Question: I love living in Pasadena. I love my little bungalow, I love the good bookstores, I love riding the Gold Line to work, and I love the way the mountains pop into loveliness precisely 45 minutes before sunset. What I don’t love is the time that the sidewalks seem to roll up each night, at least if I don’t feel like joining the post-collegiate crowd at Hooters or Moose McGillicudy’s in Old Town, which, I assure you, I don’t. Can a civilized person eat well in Pasadena after midnight?
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Answer: Pasadena may not be the best destination for the seriously nocturnally inclined — even the Thai restaurants and the coffee shops seem to close early, and after the bars close, the scarily named pan-Asian restaurant Wokano may be the only thing going downtown. There is, however, decent late-night food just a short drive away. The splendid Eagle Rock pizzeria Casa Bianca is open until 1 a.m. on weekends, and after 10 or so, the formidable line has all but disappeared. To the south, Alhambra and Monterey Park are rich in late-night Chinese places. In the last couple of months, I have been spending a lot of time in a tiny Mexican restaurant called Tonny’s, tucked away behind a perpetual construction zone near the corner of Orange Grove and Lake. The tortillas are thick and handmade; the bright-orange Mexican rice is full of flavor. The drink menu, although alcohol-free, includes frosty liquado smade with mango or mamey, and huge, foaming glasses of fresh carrot juice. Tonny’s serves what may be my favorite chile verde in town at the moment, a vast plate of fried pork simmered in a tart green purée, and the peppery fried catfish is quite good. The restaurant makes a mean plate of huevos rancheros for those times when an assault to the system is what a body requires, and you can make it meaner with a jolt of the smoky house salsa. And the restaurant is open 24 hours a day. Food like this may be commonplace in Koreatown or Wilmington at 3 a.m., but in Pasadena it is practically a miracle. 843 E. Orange Grove Ave., Pasadena; (626) 797-0866. Got a burning culinary question? Ask Mr. Gold by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.