“Late-Night Bites” for Pasadena Magazine

Curb your midnight munchies with these top crave-curing restaurant dishes.

January 2009

We all jones for a late night snack every once in a while, whether it’s a delayed dinner or a much-needed boost after dancing, bar hopping, the theater, a concert, or even an evening in. No matter what your definition of the perfect after-hours snack, you are certain to find something scrumptious in or near Pasadena. The word “snack”, by the way, is used loosely since most of these are meals in themselves, easily shared with a hungry companion.

Here are five tummy-taming nighttime nibbles–in no particular order, mind you–guaranteed to put the kibosh on any wee-hours craving.

Fred 62’s Burger-$8.62

A burger is one of those quintessential late-night snacks, especially if you need to refuel on protein. But in order to be more than just something to scarf down at 2 a.m., a good burger needs to be juicy, fresh, satisfying and go the extra mile. Fred 62 meets these criteria with its “Wimpy Burger”. A smaller version of their half-pound Jucy Lucy, this 6-ouncer is anything but weak. Not only can it be split, but it also comes with an appetite-trouncing side of fries, green salad, potato salad or coleslaw. Avocado and bacon are optional add-ons, but are not needed, much like the sliced red onion for those who only like their burger onions grilled. The patty is tender and juicy—not too thick, but thick enough—and cooked medium rare unless otherwise requested. Melted cheddar, fresh tomatoes and crisp lettuce complement the meat, while the Thousand Island dressing takes it to a new level of indulgence. The substantial wheat bun is still mostly soft although it is slightly toasted for added crunch, while also combating sogginess. All in all, the burger is just what the doctor—or late-night snacker—ordered. Fred 62: 1850 N. Vermont Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90027. (323) 667-0062. Open 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Canter’s Waffle-$5.95

While Canter’s Delicatessen and Restaurant has long been known as a place to eyeball industry types and the case of gorgeous homemade desserts while noshing on pastrami on rye, it is also home to a waffle that is easily the best in LA. Round with deep wells, it may look fairly typical on the plate…but don’t be fooled. One bite into this golden delight reveals a perfect texture marriage of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, without going too far either way. Made fresh from Canter’s waffle iron, it tastes good on its own, but that’s not really an option since it is accompanied by warm, melted butter. Put this liquid delight on your waffles and you will never want them any other way. Syrup comes in small plastic containers and if it were fresh and heated, it could kick up the dish a few more notches. And even after it’s doused in butter and syrup, the delicious disc still manages to stay crispy on the outside until the very last bite. Canter’s Delicatessen and Restaurant: 419 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036. (323) 651-2030. Open 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Magnolia’s Mac and cheese-$9

A classic comfort food, mac and cheese is being reinvented in various ways in hole-in-the-wall restaurants up to fine steakhouses and everywhere in between. So it only makes sense that Magnolia–the hip, former speakeasy and late night spot known for good cocktails and fare that soothes the soul–has “Sugar’s Mac ‘N Cheese” on its menu. This baked mixture of elbow noodles and white cheddar, gruyere and Romano cheeses is creamy, with a little more liquid toward the bottom of the mini casserole dish in which it is served. While some mac and cheeses don’t taste enough like cheese or others taste so rich and cheesy that only a few bites are bearable, Magnolia’s is a satisfying balance of both and can easily be shared. A thick sourdough crust topping–not just a sprinkle of breadcrumbs–only makes it better and adds some unique graininess when mixed in. Plus, it keeps the mac and cheese warm until a diner armed with a spoon ventures to discover the tasty treasure beneath. Magnolia: 492 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101. (626) 584-1126. Open Sun-Thurs. 11a.m.-12:30 or 1 a.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

Pacific Dining Car’s Maine Lobster Appletini-$21.95

Late-night snacks are not just for diner-dwellers hankering for a burger and fries, as Pacific Dining Car proves with its extensive dinner and breakfast menu served 24 hours in an elegant atmosphere. Though mostly known for their steak, Pacific Dining Car offers a posh post-dinner nosh in the form of its Maine lobster appletini appetizer. A martini glass arrives with substantial chunks of fresh, chilled, tender lobster and vodka-infused Louis dressing, all resting atop a bed of julienned green apples–a sweet, crisp accompaniment. Talk about a nightcap! The sauce tastes like Thousand Island with a spicy kick, so we recommend ordering it on the side and using sparingly to avoid overwhelming the lobster. Cheers! Pacific Dining Car: 1310 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90017. (213) 483-6000. Open 24 hours every day of the year.

Bar Celona’s Banana split-$9

If your evening cravings leave you with a sweet tooth, then the Bar Celona split is sure to satisfy it. In fact, this unique dish outdoes many restaurant desserts in general. This ultimate banana split comes with a warm fried banana that is sweet but not overly rich and three decadent scoops of ice cream There is no room for vanilla here, as a scoop of crème brulee and a scoop of coffee ice cream grace the plate alongside a scoop of chocolate. Top it off with whipped cream and you will be stunned by the combination of flavors and the comforting feeling that come from this grown up twist on the classic favorite. Bar Celona: 46 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91105. (626) 304-1000. Open Sun.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. and Fri.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.

Casa Bianca’s Pizza-$4.95 and up

One bite of Casa Bianca’s fresh and delicious thin-and-crispy-crust pizza and you will understand why there are frequently lines outside the door of this charming Eagle Rock landmark. They don’t take reservations for parties smaller than six so you may have a wait ahead of you–especially on a weekend–but it is worth it. A small 10-inch cheese pie is $4.95 and usually more than enough for one person. Toppings like pineapple, fresh or sundried tomatoes, garlic, meatballs, artichokes and more can be had for $ 1.80 each. Wheat crust and Sicilian-style thick crust are also available but Casa Bianca is especially known for its thin-crust pizza. Casa Bianca: 1650 Colorado Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90041. (323) 256-9617. Tues.-Thurs. 4 p.m.-12 a.m., Fri.-Sat. 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Closed Sun. and Mon.

Los Gringos Locos’ Tacos-$1.25 and up

Satisfying food and great value collide at Los Gringos Locos, a colorful Mexican restaurant where Taco Tuesdays are particularly popular. Tacos like chicken or beef machaca, barbacoa and others are only $1.25 each and are a bit larger than street tacos so two are usually enough, especially after eating the hot basket of chips brought to each table. Each soft corn tortilla is filled with meat, shredded lettuce and tomatoes and comes wrapped in white paper for added charm. The chicken and beef machaca tacos are so moist that juices from the meat trickle out of the wrapping during eating, and this is a good thing. Los Gringos Locos: 464 Foothill Blvd, La Canada, CA 91011 (818) 790-2696. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m.-9 p.m.

There are late night snack options for every appetite and budget, so do yourself a favor and check one out when you’re longing for something satisfying and don’t want the night to end just yet.

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