Pasadena Dining

Pasadena Restaurants

We were very pleased with the restaurants in Pasadena and we spent most of our time in Old Pasadena. There are a number packed into a cute little area of alleys. Running in between Union St. and W. Colorado Boulevard are Smith and Miller Alleys. Running across them is Hugus Alley which runs into DeLacey Avenue.

Sushi Roku

This one is my wife’s favorite. The decor is modern, simple, Japanese of course as well. We have eaten there several times. Our first night there we had a wonderful young waiter who suggested a number of dishes to try. Most were excellent. It has been too long ago to remember exactly what we had but it was a really wonderful meal.

Il Fornaio

A few feet across the courtyard from Sushi Roku is Il Fornaio. Turns out it is a chain that is primarily in California but has locations across the country. Whether you get pizza or one of the dinners you can’t go wrong. The food is consistently good. The pollo Toscano is very good and a friend had the grigliata di pesce misto which was a mix of seafood and got good reviews.

Cafe Santorini

Once again, a few feet from the first two restaurants. It focuses on Greek dishes. There are pizzas which are quite good. Try the stuffed grape leaves, they are excellent. You could do a kebob or moussaka but there pasta dishes are quite tasty as well. The penne con pollo is pan roated breast of chicken with shiitake mushrooms, leeks, tomatoes, arugula and creamy garlic white wine sauce.

Kings Row Gastropub

This is on E. Colorado on the other side of Fair Oaks from the first 3. It has a fun casual atmosphere and usually has live music. It has sort of a Tapas flair since the portions are small and not that expensive so you can try a number of different dishes. As a family we tried a number of different things and had a wonderful time. They also have good wines and beers.

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop 

They have almost every type of candy you can imagine. They had candy from my childhood that I didn’t think was made anymore. They have a huge selection of salt water taffy and you can pick and choose which ones you want. There are also a wide variety of sodas. I was intriqued to find out that root beer is a mixture of birch beer and sasparilla.

Green Street

There are a number of restaurants on Green Street and we have eaten at a couple of them. One I believe was the Green Street Tavern.

Cheesecake Factory

We have fond memories of this not so much because of the food but the experience. I think we had just gotten back from Los Angeles and it was late and we ate here, possibly because it was the only place open? I can’t remember for sure. The food was good. But what was great was that we had a window seat and it was Halloween and we had our own private show watching all the people in costume walking by outside on Fair Oaks Avenue. There were some great costumes.

Pasadena, CA

Pasadena is close to Los Angeles but is a wonderful place to visit. We have found it is a great place to stay and gives easy access to Los Angeles. It is an easy shot down the 110 to get to downtown and we generally found the traffic not to be too bad even at rush hour although there were exceptions.

Huntington Library, Art Collection and Gardens

You could easily spend all day here. It is around 600 acres. The gardens are magnificent and has a wide variety of plants in different areas from desert to tropical to temperate. There is an impressive Japanese garden which has been used as a setting in a number of films. They are part way through a multi year process of creating a Chinese style garden. There is also an Australian area, hothouses and don’t miss the orchid display. It is to die for. Plus, there is an herb garden and a rose garden. I would recommend taking a tour to get a really good feel for it.

Don’t skip the library because it sounds boring. They have a lot of interesting things on display including some very old and very beautiful books to important documents and more. If you are interested in science they have a wonderful set of displays.

And then there is the art collection. It is in what was the Huntington’s house or should I say mansion. Even without the art, the building is worth seeing. Besides the paintings there are also sculptures, antique furniture and porcelain

There is the Bungalow Heaven if you are into architecture. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother. It is an area with a large number of Craftsmen style  bungalows from the 1900-30 time frame. Old by California standards.

Old Pasadena

This is just a fun area. There is an interesting mix of architecture, but even more so the mix of shops. And then there are the restaurants which will be the topic of another blog post. It is just hopping and buzzing with life. There always seems to be activity.

Tournament of Roses

I would love to see the Rose Bowl Parade at some point. Unlike the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade you don’t have to worry about freezing your tail off or getting rained on unless they are having some unusual weather. It was first held in 1890.

We missed the Tournament House and Wrigley gardens. That would also be interesting to see. The house was owned by William Wrigley of chewing gum fame and is supposedly quite impressive. He donated it to the city and it is now the headquarters for running the parade.

More things to see

We also missed the Norton Simon Museum, the Pasadena Museum of History and the Finnish Folk Art Museum, all of which look worth a visit.

