We Californians like to say that everything is located about 15-20 minutes away (not factoring in this little thing called traffic) but it just so happens that Old Town, Pasadena truly is just 15 minutes down the road. Old Town is usually the spot to hang out and catch up with friends. Sometimes my mom, sister, and I go shopping, grab a bite to eat, or hang out during the New Year’s parade on Colorado Boulevard.
I practically grew up in Pasadena, yet there are a number of historical or iconic buildings and locations that I never really knew much about. Take Old Town for example. Apprently it is the original commercial center of Pasadena and was named the “Athens of the West”. It plays host to Caltech, JPL, the Pasadena Museum of Modern Art, and the Norton Simon Museum. (Note: if you ever watch the Rose Parade, make sure to look out for the giant rose that is displayed on the main wall of the Norton Simon Museum like below)
Now that I live in New York, I don’t have the opportunity to visit Old Town as much. When I do go, I’m astounded at its transformation. Just over the last few years, Pasadena has re-arranged some of the businesses, removed some stores and added countless others. There used to be a time, probably about 10+ years ago, when Old Town was only popular for its movie theatre and a small, but cozy restaurant called Barney’s. Sadly enough, both are now gone, but Pasadena has done a wonderful job revamping the block and it makes for a wonderful afternoon or evening of window shopping.
There are plenty of parking garages that offer 90 minutes free but if you aren’t in the mood to battle other drivers, try taking the light rail. Pasadena is connected to Downtown Los Angeles via the Metro Gold Line (Los Angeles’s attempt at public transportation).
When I was home over the holidays, Meghan and I managed to squeeze in a night on the town with a couple of our college friends. We decided to dine out at Umami Burger, a semi-gourmet burger joint with funky combinations such as braised short rib and truffled aioli or sprouts and a turkey patty. They even had jumped onto the pumpkin train and offered a beef blend with pumpkin pie spiced mascarpone, tempura Japanese kabocha, roasted garlic aioli, and a coffee infused molasses drizzle.
I’ve picked up a habit of bombarding the waiter/waitress/cashier with questions about the specials and their favorite flavors. It may be annoying but hey, they tend to know what’s up and I never really regret my selection.
DINNER TIME @ UMAMI BURGER
49 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91105
Got to love the thematic drinks. For those who aren’t familiar with Old Town, it’s located right above the Rose Bowl, in one of the many hearts of Pasadena.
Meghan and I divided and conquered the menu with a Greenbird (Turkey patty, crushed avocado, green cheese, butter lettuce, sprouts, green goddess) and Manly Burger (Beer-cheddar, bacon lardons, smoked-salt onion strings, Umami house ketchup, mustard spread).
We also decided to skip out on the fries, simply because we HAD to check out this new ice cream shop that makes the ice cream right in front of you! Now, while I try to eat healthy 99% of the time, I sure have a mean sweet tooth. I think it’s this sweet tooth that gets the best of my healthy habits.
First opened in Beverly Hills, this ice cream phenomenon has come to be known as “Liqued Nitrogen Ice Cream”. This is due to the fact that they pretty much use liquid nitrogen right in front of you to instantly freeze various ingredients into ice cream.
I have seen my fair share of cupcakeries and frozen yogurt joints (including the Southern California famous 21 Choices), and I have to say, the Ice Cream Lab has taken it to a whole new level. The menu may be small, but the fresh and natural ingredients remove the need for artificial coloring or preservatives that are normally used in ice cream. Not to mention, the fact that it is made right in front of you, guarantees a fresher and more flavorful treat.
Meghan went for a salted caramel pretzel combination while I went with the cashier’s recommendation of banilla. Outcome? BEST.ICE CREAM.EVER. The combination of vanilla with the fresh banana and extra crunch of nilla wafers was pure bliss. I just was a bit bummed that I wasn’t able to make it back before my return to NYC.