Smitty’s Grill, Arroyo Chop House and the long-standing Parkway Grill are Pasadena staples. The “Smith Brothers,” owners of all three restaurants, have successfully mastered the art and demand for American plates. From comfort food to the traditions of an old-time steakhouse, they are known for it.
SECO, their latest venture, falls somewhere in between. Located on Lake Avenue, it resides in the small courtyard which hosts a variety of businesses. The location itself is sweet and unassuming, almost as if you walked into a friend’s home.
Upon entering, a host immediately greeted me and the vibe is instantly casual, with a dash of hip, and an ounce of cool. As we walked past the open kitchen she politely asked me if I’m OK with her seating choice, and I appreciated it. Seconds later a waitress arrived; better yet, in 4 minutes flat, there’s fresh baked bread with soft, warm butter and a glass of iced water in front of me.
The staff and atmosphere are fabulous, but what about the menu?
Food options here are no doubt American but notably gourmet-driven. Main dishes include a variety of choices under simple banners like “Starters, Salads, Fish/Meat, Pastas, Pizzas, and finally, Burgers/Sandwiches.”
Some stand-out starters and salads include fried oysters, sashimi flatbread, and their lardon salad comprising frisee, braised bacon, heirloom tomatoes and a soft poached egg.
Main dishes offered appear standard but among items like a filet, I found the moules frites an interesting option. The grilled salmon with Israeli couscous, urfa pepper, pickled cucumber and coriander yogurt also stood out among the typical.
For those who crave pasta, a fusilli short rib pasta might catch your eye and the lasagna, made with chicken, sauteed spinach, chorizo and three different cheeses may satisfy your tummy.
Although tempted by Italian, I opted for a lighter lunch.
“I’ll have the roasted heirloom beet salad, please.” To my delight SECO offers shrimp, salmon, chicken, and even ahi tuna as a protein add-on. I chose the grilled chicken.
Before the waitress left the table I asked her to pair my dish with a glass of wine. She was unsure. Oops, not good! Anyone with basic wine knowledge would pair the salad with a white wine in the least. While she didn’t bet on a response, she did however quickly inquire with the bartender. The bartender suggested that a chardonnay would fit best but in a rebellious move, I had the sauvignon blanc instead.
The salad was everything I imagined, the dressing was quite nice, light but flavorful, and the fried goat cheese satisfied a hearty craving on a mostly healthy dish. The candied walnuts and fresh roasted beets defined the arugula based plate. The chicken made it a meal. Yum.
Overall, I enjoyed dining at SECO. The staff is attentive, the atmosphere is well executed. The food lives up to the hype. With that said, the price points are not the lowest, as a lunch for myself set me back about $30 plus tax and tip. But aside from that it’s absolutely worth checking out.
140 S Lake Ave Pasadena, CA 91101
Open daily from 11:30am
“Social Hour” 4:30pm – 6:30pm Daily
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