OLD TOWN PASADENA’S SAUSAGE & BEER HALL
From Chef Eduardo Ruiz and our friends at Corazón y Miel in Bell comes Picnik in Old Town Pasadena. And yes, they spell Picnik with a “k”, which originally annoyed me but then I got over it.
Thanks to Picnik’s in-house butcher Michael Puglisi of Electric City Butcher, handcrafted sausages the norm here. Taking an old world approach, time honored sausage-making traditions are applied and everything is twisted and cased by hand. While the menu isn’t as daring or edgy as Corazon y Miel, this is a casual yet refined destination, especially considering the sausages they’re serving, that was much needed in Pasadena.
Picnik sits on the outskirts of Old Town and enjoys a wonderful courtyard where you can find live music on certain nights. The interior is a little industrial but the patio is where it’s at. It’s really an inviting and relaxing setting to chow down or enjoy a drink. There are at least 20 beers on tap, including local craft beers and European brews, and there’s also a full bar.
During our recent visit for dinner, we ordered inside and then found an outdoor spot to sit and dine. Because I’m not a beer guy, I really couldn’t find anything on their drink menu to my liking, but that was fine because we were hitting up Punch afterwards (more on that below). The Bootleggers Golden Chaos, a Belgian style beer, was recommended for me. I liked it at first but quickly grew tired of the taste. Like I said, I’m not a big beer guy so my two cents on brews are just about worth that much.
Opting for a couple of handcrafted sausages, which are served on French baguettes, we went with the Head-to-Tail, which is made from pig head, ear, tongue and feet. It may sound disturbing but it’s delicious. If you’re an adventurous carnivore you have to try it. If your meat eater friend is squeamish, don’t tell them what it is and I bet they’ll love it. Just don’t be mean and try to prank a vegetarian or vegan. This one is a solid winner.
All sausages come with your choice of two toppings, including sauerkraut, sautéed market peppers, sautéed or raw onions, and pickled red cabbage. A Chef Eduardo specialty, prepared and paired for you, is the Mexican Firing Squad—Mexican chorizo with chile con carne, poblanos, and chives. This one has spice and flavor and is another surefire hit.
Likewise, the Merguez, made up of lamb, harissa, cumin, and smoked paprika, is solid but it fell a little flat after the other two homerun sausages. Don’t get me wrong, this one is a fine choice but I think the previous two are just gangbusters.
If you’re looking for something heartier, then the Braised Pork Shoulder, which is roasted for four hours with cornichons (savory pickled cucumber) and served with mustard and baguette, will not disappoint. The meat is so tender. Build a filling sandwich if you so desire or just enjoy the meat on its own.
A must-have side is the House Cut Kennebec Fries. The large is ridiculously big and can be meal by itself. I’m not a shoestring fry fan so I really appreciated these bad boys. I thought the House Potato Salad was rather bland, even after dousing with barbeque sauce. But the icing on the top of this meat-heavy dinner was the Bread Pudding Bar (Devil’s on horseback—a hot appetizer or savory small dish—and brandy). It is delicious! Sure, we were stuffed by the end of our meal but we had to finish this wonderfully decadent dessert.
I’d say it couldn’t get any better but after dinner we ventured upstairs to Punch (it’s a little tricky if you don’t know where you’re going—follow the computer-printed signs with an image of punch bowl). Yes, our fave Corazon y Miel bartenders have created a low key speakeasy punch bar aptly called Punch (open Thursday through Saturday) where they served fantastic boozy punches. A full and proper bar review is coming but in meantime enjoy punches by the glass for $10 or order a punch flight of all four selection for only $22 (this is the way to go). My favorite was the Caribbean Rhapsody—a tribute to all things Tiki—it’s tropical and boozy. Reservations are recommended at Punch and it’s worth noting that you can order the Picnik menu while you’re drinking potent punches. Now it doesn’t get any better!
Picnik’s “Happiest Hour” takes place daily from 4-7pm. With Picnik, Pasadena residents can save themselves the trek to downtown Los Angeles to get their gourmet sausage fix at Wurstküche, although I must say I prefer the beers at Wurstküche. While the German sausage and beer hall is a favorite of mine and will always have a special place in my heart (or tummy) for being the originator of the sausage fest in LA, Picnik easily holds its own and is a go-to place whenever you want sausage, beer and beyond.
Picnik is located at 168 W. Colorado Blvd in Pasadena. Open daily at 11am. Close weekdays at 10pm; Fri & Sat at 1am; and Sunday at 9:30pm. Call 626-793-8008.
Story by: Jose Martinez