South Pasadena

The Eastside model for small-town USA grows up with new cafés, toy stores, and green boutiques

South Pasadena has long been considered a great place to live, especially for families drawn by the top-rated schools. Now, thanks largely to the arrival of the Gold Line, a slew of smart restaurants and boutiques have joined institutions such as Buster’s coffeehouse and Fair Oaks Pharmacy on Mission Avenue, where a nearby weekly farmers’ market attracts big crowds. Today South Pas, particularly the area known as the Mission West District, has a vivid sidewalk scene, one that is chain store free.


Photograph by Mindee Choi

1. Heirloom Bakery & Café
The key lime pie is killer at this quaint gourmet deli with bright yellow walls. The cinnamon rolls and haute Hostess-style chocolate cupcakes aren’t bad, either. Don’t have much of a sweet tooth? Then choose from a dozen or so sandwiches and salads. » 807 Meridian Ave., Ste. C, 626-441-0042.

2. Organic Rush
Green-leaning shoppers love the dapper bamboo salad bowls, chemical-free sheets, and natural bath products. There are also gifts for tots, like an organic cotton onesie, or if you’re looking for something bigger, maybe a baby blue air purifier to match the nursery. » 962 Mission St., 626-799-8099.

3. Buster’s
For 22 years this funky coffeehouse and South Pas mainstay has been caffeinating the neighborhood. All the brew is organically grown, and the freezes, its version of a Frappuccino, rival the best in Southern California . You can also get a scoop of locally churned Fosselman’s ice cream or peruse the bulletin board. » 1006 Mission St., 626-441-0744.

4. Dinosaur Farm
Mom and Dad can shop for toys here while Junior plays with a wooden castle or Thomas the Tank Engine. T. rex fans will thrill over the dinos-only room, but the stock extends to musical instruments, bath toys, craft kits, and books. » 1510 Mission St., 626-441- 2767.

5. Mike & Anne’s
Along with an expansive patio, this spot boasts seasonal fare like asparagus bisque, organic salmon with roasted cauliflower puree, and hearty sandwiches. Also check out 750ml, the wine bar from the man behind Cobras & Matadors, one block west. » 1040 Mission St., Ste. 101, 626-799-7199. 750ml: 966 Mission St., 626-799-0711.

6. Camille Frances Depedrini
While the specialty here is understated wedding gowns, you need not be altar bound to dig this boutique. Flirty ‘50s-style cocktail numbers, strappy sandals, vintage jewelry, and pretty wraps make this a must-stop for girly girls with a special occasion on the horizon. » 10071/2 Fair Oaks Ave., 626-441-7868.

7. Zinnia
Rubber stamps, beads, specialty papers, and crafty baubles of all sorts line the shelves of this studio/store. There are also classes on topics like collage and sock creatures for grown-ups. Who knew? » 1040 Mission St., Ste. 103, 626-441-2181.

8. Puff
This charming newcomer offers makeup from boutique brands. The biggest draw, though, is owner Aimee Jakes and her enthusiastic advice. She’ll even help edit your current stash. » 1005A Mission St., 626-799-2864.


Photograph by Mindee Choi

9. Abuelita’s
We love this sunny knitting and needlepoint aerie for its big farm-style table, where classes and “Stitch & Chat” gatherings are held, and its offbeat needlepoint patterns. In addition to the traditional ducks and florals, the store stocks pop designs such as the Green Day logo . It also hosts regular charity knitting circles, where patrons are invited to knit for various good causes. » 821 Meridian Ave., 626- 799-0355.