Union – Pasadena, CA

Forming A More Perfect Union Union – Pasadena, CA Italian – Last Visit: July 2020 In 2015, Union in Pasadena garnered the coveted Mai Tai Tom Restaurant Of The Year Award.  Union’s menu, which features a number of homemade pasta dishes, had been the creation of Chef Bruce Kalman, who departed in 2018. We had not been back since original owner (Marie Petulla) hooked up with a new executive chef (Chris Keyser) in 2019. The day after the city of Pasadena closed some lanes of its streets (including Union Street) to allow restaurants to accommodate outside dining, we scored reservations. This neighborhood gem serves what has been called the “California version of Northern Italian cuisine,” and utilizes “fresh ingredients that … Read more…

Alcove Café & Bakery – Los Feliz (Los Angeles)

A Patio Oasis Alcove Café & Bakery – Los Feliz (Los Angeles) Last Visit: June 2020 Breakfast When outdoor dining was finally allowed again here in California (seems to change by the hour), we decided to meet our friends (and traveling partners) Kim and Mary, along with their daughter Macaire, at Alcove Café & Bakery in Los Feliz (a hillside neighborhood of Los Angeles). Because it was dog friendly, Kim and Mary’s dog Fenway also joined us. The restaurant is located very close to Griffith Park, so you could come here after taking your dog for a walk. We (and the corgis) enjoy the hike at nearby Ferndell Trail, where you can eventually hook up to trails that ascend to … Read more…

Formosa Cafe – West Hollywood, CA

Historic West Hollywood Hangout Formosa Cafe – West Hollywood, CA Last Visited: June 2020 Asian Fusion I’m confident there’s not another restaurant in the world where John Wayne cooked eggs one morning in its kitchen after passing out the night before, Ava Gardner danced in the aisles, Elvis sipped a mai tai or two, Bogie sat at the bar and a couple of notorious mobsters conducted “business dealings” in their own private booths. All that and much, much more transpired through the decades at West Hollywood’s Formosa Cafe. After the shutdown of L.A. restaurants was lifted in June, Tracy and I (along with friends Jeff and Cecilia) knew this was the first dining establishment we wanted to check out.   … Read more…

When Mai Tai Tom Met Tracy: A Night at L’Opera – Long Beach, CA

It Had To Be You! When Mai Tai Tom Met Tracy: A Night at L’Opera – Long Beach, CA Visited: May 1990 & February 2020 As I recall, it was a beautiful spring evening in May 1990. I had been researching police documents and perusing personal interviews for an article I was writing, attempting to piece together an unsolved murder mystery in Long Beach. Channeling my inner Dashiell Hammett, I walked to the bar at a recently opened upscale restaurant called L’Opera Ristorante. As the evening progressed, it would become “the stuff dreams are made of,” although a falcon would play no part. Shortly after I was ensconced at the bar, two lovely ladies sat down on my left. “Well, … Read more…

Granville – Pasadena, CA

Great Dining … Plus A Rooftop Bar! Granville – Pasadena, CA Modern Casual Last visited: January 2020 When Granville opened in the spring of 2019, boasting the only rooftop bar in Pasadena, we knew this was a place we had to visit!  Granville is a small Southern California chain of “modern-casual” restaurants featuring more than 60 dining items, which also includes an array of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menu options.  It’s yet another delicious dining option on South Lake Avenue. I’ve never believed it’s fair to write about a restaurant soon after it has opened for business.  I feel I need to wait for an establishment to work the kinks out and, as expected, the first couple of meals we … Read more…

Hippo – Highland Park, CA

Mai Tai Tom’s 2019 Restaurant Of The Year! Hippo – Highland Park, CA Cuisine: Cal-Med Visited: February, March & October 2019 The votes have been tabulated, and Mai Tai Tom’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year is now ready to be unveiled.  In the closest vote in history, Highland Park’s Hippo takes home the title!  Hippo had fierce competition from two of Pasadena’s relatively new restaurants Entre Nous and The Arbour, and also from Bavel in DTLA’s Art District. With the voting so close, we returned to Hippo this autumn to try a few more menu options before making our final decision.  Hippo had been in the running since we first dined here in February.  We have tried many of their … Read more…

Bacchus’ Kitchen – Pasadena, CA

Neighborhood Gem Bacchus’ Kitchen – Pasadena, CA Last Visited: August 2019 Although we walk the corgis past this restaurant nearly every weekend and always stop to check the menu, in late 2018 it had been several months … maybe even a year … since we had dined at Bacchus’ Kitchen.  In the past year we’ve visited four times, and our little neighborhood gem has delivered on each and every occasion.                                         Bacchus’ Kitchen is a small restaurant located on the edge of Bungalow Heaven, a historical neighborhood in Pasadena (technically the restaurant is in East Washington Village).  It opened in 2015 and has always delivered … Read more…

Bavel – Los Angeles, CA

Middle East Feast! Bavel – Los Angeles, CA Visited: September 2019 One great feature of living in Los Angeles these days is the influx of restaurants offering innovative cuisine from all parts of the world. Tracy and I had heard great reports from friends about Bavel, which features food highlighting dishes from the Middle East.  Bavel is another fairly new restaurant located in the trendy Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles.  If you haven’t been to the Arts District, it is chock full of new eateries (seemingly a new one pops up every day) and lots of young people who were out walking their dogs and sailing along on fleets of e-scooters (which, thankfully, are parked neatly rather than scattered … Read more…

Musso & Frank Grill – Hollywood, CA

Hooray For Hollywood! Musso & Frank Grill – Hollywood, CA Last Visited: August & September 2019 There aren’t many restaurants around these days that I can say I visited as a kid, but the famed Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood, which turns 100 this year (I sense a theme lately), is one of them. I’ve been coming here since the early 1960s, and for nostalgia’s sake we had to make a return appearance to celebrate its Centennial Anniversary, which will be observed on September 27. It had been nine years since our last outing (via the Gold/Red Line metro) and not much had changed (except for the people on the far end in this picture). Of course, I don’t … Read more…

President Thai – Pasadena, CA

Let’s Thai One On! President Thai – Pasadena, CA Last Visited: August 2019 (Thai) I don’t have a clue why I don’t eat Thai food more often. Although I love it, it seems we always find other types of restaurants to try. In the last year, however, we “discovered” President Thai in Pasadena.  Of course, others discovered this restaurant long before us, because it has been in business since 1994 (I’m only 2 1/2 decades behind the curve).  We absolutely love this place and have dined here often in the past year. President Thai incorporates an array of fresh, expertly prepared vegetables in each dish, and practically every scrumptious one of them includes the option of your preferred protein … … Read more…