chippy a.k.a. The Chip Shop a.k.a. The Winchester a.k.a Jake’s UK a.ka. Kansai

Lucky Baldwin’s, Pasadena’s beer Mecca and our single most common destination for lunch. They serve British pub food, which is nothing to write home about, but their beer selection is amazing, the wait staff is (usually) marvelous and the jukebox is top notch, sporting the likes of Foreigner, Abba and Peggy Lee.

The “Chip” names come from the fact that it serves fish and chips and from “Chippy Friday,” a tradition started by my sister that mandates trips to the chip shop every Friday. We have since expanded the definition of “Friday” to include any day that is somebody’s last day of the week (i.e., Thursday if somebody is taking Friday off), Monday if somebody missed the previous Chippy Friday, or any day when one of us feels like having a pint with lunch.

“The Winchester” is an homage to the fine film “Shawn of the Dead.” Once we sat at Jake’s without getting served for fifteen minutes, so we moved lunch to The Chippy, forgetting to tell a coworker who planned to meet us at Jake’s. When he eventually showed up at LB’s, we claimed to be at “Jake’s UK.”

The “Kansai” name comes from the one and only one time we took Tom from the algorithms group to lunch with us. We claimed to be going to Kansai. When we got there, he ran next door to buy smokes. At the same time, we decided that the restaurant was too full, so we went to The Chippy, completely forgetting that Tom was with us and rather thoroughly ditching him.

I just don’t like you guys

Secret code for bringing your own lunch.

Posted in | | 7 Responses

7 responses to “A Fond Farewell to Pasadena: Places to Eat”

  1. TP
    November 2, 2005 at 5:11 am |

    What? No “Hole in the Wall”?

  2. cp
    November 2, 2005 at 6:39 am |

    Hole in the wall! I completely forgot about that place! Thanks.

    You don’t by chance remember HitW’s actual name, do you? I don’t know that I’ve ever used it.

  3. Robert
    November 2, 2005 at 7:21 am |

    You missed a few good spots:

    Andy’s Cafe – best club sandwich you’ll ever find, especially considering the price – less than $5

    Wolfe Burger – best turkey burger bar none. actually better than the hamburger. fries are excellent too.

    Monty’s – old school steak house with a classic gangster era ambience. horse races are frequently shown on the TV. The food is very good, but Carter will tell you their steaks “are like hockey pucks”. Not true.

    Celestino – nice ritzy northern Italian cuisine at surprisingly reasonable prices.

    La Fornaretta – best gourmet pizza in Pasadena

    Happy Bowl – long, long gone but damn it was the best 2.99 lunch you could get anywhere. We used to eat there like 3 or 4 times a week when I worked at the FQ

  4. TP
    November 2, 2005 at 8:34 am |

    El Toreo

  5. cp
    November 2, 2005 at 9:27 am |

    Yeah, I’ll cop immediately to horribly neglecting most everything outside of Old(e) Town(e). Some other FQ named-favourites:

    Scooners – Hamburger Hamlet, where we ordered scooners of Long Island Ice Tea’s for lunch

    Rain – Denny’s, where we ate every time it rained (for whatever reason)

  6. cp
    November 2, 2005 at 9:27 am |

    Chip Zone – El Portal, popular back in the day for having the perfect ratio of carbs to fat for the silly “Zone” diet.

  7. nlo
    November 2, 2005 at 10:05 pm |

    Hole in the wall= hole in the colon.

    The Buffet= Mezbaan –> Lezbaan (courtesy of Paulie)

    Hey, what are your thoughts on noodle world?

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