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The new Beer and Sausage place in Old Town Pasadena. Established 2014!
My love for Wurstküche remains unchallenged. There is nothing quite like biting into a freshly made Bratwurst, having some Belgian Fries with appropriate dipping sauces, and a nice cold beer to make all the pain of a Monday through Friday kind of a week go away.
But, damn if it isn’t a long drive to get there.
Yeah, my choices are either Little Tokyo or Venice, and…if you’re in the San Fernando Valley, neither of those options is going to make Wurstküche a weekly recurrence.
So, what to do. I’ve tried the Beer Garden in Hollywood, my second favorite thing. I’ve tried Dog Haus in Pasadena, which isn’t bad truth be told.
And now, there’s Picnik, right in the heart of Old Town Pasadena.
Now, there are a couple of odd things about Picnik, things that can only be discovered by a careful examination of the menu, and slick deductive work by your humble food blogger.
And…maybe I just asked the Manager, so…there’s that.
It turns out that Picnik is the creation of Eduardo Ruiz, the chef and co-owner of Corazón y Miel, and Michael Puglisi, formerly of Bouchon.
Okay, truth be told I picked that part up from Yelp! Here’s what I learned from the Manager: Picnik has their own in house butcher. Their sausages are hand crafted from the whole hog by Beeler Family farm off of heirloom Heluka Pigs.
What makes a Heluka Pig so special? I don’t know. But they certainly were tasty.
Picnik gives you two methods of getting at that Heluka Pig, one you can walk up right to the window and order a little somethin’ somethin’ to go, or…(and this is my preferred option), you can walk right inside, slide up to the bar (or grab a table) and get to work.
The Bar is full service. Cocktails, beer and everything. No Wine List as of my last visit, but I get the feeling that that will change one of these days. Pasadena does like it some wine.
Also, no mustards…at least at first. I’m sitting there at the bar, eating my Bratwurst, thinking that…maybe this is a place that doesn’t want me to have Mustard on my dog, but…as I left I saw the mustards sitting there in a utensils and napkins station by the door. They just forgot to give it to me.
I will say that Picnik is not a place for vegetarians. Unlike Wurstküche, there are exactly two Vegetarian things on the menu. Period. Neither of them involving sausages. But if you’re into dogs, Picnik is a nice place to go. It’s got a lovely space, and is a wonderful place to just hang out, and have a dog.
Wurstküche remains my first love, but this place ain’t half bad.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Well, to form a baseline comparison with my beloved Wurstküche, I got the Bratwurst. And the Bratwurst was…well…fine, but…as you’ll soon read in the Important Safety Tip, I made (or someone made) a bit of a mistake with the Mustard, so…we need to grade on a curve here.
Then I followed that up with the Summer Dog, which is a straight ahead dog, on a proper hot dog bun, with pickled relish and raw onion. Nice. Nice and simple. Even with his Mustard guffaw, it was still a good dog.
But what surprised me, what shocked me, what made me happiest was the Peewee Potato With Caper Dip, a tasty, spicy of concoction of small roasted potatoes and a Caper sauce that comes with just a bit more than a “kick”. Lip smacking good, and perfect with…well…whatever beer you want to have, provided its cold.
Also, their Corn on the Cob with Compound Butter, was fantastic. Now, I don’t know what the hell Compound Butter is, but…I liked what I had, and I’ll be sure to have it again.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: So first things first. Remember, you can go in and sit down. The To-Go Window may look like the only way to get a dog, but it’s not. Just head on inside.
Two, the Mustard. At least on my visit, while sitting at the bar, no mustard was provided, and for a long second there, I thought that…well…maybe Picnik doesn’t serve their sausages with Mustard. Oh how wrong I was. They did have Mustard. Someone just forgot to point it out.
You know what? We’re going to forgive Picnik for this. It’s still relatively new (anything under a year, counts as brand spanking, almost pristine new). There are going to be hiccups. Still, this is a place that Is It Any Good likes, so try to support them in their opening years.
But if you’re reading this two years from now, then that’s a problem.
Also, and this is a warning for all civilized humanity, they serve something called Chocolate-covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda.
I kid you not.
And it wasn’t…bad…imagine a gentler, syrupy sweeter Cola with a mild, slight, almost invisible kick of salt. Not bad.
I’ll be sticking to beer next time I’m in there.
PARKING: Pretty good, it is…after all…Old Town Pasadena. Consult our Old Town Pasadena Parking Page to get a better grip on things. My suggestion is the Lot on S. De Lacey and then, hoofing it the block and a half to the restaurant. You can try Street Parking, but…ehhh, why? Pasadena Parking is relatively cheap.
But I will say, that if it’s nighttime and you’re at all tempted to take the back alleys back to the Garage. You can do that. It’s a shortcut to the garage, but remember…it’ll be a little isolated back there. Keep your head on a swivel. Stay frosty and all that. Pasadena is a hyper safe, amazingly safe neighborhood, but…stuff can still happen.
168 W. Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91105
Tel: (626) 793-8008
Monday-Thursday: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:00 am – 1:00 am
Sunday: 11:00 am – 9:30 pm