Jamaican just a touch outside of Old Town Pasadena.
It doesn’t look like a restaurant form the outside. It looks like someone’s house.
Granted, the big sign in the front yard is a bit of a giveaway. But still…very, very, house like.
You even walk in the front door, and you think you’re in someone’s living room. In fact, it takes a moment for someone from the back to arrive.
Don’t worry. The folks at Kingston Cafe haven’t forgotten you. The moment you walked in the front door, an electronic bell rung in the back alerted the staff. They know you’re there.
It’s a strange system indeed.
As you’re led through the restaurant, you pass by a number of private dining rooms/meeting rooms what have you. I started to think about the Parts Unknown episode that took place in Mississippi, with the very old, very traditional restaurant that was nothing but private dining rooms. I started to wonder if that was the case here…
Oh, never mind. It’s a restaurant.
Once you’re led to the main dining hall, there is no doubt anymore. Man, is this a big club. You will never believe how big the hall is walking in trough the front door. It has a vague, old-school Tropical night club feel. It’s a hall mean for a lot of people to be having food, having drinks, listening to live music, and maybe some space for dancing.
Kingston Cafe’s hours of operation are…well, a bit odd. The hankering for some Curry Chicken might hit you on a Monday, but you’ll have to wait till Wednesday to get it if you want Kingston Cafe’s version. As I said, there is Live Music there, but not the night I visited.
As a side note, you’re not in the most attractive part of Pasadena, well away from Old Town. In fact, if you want to stroll down to Kingston, you’ll have to take a long, long, long walk past Pasadena’s Central Park on the restaurant. Best to park in their lot, even though, that too is an odd experience.
I have a friend from London who is West Indian by Birth, who’s told me on numerous occasions that there is no good Caribbean food in Los Angeles.
Kingston Cafe is not going to change her mind.
I probably should see it in it’s heyday, with a band going, and drinks flowing. But as a restaurant, Kingston Cafe really designed to please the people of Pasadena, and not a homesick West Indian, longing for something Mom would have made.
And yes, it was featured in this particular Television show.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Speaking of Parts Unknown, a recent episode took Tony to the Bronx, where Haitian, Puerto Rican, African food runs pretty strong. The dish that got my attention was Curried Goat, and had they had it on the menu, I probably would have ordered that.
But like I said, this a restaurant that over the years has learned to please it’s local clientele, and I have to imagine that seeing Goat on the menu would have freaked some people out. So instead there is Curried Chicken. It comes with some steamed vegetables and a very tasty helping of red beans and rice. Not…bad.
Nothing too memorable either.
I also ordered a Beef Pattie. I’ve had a number of Beef patties in other restaurants, and these suckers are almost universally hot. As in get a good sweat, drink you some water hot. That’s what I was expected. That’s not what I got. A mild kick. Liked them a bit better than the Curried Chicken, but again…being tailored for more uneducated tongues, not mine.
Think of it this way, if you haven’t had Jamaican/West Indian Food, go ahead and come here. Think of Kingston Cafe as your West Indian Food 101. If you’ve since graduated to more advanced eating, Sattdown is still open, as is Coley’s Caribbean Kitchen.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Like I said before, the layout is weird, the hours are weird, and the initial greeting is weird. You walk in the door, and if no one is at the front desk, or comes out to greet you, just go in and out the front door again. That’ll trip their electronic eye, and get someone to come get you.
Yes, that happened to me.
And again, it doesn’t look like a conventional restaurant from the street.
Parking is going to be your real issue, so…
PARKING: Okay, Kingston Cafe has it’s own…paid lot. It’s $3 bucks to park…
There’s a little stuffit box where to you put your money, but no attendant.
I need all the good Kharma I can get in my life, so I went ahead and put the money in the box, one bill at a time (which is annoying). When they come to collect, how often they do collect, I don’t know. I think the price is a little steep for when they don’t have Live Music, or a crowd. I think you can probably get away with parking in their lot for free. I’m not advocating you do so, I’m more telling the restaurant that the way they handle parking is a bad idea.
333 South Fair Oaks Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91105
Tel: (626) 405-8080
Thursday-Saturday: 5:00 – 10:00 pm