Kid Hit Menu Items: Until a restaurant comes around named French Fries ‘n Burger or Ice Cream ‘n Burger, the name Pie ‘n Burger alone is enticing enough. Although in our case most recently, Strawberry Milkshake ‘n Burger proved to be the foods of choice. The kids’ menu at lunch and dinner offers grilled cheese or PB&J ($3.50), hot dog ($4.25) or Jr. burger ($4.95) served with fries or fruit. Consider it your duty as a parent to introduce your kids to an esteemed example of a classic Southern California burger. Alternately, forget about burgers slathered with thousand island dressing and go for house-made hash browns, bacon and eggs, or hot cakes (thin or regular!) and other treats at breakfast.
Adult Perks: Pie n’ Burger is a beloved Pasadena institution, so the authentic retro vibes and physical details are many, including laminate surfaces galore, plaid wallpaper, rustic wood swivel stools and wall-mounted hand-painted menus. Time hasn’t entirely stood still though, since they have a truck and a Twitter account, and the open kitchen behind the counter serves salads (tuna, chef, grilled chicken etc.), and a “low cal plate,” that futile attempt at virtuous eating also seen often on delicatessen menus. Some restaurants apparently didn’t get the memo that cottage cheese and a couple pieces of stone fruit (probably in syrup) are no longer synonymous with healthful diets. Best to stick to the basics, starting with the $6.75 burger (or veg or turkey), or say, a tuna melt. My arm never need be twisted to try a chicken pot pie ($11.95) either. And I can’t look away from a round pie tin filled with lemon curd topped with an expanse of wispy meringue.
Pros: One-hundred percent no-nonsense food works for everybody. Seating is either along the low counter that extends the depth of the narrow space, or some tables in the back. A stop at Pie n’ Burger can be conveniently combined with a trip to the Huntington.
Cons: Early breakfast and dinner and/or off-lunch times are best when there’s not a wait.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Parking lot and metered street parking along Lake Avenue, or on surrounding blocks.
Other Tidbits: In this current age of revisited burgers — novel, luxury, basic and otherwise — a burger experience can happen in an unprecedented range of restaurant environments. Pie ‘n Burger opened almost 50 years ago when the coffee shop, lunch counter and diner reigned supreme as an expressly American restaurant type and phenomenon. No extreme bells and whistles associated with crazy burger customization were on the menu then, and they’re not on there now. And wanna see some Little Old Ladies from Pasadena? Changes are you’ll find a few here. OK enough of that lecture. Point being, Pie ‘n Burger can satisfy mid-century fetishists, or just be a terrific place to get an outstanding paper-wrapped charred, iceberg lettuce-packed burger, along with chunky golden fries, an overflowing just-spun milkshake and flaky crust pie.
913 E. California Blvd. Pasadena
Hours: Monday – Friday, 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sunday 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.