By Emily G. Peters
It’s Sunday morning, and the crew at Kings Row Gastropub is getting ready for the day. Kids dart in an out from the main dining room, enjoying their freedom before the pub overflows with weekend revelers looking for a bite and a beer.
This is Kings Row, Old Pasadena’s first gastropub. It was founded by four friends local to the area, who originally used the space as a disco called Neomeze. It was a short-lived concept.
“The night club set-up was a really odd incarnation,” noted Jim Fraley, craft beer buff and Kings Row general manager for the last four years. “It was really fun, but a sustainable business is a different story. The learning process prompted the owners to create a cleaner concept, and in 2011 they changed it to Kings Row.”
It turned out to be a winning concept. Although the idea of a high-end pub is no longer a novelty, Fraley noted that fostering happy employees makes happy customers. The cocktail menu, which rotates with the seasons, has a lot to do with their success, too. One glance at the ingredients reveals how much energy and discussion goes into each drink. As for the beers, the selection reads like a love letter to California: Eagle Rock, Santa Barbara, Orange, San Diego, Pasadena—they’re all here.
The food, left in the capable hands of executive chef Sunny Vohra, is a reflection of Vohra’s eccentric personality and penchant for experimentation. “Our food steps beyond typical pub grub,” said Fraley. “All our food is as local as possible and as sustainable as possible. It reaches for a higher palette classification, which I think people really enjoy.”
Yet don’t let their elevated approach tempt you into writing them off as too trendy for their own good. Kings Row strikes an interesting balance: a higher-end bar experience without any of the pretension.
“If you walk up and down Colorado Boulevard on Saturday night, you’ll see specific archetypes of customers clustered at each bar or restaurant,” Fraley said. “But Kings Row is super diverse, which lends to a great community feel. Anyone can come here and not feel condescended to. If you want a super easy-drinking beer—cool, we got you. Your friend wants an awesome cocktail? We got that too. Accessibility and the diversity of our customer base is something we’re really proud of.”
With daily happy hour (all day on Tuesdays) and a dog-friendly patio enclosed with leafy plants and twinkly lights, Kings Row is an ideal spot to pass an evening or two whenever the weather is right. Themed nights keep the patron mix eclectic, with young and old pouring in for Reggae Sunday brunch, midweek TikiThursday cocktail nights and live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
“We didn’t want to just be a bar,” said Fraley. “Our company motto is family first. We wanted a family-friendly restaurant during the day that could also have a really robust adult crowd at night.” And at the end of the day, that community appeal is the hallmark of any well-loved pub.
King’s Row Gastropub is located at 20 E. Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena. Open late seven days a week, contact them at 626.793.3010 | www.kingsrowpub.com and follow all their updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @kingsrowpub.