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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Get Some Kicks at Route 66

April 18, 1993|LAURIE OCHOA

Corvette buddies Tod Stiles and Buz Murdock live on in "Route 66" rerun heaven, but their road of dreams is now just a nostalgia trip . . . and a restaurant. Pasadena's new Route 66 pays homage to American car culture in a museum-like setting (there's even a gift shop) where hubcaps are turned into light sconces, hood ornaments top room dividers, painted car panels are hung as wall art and the dining room serves as a parking lot for an antique race car. Waiters wear gas attendant-like uniforms and the bar is designed to look like the flatbed of a semi, fitted with big-rig wheels.

This Route 66 is not so much devoted to the youth culture of muscle cars and the open road, but to the sleek, chrome-polished world of pricey collectibles, the inevitable result when teen dragsters grow into comfortable middle age. And so, the food at Route 66 is not the stuff of roadside diners (though there is a meatloaf sandwich at lunch), but modern eclectic cooking: seared ahi tuna, game hen grilled with chile, vegetarian lasagna, grilled filet mignon.

The kitchen is still showing opening-week jitters--a Caesar salad shows up without anchovies (as promised on the menu) and with tomatoes; soft-shell crab tastes pre-fried. But a plate of salmon, scallops and shrimp with mounds of both red bell pepper fettuccine and mashed potatoes is fine, despite the starch overkill, and calamari is nicely fried. Still, you leave Route 66 with one question on your mind: What would Tod and Buz make of salmon carpaccio?

* Route 66, 425 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, (818) 793-8462. Entrees $8.50 to $18.50.

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