Gamble House

No, not a place to gamble. It was owned by the Gamble’s of Procter & Gamble. It is in the Arts & Crafts style and is magnificent. If you like wood work, you have to see this house. The craftsmanship and variety of woods will just make you drool. It was just beautiful to behold. Pay attention for all the little details.

San Gabriel Valley

It is not far from Pasadena. If you want more gardens, there is the Arboretum of Los Angeles County with 127 acres and 30,000 plants. Several Tarzan  movies were filmed here as well as a scene from the African Queen and Terminator 2 and Wayne’s World.

One of the oldest buildings in southern California is the San Gabriel Mission dating from 1779.

 

Los Angeles – Dining

Here are a few suggestions of places we have enjoyed in Los Angeles.

The Original Pantry Cafe. They are open 24/7 and have been for decades. The decor inside hasn’t changed either. It is out of another era. You almost feel like they could use it for a set in a movie set in the 1940s.  It is at Figueroa and 9th St. near the Staples Center. It has been open continuously since 1924.

It is basically a traditional American diner. The food is good but not spectacular. It is standard fare and large portions. You can get breakfast items any time of the day, but also sandwiches, steaks, chops and other items. It is definitely worth the experience. But it can get crowded at times with a line  outside. Also, cash only, no credit cards.

Syrup Desserts. If you like breakfasts like crepes and Belgian waffles or a variety of desserts, this is the place to come. It is on Spring St. in downtown Los Angeles. My mouth starts drooling just thinking about the place. Highly recommended.

Avila’s El Ranchito – If you are in the mood for good Mexican food this is a good place to go. It is in Huntington Park on Santa Fe Ave. It is large inside so a large group is not a problem. The nacho chips they bring out when you come in are freshly made and delicious. Just about everything there is delicious. The burritos, the tacos, the fajitas were all excellent. Of course, the margaritas went down easily as well.

Messhall Kitchen – It is on Los Feliz Boulevard near Griffith Observatory. The first thing about it is the ambiance. It has a modern design and is very light  and open. It is also well landscaped and you feel like you are eating outdoors almost. Everything was delicious and presented with style and panache. The smoked corn fritter appetizers were tasty.

Bottega Louie – It is in downtown Los Angeles on Spring St. If you have made a New Year’s resolution to not eat sweets, don’t come here, you will be sorely tempted. There is a full restaurant, but along one wall are display cases of an amazing assortment of pastries. So in addition to the diners, there are many people coming in just to purchase the pastries. (It is separate enough that it is not distracting.) We went in mostly for the sweets after dinner elsewhere. The food we saw being served looked good and we heard positive comments. The pastries were good although some were very impressive to look at but only OK in the taste department.

Wokcano – Downtown Los Angeles on 7th St. It has Asian fusion food and also very good sushi. They have at least 5 other locations in the Los Angeles area. It had an Asian feel to the decor and was subdued lighting, almost dark inside. The food was very tasty, but it has been a while and can’t remember specific details on this one.

Portos Bakery & Cafe – Brand Boulevard in Glendale – There are two other locations as well. It was started by a Cuban family who had almost nothing when they arrived and over time have grown it into a chain of 3 successful restaurants. It is a great place for a brunch but it is packed and finding a table to sit at can be challenging. The food though is very tasty and it was interesting to try the Cuban specialties which were very good.

La Brea Bakery – We just stopped here on the way between two things when we got hungry. The sandwiches were very tasty. Later found out that it has a great reputation for artisanal breads

Baltimore – Inner Harbor

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area is a gem. There are the office buildings and hotels and restaurants and condos surrounding it that have replaced the old docks and commercial activity. There is a beautiful promenade around the entire area. It is great to walk around and enjoy the view. It is also a fun place to sail if you have a boat.

Museums and Stadiums

On the south side is the Science museum and also close by is Camden Yards where the Orioles play and right next door the Geppi Museum with lots of comic books and other memorabilia and the Sports Legends Museum.

Just a little further is M&T Bank Stadium where the Ravens play. This time of year it is also the site of numerous proms. You will see limousine after limousine lined up taking kids to their proms in the facilities at the stadium. They come from all around the area, not just Baltimore.

On the north side is the National Aquarium which has just completed a multimillion dollar renovation and installation of new exhibits including a kind of petting zoo for sea creatures.

