Taste South Pasadena

7 great food and fun shops in one of SoCal's prettiest downtowns

The ideal holiday shopping neighborhood should combine superior gift-buying options with good food ― lots of it, for yourself and your loved ones.

South Pasadena's Mission West District meets these criteria, with an outstanding gourmet store and some first-rate restaurants mixed in with one-of-a-kind shops.

All this, plus one of Southern California's prettiest little downtowns and easy access via the Metro Gold Line.

1. NICOLE'S GOURMET FOODS

What: Loire Valley-born Nicole Grandjean stocks hard-to-find products such as tangerine oil and violet mustard; you can also buy pastries and sandwiches to eat at sidewalk tables.
When: 10-6 Mon-Fri, 9-5:30 Sat.
Where: 921 Meridian Ave., Unit B; 626/403-5751.

2. ZINNIA

What: Materials and tools for artists, scrapbookers, and other creative types; classes too.
When: 11-6 Tue-Fri, 11-5 Sat, 12-5 Sun.
Where: 1040 Mission St., Ste. 103; www.zinnia.biz or 626/441-2181.

3. BOOK'EM MYSTERIES

What: Bookstore with a horde of whodunits.
When: 11-6 Tue-Fri, 11-5 Sat, 12-5 Sun.
Where: 1118 Mission St.; 626/799-9600.

4. BUSTER'S ICE CREAM AND COFFEE STOP

What: A neighborhood hangout for all ages, serving coffee drinks, Fosselman's ice cream, and fresh sandwiches. Indoor and outdoor seating; live entertainment on Sat and Sun.
When: Lunch daily.
How much: $.
Where: 1006 Mission St.; 626/441-0744.

5. FIREFLY BISTRO

What: Sophisticated food in an unusual setting: a garden tent.
When: Lunch Tue-Fri, dinner Tue-Sun, brunch Sat-Sun.
How much: $$$.
Where: 1009 El Centro St.; 626/441-2443.

6. FAIR OAKS PHARMACY & SODA FOUNTAIN

What: A 1915 soda fountain serving humongous sundaes as well as egg creams and phosphates.
When: Lunch daily, breakfast Sat-Sun.
How much: $.
Where: 1526 Mission St.; 626/799-1414.

7. GUS'S BARBEQUE AND RESTAURANT

What: Ribs and burgers at a 59-year-old family-style restaurant. WHEN: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
How much: $$.
Where: 808 Fair Oaks Ave.; 626/799-3251. 

INFO

South Pasadena is 7 miles north of downtown L.A. via the Metro Gold Line or State 110; exit at Fair Oaks Ave. and go south to Mission St.