Old Town Pasadena gets its own spin on a beloved Los Angeles staple
By Emily G. Peters
If you’ve grown up in Los Angeles, chances are you’ve tasted one of its famous French dip sandwiches at least once. Yet, we’d like to suggest a Pasadena alternative—Harlowe’s French Dip.
Although this sandwich saloon is a newcomer to the neighborhood, its founders are not. Harlowe’s is the handiwork of four friends who grew up in Pasadena: chefs Tony Alcazar and Brian Kiepler along with L.A. city firefighters Brandon Ibrahim and Patrick Best. The quartet is also responsible for The Bottle Room, a staple in Whittier’s food scene. After years of culinary success under their belts, they set their sights on hometown Pasadena.
“When we saw this location, we knew the space suited the concept,” said Alcazar, remarking on the marriage of Harlowe’s ambiance with their style of food. And while the chefs labored to perfect their menu (which is constantly evolving), Ibrahim and Best’s influences are evident too, from the refinishing of the Art Deco woodwork to the entertainment at the bar.
“We benefit from four perspectives on everything, sharing experiences that help each other be better,” said Alcazar. “It’s a total group effort.”
Their efforts have yielded some fantastic results. The menu is upscale yet accessible, offering burgers, small plates and signature dishes like pickle brine fried chicken. The crown jewel—the French dip—is rendered in many forms, from roast beef to slow-roasted pork to braised lamb. Not to be missed, the bar is stocked with beers both rare and familiar, its selections ranging from Belgium to Pasadena itself.
“Everything is fresh,” said Alcazar. “The condiments, the cheese—everything is handmade, hand-selected.”
And while he still holds L.A.’s French dip mainstays in high regard, you can taste the Harlowe take on the dish. “We’re just trying to make it correctly,” said Alcazar. “Even a little butter on a toasted bun makes a big difference.”
With so many spots to choose from in Old Town Pasadena, Harlowe’s remains refreshingly unaffected. The food is excellent—brought to our tables based on taste instead of trends. And though it would seem that four “cooks” in the kitchen would complicate matters, this partnership serves up just the opposite.
“We definitely have other concepts we’d like to explore,” Alcazar shared, “maybe something involving cocktails and spirits. Whatever we do, it will be different from Harlowe’s and The Bottle Room.”
For now, we’re just happy the four friends are making their mark on Pasadena. So get there for happy hour. Order a dip—and the fries—and a cold one. You just might be tasting a little bit of French dip history in the making.
Harlowe’s French Dip is located at 43 E. Union Street in Old Town Pasadena. Contact them at harlowesfrenchdip.com | (626) 535-0985 | firstname.lastname@example.org and follow all the tasty tweaks to their menu at Facebook and Instagram at @harlowesfrenchdip and Twitter at @harlowesdips.