Continue reading → Baltimore – Inner Harbor

Los Angeles – Brentwood and Bel Air

Brentwood

There isn’t a lot to see in Brentwood besides the homes of different movie stars,with one major exception. The J. Paul Getty Museum. You can also drive along Sunset Boulevard which is pretty.

J. Paul Getty Museum

Just getting there is an adventure. You park in the garage at the base of the hill and then take a monorail to the top. It is free except for a fee to park. The original Getty Museum is in Malibu and is a recreation of an ancient Roman villa with beautiful grounds and more formal gardens. This Getty Museum is equally or more spectacular just in its own different way.

The building is a piece of art just as much as any of the art work it holds. We found ourselves taking many pictures of the building and the views. It has an absolutely amazing view over most of Los Angeles from well inland all the way to the coast. You truly get an appreciation for how massive Los Angeles is. Besides the beauty of the building and the view, the gardens and sculpture are gorgeous as well.

It was finished in 1997 and cost $1 billion. But then again, the Getty is the wealthiest museum in the world. That has meant they can buy almost whatever they want. Despite it being a newer museum releatively speaking it has amassed an impressive collection. Even though it is a bit out of the way, it is well worth it to make the trip here, you won’t regret it.

Bel Air

As with Brentwood, this is mostly private homes, many of which belong or belonged to movie stars. Probably the most famous is the Playboy Mansion. There is also Aaron Spelling Manor which is the largest mansion in Los Angeles which is saying something. It has 123 rooms and is 56,000 square feet. Supposedly Tori Spelling moved out because she couldn’t find a room she liked.

UCLA

 

But what dominates Bel Air is the University of California, Los Angeles. Royce Hall and Powell Library, both in Romanesque style are quite beautiful and worth a look inside. The Fowler Museum is one of the top university based anthropological museums. It has exhibits about pre-historic, historic and contemporary cultures around the world.

Nearby is the Armand Hammer Museum with pieces of art collected by Armand Hammer.

If you are into the movies, you may be interested to visit Westwood Memorial Park, also nearby, where you can find the tombs of Burt Lancaster, Natalie Wood, Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote and more.

Los Angeles – Midtown

Midtown basically runs from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the La Brea tar pits and park and museum on the west to Koreatown and Macarthur Park on the east.

Wilshire Boulevard runs down the middle of it. It has many wonderful art deco buildings from the 20s and 30s and was at one time home of the city’s most opulent stores. It was known as the Miracle Mile but has been declining since the 1960s.

If you like cars, check out the Peterson Automotive Museum. It is the largest in the world and founded by the publisher of Hot Rod magazine.

La Brea Tar Pits / George Page Museum

My personal favorite is the George Page Museum otherwise known as the La Brea tar pits. There is tar and oil naturally seeping up still there. (In the 1920s they still had oil derricks in Midtown). Water would be on the surface and animals would walk in to get a drink of water and get stuck in the tar underneath. Then predators would attack and get stuck as well. They have found thousands of bones of many types of animals. It is a fascinating museum. Their one problem is that they regularly have to rope off areas of the lawn in the park behind the museum as new spots of tar seep to the surface. You can look at some of the tar pits that they are excavating, looking for new fossils.

sabre-tooth-cat-240x138

Art Museum

LACMA is the largest general art museum west of Chicago and has over 250,000 pieces from all periods of art. There are several buildings and besides a range of art through history they also have a range of art from around the world.

Another amazing old theater is the Wiltern Theater. It is amazingly ornate and has been completely restored but is no longer a movie theater and is no a performing arts center.

The Wilshire Country Club is basically in the middle of Midtown. If you don’t know some one, forget about it.

Then there is Koreatown where you can get great authentic Korean food of many styles.

Finally there is MacArthur Park, renamed after the WW2 general but made famous by the song a few years back. It was a popular and beautiful area in the 1890s and early 1900s. It is now an area with a lot of recent immigrants and has a crime problem.

Los Angeles – south of Downtown

Down Figueroa St. a few blocks from the Staples Center is the University of Southern California, the Coliseum and Exposition Park. But before doing that, be sure to stop in at The Original Pantry at Figueroa and 9th. It is open 24 hours a day and has been around forever. There is always a line. Prices are reasonable. The food is very good but not superb, but the experience is worth it.

University of Southern California

Even if you aren’t taking a son or daughter to visit colleges, the University of Southern California (USC) is worth a walk through. It is one of the most beautiful college campuses I have seen. There are a number of fountains but with the water shortage who knows if they will be working. They probably recycle the water.

