There’s much to admire east of the L.A. River in the neighborhoods of Atwater Village, Highland Park and Pasadena. Traditionally, the relevance of their dining scenes hasn’t been one of them.
But that may be slowly changing, with a trio of new spots emerging as destination-worthy options.
The generic Old Town Pasadena interior design cues—flat screen TVs set to sports games, high-backed leather booths—sets culinary expectations low. Then Greg Daniels unleashes astonishingly well executed, on-trend dishes like porchetta di testa (roulade of hog’s head with shaved pecorino, lemon-shallot vinaigrette and arugula) that rival similar nose-to-tail explorations at Animal and The Lazy Ox Canteen. The desserts, like a foie gras cheesecake with hibiscus gel, by pastry chef Santanna Salas (a Michael Mina protégé), are similarly accomplished. 42 S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena, 626.768.9555, havengastropub.com
Golden Road Brewing
This Atwater Village beer pub immediately adjacent to a set of train tracks operates out of an airy warehouse in a recently opened complex run by rookie local craft brewing partners Tony Yanow and Meg Gill. The pair have brought in chef Adam Levoe to administer a menu of upmarket offerings—duck confit sandwiches, vegan sundried tomato polenta, pork meatballs with bacon and pancetta—all meant to pair well with the 20 carefully curated taps. (They lean Californian, but include critic-proof choices like Dogfish Head and Oskar Blues, as well as in-house stars such as Point The Way IPA.) 5430 W. San Fernando Rd., L.A., 213.542.6039, goldenroad.la
Andre Guerrero, who won over Eagle Rock with his neo-retro artisanal fast-food joint The Oinkster several years ago, has debuted this old-school Italian spot featuring a decidedly new-school modernist design by boutique firm FreelandBuck (which also handled the interiors of neighboring Highland Park gastro-gentrifiers the York and Café de Leche). The menu runs from starters like saffron risotto with braised veal and brandade with salsa verde flatbread to pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven and big plates like pan-roasted pork chops with Tuscan kale and caramelized apple. 5930 York Blvd., L.A., 323.739.6125, maximilianohp.com