Food Walking Tour Through Historic Old Town Pasadena

Coolhaus Ice Cream - Pasadena

My mom bought me a food walking tour through Old Town Pasadena for my birthday. Okay, so my birthday was back in August.  I sure know how to stretch out a celebration, right? But to be fair, Kevin and I have been gone a lot of weekends… And there was that whole 2 week trip to Japan.

Melting Pot Food Tours offers excursions through East LA, the original farmers market, Orange County and Thai Town. I love Old Town Pasadena — and would even consider it as a place to live. But then I snap back to reality when I remember just how LONG my weekday commute would be.

Honestly, Kevin and I didn’t think we’d learn much on the tour (if anything!). I mean, we’ve spent so much time in Pasadena. But there is a lot more to Pasadena than you might ever expect. Here are some of the highlights —

Starting Point: Everson Royce Wine Shop

Inside wine lovers' heaven, Everson Royce. Meeting spot for the Melting Pot Food Tour in Pasadena

Inside wine lovers’ heaven, Everson Royce. Meeting spot for the Melting Pot Food Tour in Pasadena

I’m a new fan of Everson Royce — and never even noticed this wine shop before. Everson Royce is just North of the main shopping district and has wines from all over the world (even a label from Mexico’s Valle De Guadalupe, which has become a personal favorite destination from LA).  We learned that on Saturdays, they even offer a wine tasting from 2-5 PM.  Something I’ll be sure to come back to try out.  We met our tour guide Barbara just outside the shop and learned we’d be visiting 9 different places on the tour. And would not finish hungry (that’s for sure!).

History of Pasadena

Pasadena City Hall, an architectural gem used for many TV shows/film, including the home of Leslie Knope on Park and Recreation.

Pasadena City Hall, an architectural gem used for many TV shows/film, including the home of Leslie Knope on Park and Recreation.

Pasadena — known today for the Rose Parade, the Rose Bowl, Jet Propulsion Lab and bio-nerd fave Caltech — was once occupied by the Hahamogna tribe of Native Americans. But it wasn’t long before a group of Indiana residents settled in the area and decided to call the area (the not-so-very-original name) of Indiana Colony. Our guide Barbara explained that it was actually the US Postal Service that forced the name change when the Indiana Colony wanted a post office (rather than hauling all the way to downtown LA).  That’s when they picked the distinctive-sounding Native American name of Pasadena (roughly translating to “valley”).

Another thing we never noticed in plain site - Cafe Santorini is actually a firehouse turned restaurant. Can you see the original fire doors?

Another thing we never noticed in plain site – Cafe Santorini, a greek restaurant, is housed on the top level of what was once a firehouse. Can you see the original door to park the fire truck? (hint: it’s the arched window in front)

Colorful Alleys and Ethnic Eateries

It’s hard to believe that Old Town Pasadena was once pretty rough. I’ve only ever known it as the high-end part of the LA area with old rich people! It wasn’t until the 1970’s that residents began fighting to save the quaint alleyways, rustic brick facades and historic architectural landmarks. The city became a shining example of a successful downtown revitalization for others.  There are more than 100 restaurants. But the tour would focus on businesses that met a few basic requirements: First, they have to be independent; second, they need to have great food; and third, they need to understand the concept of the company and what it’s trying to promote.

Here are some of the major food highlights along the way —

Kevin enjoys some watermelon aqua fresca (Spanish for fresh water)

Kevin enjoys some watermelon aqua fresca (Spanish for fresh water) at Tortas Mexico, the first stop

Second stop: sampling poke (Hawaiian comfort food) that has become the new food craze these days

Second stop: sampling poke (Hawaiian comfort food) that has become the new food craze

Next Stop: One of our favorites on the tour was Bird Pick Tea & Herb, where we sampled several teas including Matcha, which neither of us knew had more caffeine than coffee!

Next Stop: One of our favorites on the tour was Bird Pick Tea & Herb, where we sampled several teas including Matcha, which neither of us knew had more caffeine than coffee!

Fourth Stop: All India Cafe and digging into the Chicken Tikka Masala (and couldn't hold back before snapping a photo)

Fourth Stop: All India Cafe and digging into the Chicken Tikka Masala (and couldn’t hold back before snapping a photo)

Stop 5: Okay, getting full now! We went to Amara, which specializes in Venezuelan sipping chocolate, churros and bake empanadas. We ate it all!