There is Mudd Hall which is a beautiful Romanesque building and Widney Alumni House built in the 1880s and moved several times as they needed more room to build buildings. The Doheny library is fairly impressive.

Doheny Mansion and Shrine Auditorium

Speaking of Doheny, he was one of the wealthiest people in Los Angeles and his mansion is just north of campus. It is in Chester Place and not surprisingly is called Doheny Mansion. It was one of the largest mansions in the city. It can be toured and has been used in many movies and TV shows.

Right near that is the Shrine auditorium. Seating 6,300 it was the largest theater in the world and is still the largest in the US. It has been used to host the Emmy’s, the Grammy’s and the Oscar’s.

Coliseum

Just south of the campus is the Coliseum, home of the USC Trojans as well as the 1932 and 1984 Olympics. The experience of watching the Trojans play a football game is such a spectacle. There is a student dressed up as a Trojan riding on their mascot horse, Traveler. Every time a goal is scored, the Trojan stabs his sword into the field. Their band is huge and a lot of fun. The atmosphere is electric, even more so when they are winning.

Science Center and Natural History Museum

In between USC and the Coliseum is Exposition Park and the Natural History Museum and the California Science Center. For fans of the television show Bones, you will notice that the Jeffersonian is not in Washington DC but the exterior shots are from right here in the rose garden (huge and amazing and the roses smell wonderful) looking at the buildings.

The Natural History museum has a T Rex on display, other fossils, gems, minerals and much more. The Science Center has exhibits on science, mathematics, & technology. There are space craft among many other things. You could spend an entire day just in these two places.

 

Los Angeles sights – Downtown

Where to start with Los Angeles? It is so large and so spread out that it is almost like a group of towns tossed together into one. Part of the feel of Los Angeles is due to when it had its growth spurt.

1890- 50,000

1900 – 100,000

1910 – 300,000

1920 – 600,000

1930 – 1.2 million

2010 – 3.7 million

So it had its big burst as the movie industry was getting going and at the peak of the Art Deco style. So you see amazing Art Deco buildings all over Los Angeles and it is now part of the city’s DNA. Even modern buildings will have touches that pay homage to the art deco style.

In the downtown area there are some fascinating buildings you might want to duck into and see. One is the Bradbury building where a lot of Blade Runner was filmed. You would almost not recognize it. It is beautiful.

Then there is the Fine Arts Building. You won’t believe the lobby when you walk in. It is one giant piece of art done primarily in the Romanesque style and the building was originally designed to house studios and workshops for artists. They also have regular wine tastings or other gatherings which you should check out if you are there.

Fine_Arts_Building_of_Los_Angeles_interior

“Fine Arts Building of Los Angeles interior” by Sorgente Group of America – http://www.sorgentegroup-usa.com/index.php?lingua=eng. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Even though this picture is good, it still doesn’t do it justice. I don’t think anything but seeing it in person will really give a feel for the space.

 

 

 

 

 

In the same general area as these two is the Broadway Theater District. This area has seen better days, but is still worth the look. If you take a tour or catch a movie, the exteriors are not bad, but the interiors of these theaters is over the top opulent. Many seated 2,000 to 2,500 people.

There are the obvious attractions like the Staples Center and Los Angeles Convention Center which have events going on all the time.

On appropriately named Hill St., you will find the Angels Flight Railway which is a funicular railway that will chug you up or down the steep hill. It was built in 1901. Nearby to the bottom end of the railway is the Biddy Mason monument on Spring St. She was an amazing African American woman, who, as a slave, had to walk behind her master’s wagon from Mississippi to Utah and then on to California where she won her freedom. The Bradbury building is also nearby.

The Disney Concert Hall which is definitely not art deco, but is amazing to see. There is apparently not a straight line in the building which must have driven the contractors nuts. Nearby is the music center which includes  Dorothy Chandler Pavilion which is known to most people because of the Oscars.

Just north of these is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. It created controversy when it was built because it is very modern and angular. Also because some felt the money spent on the cathedral should have been spent on the victims of sexual abuse. The interior is massive but welcoming at the same time. Very impressive are the windows made of translucent alabaster that give an amazing soft light to the space.

On the other side of the 101 is Union Station, which is the last grand train station built in the US. Across the street is El Pueblo de Los Angeles. It is the oldest surviving part of the city. Going there is like going back in time to when Los Angeles was just a small Spanish mission.

Just on the east side of downtown is Little Tokyo and to the north near El Pueblo is Chinatown. There are some great restaurants in each.

 

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