As we stagger to what might lastly be an finish to our Yr-plus of Pandemic Paranoia and Isolation, and eating places start to open for (restricted) indoor eating, quite a lot of amongst us are nonetheless a bit chary about consuming inside 4 partitions. Outside meals, it appears, have grow to be greater than the brand new regular — they’re really one thing of a venerable European culinary type, reborn throughout a interval of American disaster.
And so, it’s good to see the crowds on Union Road — a slim one-way thoroughfare that runs parallel one block north of Colorado Boulevard — lined with tasty choices, and a plethora of tables filled with locals, blissful to be at the very least semi-social once more. And when it comes to reflecting our culinary wants and tastes, it’s an excellent mirror.
On one quick block, there are locations to go for tacos and sizzling canines, Vietnamese sandwiches and bowls, and vegan Chinese language meals, Nashville sizzling hen and Fashionable French cooking, snappy California-Italian delicacies and craft beers, fancy burgers and — coming quickly — upscale pizza.
There’s no sushi, however then, there’s sufficient within the hood to maintain no matter wants can’t be crammed on Union. And maybe extra importantly, there’s a celebratory feeling within the air. We’re out once more, consuming with different humanoids, masked and Purelled, and hopefully vaccinated. On Union Road, life is sweet.
And so are these burgers at what’s correctly known as Slater’s 50/50 Burgers by Design (61 N. Raymond Ave., Outdated Pasadena; 626-765-9700, www.slaters5050.com), which is the primary restaurant you encounter getting into Union from Raymond, and a pioneer within the growth of the road, a survivor in an area on the nook of Raymond and Union — dwelling to many a restaurant that left nary a footprint.
Not all of the burgers are on the menu at any given second. However there are ones which can be price searching for. Just like the Bloody Mary Burger, a giant, fats, juicy “Sterling Silver” floor beef magnificence flavored with Worcestershire and Tabasco, topped with grilled tomatoes, a garlic-olive tapenade, with bacon vodka sauce, served on a bacon pretzel bun, and stabbed (a la a Bloody Mary) with a celery stalk. (And sure, they’re totally bacon-obsessed. Actually — aren’t all of us?)
The Armageddon Burger is a one-third pound floor beef, floor bacon and floor porchetta slab of meatloaf, wrapped in bacon and mustard, served atop prosciutto, topped with chipotle ketchup — on a bacon pretzel bun. There are beer cheese fries, fries with bacon ketchup, fried dill pickle chips, beer-battered onion rings, beer-battered jalapeños, fried bacon mac and cheese balls. There’s mac and cheese with Buffalo hen bites, and with bacon and jalapeños. There’s a salad — a salad! — made with Prime Ramen crunchies.
There’s additionally a burger topped with peanut butter, strawberry jelly and, sure, bacon. There’s a burger topped with Fritos. There’s a hyper-bacon burger with bacon-dotted American cheese, bacon dressing, and a slab of bacon on a bacon pretzel bun. And — sure, sure, sure — one of many components you may select for the design-your-own milkshake is maple bacon. There’s a bacon brownie for dessert. You may as well design your individual burger, with so many add-ons, your head will spin.
That’s the place I am going for burgers on the block.
The place I am going for a extra California-Italian expertise is to Union (37 Union St., Outdated Pasadena; 626-795-5841, www.unionpasadena.com), which has developed fairly a bit because it was first opened by grasp pickle maker Bruce Kalman again in 2014.
Lately, Chef Kalman works his magic in Las Vegas — an outsized metropolis for his outsized type of cooking. However his giardiniera pickles are nonetheless on the menu, even when his warmed olives with Calabrian chiles, smoked nuts and chunks of parmigiano-reggiano might not be.
And I do miss his crostini, toasted and crispy, topped with ricotta, pickled onions, pancetta bacon and a duck’s egg. As a substitute, there are pork meatballs. And, there’s lamb merquez sausage with San Marzano tomatoes.
Lately, the pastas run to tonnarelli cacio e pepe, elegant spaghetti alla chitarra, squid ink lumachel, and torchetti with Maine lobster. Ditto candele with pork meatballs, bucatini carbonara, and truffle fettuccine. In case you’ve been watching Stanley Tucci’s fantastic “Looking for Italy” on CNN, you’ll perceive if I supply up Tucci’s trademark remark after just about each chunk: “Oh my God!”
There’s an indication noting that the restaurant is opening a pizzeria subsequent door. On the opposite aspect, if you happen to favor your meals Conventional French quite than Edgy Italian, there’s Perle (43 Union St., Outdated Pasadena; 626-460-8819, www.perlerestaurant.com) subsequent door — sole meunière! moules-frites! coq au vin!
And if it’s informal you crave — and “informal” defines us higher than another phrase — these spicy Nashville wings and thighs are discovered at Primary Chick Sizzling Rooster (20 Union St., Outdated Pasadena; 626-660-9204, www.eatmainchick.com).
Quick, snappy Mexican is throughout the road at Tacos 1986 (20 Union St., Outdated Pasadena, 626-460-8450, www.tacos1986.com), which shares its tackle with the bowls at Paper Rice (20 Union St., Outdated Pasadena; 626-345-5333, www.paperrice.com), and the wieners at Grime Canine (20 Union St., Outdated Pasadena; 626-345-5306, www.dirtdogla.com) — and in addition meatless Chinese language at Naughty Panda/Naughty Vegan (20 E. Union St., Outdated Pasadena; 714-287-9093, www.naughtyveganp.com).
And if all of it makes you thirsty, again down by Slater’s, there’s Blind Donkey (53 Union St., Outdated Pasadena; 626-486-2379, www.theblinddonkey.com), which serves loads of craft brew to slake your want.
Eating places could also be opening once more. However I’m hoping the pleasure of avenue eating on Union doesn’t go away. Heat climate is coming. The road is simply excellent for a sultry night in Outdated Pasadena.
Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.