Stop 5: Okay, getting full now! We went to Amara, which specializes in Venezuelan sipping chocolate, churros (pictured) and baked empanadas. We ate it all!

Yum, freshly made Empanadas from Amara

Yum, freshly made Empanadas from Amara

Stop six: More dessert! We ate at Cookhaus when it was just a food truck and didn't have a brick and motor set up. Kevin samples nearly every flavor

Stop six: More dessert! Kevin and I first had Coolhaus when they were just getting started with a food truck parked at events. The name is a nod to the founders background in architecture.

Coolhaus has some pretty wild flavors

Coolhaus has some pretty wild flavors. Vanilla bean with malt balls and french fries? It actually was pretty good.

It was at this point, we hit a food wall.  So were thrilled with the next stop, which didn’t involve any eating! It was to The Soap Kitchen, which is another shop I’ve walked past countless times and never went in. Upon walking in the shop, you’ll smell the fresh aromas of their soap (all made in the tiny space that looks no larger than a closet).  The soaps are all natural and handmade from scratch. You’ll want to check out their specialty bars (which I bought) called California Gold… a nod to the late, Southern California TV personality Huell Howser.  And be sure to check out the photos of his visit a few years back where he got a lesson in soap making.

A great stop for gifts - at The Soap Kitchen

A great stop for gifts – at The Soap Kitchen

While we were there, the shop keepers were hard at work cutting up some bars to sell.

While we were there, the shop keepers were hard at work cutting up some bars to sell.

Finally, we made it to the last stop for some chocolate at Mignon Chocolate Boutique.  The owner, who was once exiled to Siberia, later found himself in Tehran, Iran. With Armenian roots, he had deep ties to the Armenian community found in nearby Glendale.  And soon had shops in Glendale, Iran and Pasadena (listed on their sign and made me want to sing… one of these places don’t belong with the other!).

Last stop, Kevin is ready to roll inside Mignon Chocolate.

Last stop, Kevin is ready to roll inside Mignon Chocolate.

The Old Town Pasadena tour runs most weekends from 10:30 AM to 2 PM (though, in our case went a little longer with all of Kevin’s questions!). We were fascinated by the info on the Rose Bowl Parade, too (and never even noticed the pink line that is permanently on Colorado Blvd, which helps guide all the floats in the middle of the road).

I’d recommend the tour for locals and visitors alike. And especially if you have family nearby – it would be a great activity you could all do together. Plus, you’re walking most of the day so you won’t have to feel TOO guilty about all that food you just ate. Well, maybe just the desserts!

Cost: $75 per person (includes all food and drinks. Tip is extra)

Here are the stops –

Old Town Pasadena Walking Tour Map - Food Stops

Everson Royce – Wine Shop
155 N. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91103

Tortas Mexico
36 E. Holly Street,Pasadena, CA 91103
Specializes in agua fresca (juices) and tamales

Spinfish Poke House
36 W. Colorado Blvd #7, Pasadena, CA 91103
Aloha 808 is their specialty

All India Cafe
39 S. Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91103
Indian food from all over the country; the garlic nan was aaamazing!

Amara Chocolate and Coffee
55 S. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91103
Venezuelan specialities include churros, dipping chocolate and empanadas

Coolhaus/Indiana Colony
59 E. Colorado, Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91103
Recommended flavor – balsamic fig, vinegar and mascarpone 

The Soap Kitchen
26 N. Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91103
The “Black Gold” soap is made with charcoal to extract impurities, a very unique gift

Mignon Chocolate Boutique
6 E. Holly Street, Pasadena, CA 91103
Specialize in dark chocolates

Summary
Food Walking Tour Through Historic Old Town Pasadena
Article Name
Food Walking Tour Through Historic Old Town Pasadena
Description
Old Town Pasadena -- known for the Rose Parade, the Rose Bowl, Jet Propulsion Lab and bio-nerd fave Caltech -- has a wide range of food options. Here is a walking tour to hit up all the best foodie spots.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Phil – we are just publishing our January newsletter with a link to your article. Thanks again for a great story and photos – so glad you had a great time on the tour. Happy New Year to you!

    All the best,
    Lisa, Proprietor
    Melting Pot Food Tours

    Reply

Your email address will not be published.