A selection of the better restaurants in Pasadena, by Ruth Reichl, The Times' restaurant editor. Prices listed are for food only; tax, tip and beverages are not included. NC = no credit cards accepted; AE = American Express; CB = Carte Blanche; DC = Diner's Club; MC = MasterCard; V = Visa.
Brotherton's Farmhouse, 2239 E. Colorado Blvd., (818) 796-5058. With all the nostalgia for American food, we sometimes forget that we have our own little piece of history right here in Pasadena. This is a real farmhouse; it's got the porch to prove it. And they serve real food--fried chicken, rabbit, chicken pie. Biscuits too. Dinners include soup or salad, prices are low, and not much has changed since they opened in 1937. One thing that has changed is their attitude toward alcohol; these days they're serving beer and wine. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Dinner for two $9-$11. NC.
Cafe Jacoulet, 91 N. Raymond Ave., (818) 796-2233. Extremely popular and always packed, this chic bistro serves an eclectic mix of French, Asian and California cuisine in a very attractive atmosphere. The menu offers everything from sashimi to hamburgers, with detours through ambitious dishes such as charbroiled duck breast with raspberry sauce and John Dory in cream sauce. Salads are very good, and may be purchased from the \o7 charcuterie \f7 in front. Wine prices are extremely reasonable, and the selection is extensive. \o7 Open for lunch Monday-Saturday, for dinner daily and for Sunday brunch. Dinner for two $25-$50. DC, MC, V.\f7
The Chronicle, 897 Granite Drive, (818) 792-1179. A real man's restaurant--the kind of Americana that is beginning to be heavily copied. You know the sort--white tile floor, brass rails and a long bar for two-fisted drinkers. For people with big appetites, there are big booths that offer both comfort and privacy. The food is straightforward--fresh seafood, steaks, big desserts. It's the sort of stuff that reminds you of the time when food was unabashedly called delicious. The wine list is a wonder. \o7 Open for lunch Monday-Saturday, for dinner daily. Valet parking. Dinner for two $30-$70. AE, MC, V.\f7
La Couronne, 142 S. Lake St., (818) 793-3151. Pasadena's most elegant restaurant is quietly luxurious. Tables are widely spaced, colors are soft, the walls are hung with good modern art. There is a dream of a kitchen, filled with copper pots, and a long window so that the curious can peer in and watch what's cooking. The food is French, very correct and quite wonderful. It is also, at lunch, one of the best bargains in town: For $13.50, you are served three glorious courses. \o7 Open for lunch Tuesday-Friday, for dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Valet parking. Dinner for two $50-$100. AE, MC, V.\f7
Merida, 20 E. Colorado Blvd., (818) 792-7371. A modest and charming little restaurant that specializes in the food of the Yucatan. These include \o7 panuchos\f7 , tortillas filled with black beans and topped with pieces of chicken, and the famous \o7 cochinita pibil\f7 , soft pieces of pork that have been steamed with spices in banana leaves. The menu also offers a great many fine seafood dishes. This is a lovely place to eat on a sunny day; they have a very pleasant outdoor patio. \o7 Open for lunch and for dinner daily. Dinner for two $10-$25 (for lobster). AE, CB, DC.\f7
Parkway Grill, 510 S. Arroyo Parkway, (818) 795-1001. Pasadena's primary practitioner of California cuisine is a large, stylish place with a wood-burning oven and an open kitchen where you can see the chefs twirling those new-style pizzas. There's a mesquite grill, of course, and all the usual salads and pastas and baby vegetables. Oysters are served with salsa, soft tacos are filled with crab, and the desserts are memorable. \o7 Open for lunch Monday-Friday, for dinner daily. Valet parking. Dinner for two $25-$50. AE, CB, DC, MC, V.\f7
The Raymond, 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., (818) 441-3136. The caretaker's house of one of Pasadena's great estates (the Raymond Hotel, no longer standing) has been turned into a homey restaurant. The bungalow glows with dark wood, making the interior, divided into three small rooms, extremely cozy. Outside, the flower-filled patios are lovely on a nice day. The food is good but unremarkable; things like sandwiches and salads in the daytime, dishes like chicken Dijon at night. \o7 Open for lunch Tuesday-Friday, for dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Dinner for two $30-$60. CB, DC, MC, V. \f7