Much to the chagrin of us locals, Old Town Pasadena continues to be a gamble for independently owned restaurants, something we desperately need.
You'd think with all of the high-end and trendy stores now lining Colorado Boulevard, at least some shoppers would want — dare we say demand — a quality dining experience. But instead, they'd rather wait an hour for a table at the Cheesecake Factory. This makes survival difficult for places like Dish Bistro & Bar, a casual spot that opened about a year ago and recently closed. And so the Pasadena Curse continues.
You could blame it on the location.Tucked away on Union Street, there's less foot traffic than on bustling Colorado. You'd only know a restaurant was there if you knew it was there, and although you might read a lot of opening press telling us so, many never really take off. Unfortunately, the odds were already against Dish: Two places that preceded it (Brenart and Xiomara Ardolina's Cafe Atlantic) didn't succeed either.
On the flip side, Pop Champagne & Dessert Bar a few doors down, and Vertical Wine Bistro and Cafe Bizou around the corner, still have a fan base. Intelligentsia, the best thing to happen to Colorado since the Apple store opened, pulls people in for coffee, food, and a good wine and beer list. On the other side of Colorado, equally off-the-beaten-path places like Red, White + Bluezz and Lucky Baldwin's continue to flourish. And we won't even get into the always-packed mediocre spots sprinkled throughout the area. But most of these places have one thing in common: You know exactly what you'll get at each one, for better or worse.
Maybe Dish had a bit of an identity crisis. It was dubbed a bistro and offered a menu of seasonal, tapas-style dishes with global influences. It touted “local,” but there was more emphasis on Northern California ingredients than SoCal farms. It was a good spot for a quiet cocktail, but the Ed Hardy-wearing crowds at the nightclub next door couldn't have helped matters. We honestly didn't go enough to even know why it failed, but it's not surprising that it did.
This isn't to say a great restaurant couldn't work in this location, or in Pasadena in general. We have faith. It just takes the right concept, experience and probably some deep pockets. Something, someone, that would pull in people from all over the city. Hey, Thomas Keller, how about Ad Hoc Pasadena?