Twain’s Tavern Proves Why It’s A Pasadena Favorite

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Twain's Tavern is a happening place. If you doubt that, ride by and check out the packed parking lot on the weekends. Local folks love the vibe – a modern, airy, fun place to hang out, listen to music, play pool, grab a drink, and enjoy some seriously good food.

On a late Tuesday afternoon, Twain's Tavern was already lively. The tavern is larger inside than it looks. About 20 patrons sat at the bar while eating, drinking and relaxing — some laughing out loud, others whispering. With a multigenerational clientele, Twain's is a place where anyone can feel at home.

Once I was seated in a cozy booth, my waitress, Leticia, arrived smiling and was genuinely friendly and helpful. My son said the tavern's french onion soup was “banging.” So, I thought it would be a good start on a cold day. The small crock of soup was hot and hearty, with seasoned beef broth, an abundance of sautéed onions, and soft and plump croutons, all topped with chewy melted cheese. It was a classic, satisfying dish.

There were many tempting appetizers I filed in my brain for another time, like French dip spring rolls (shaved prime rib with caramelized onions and provolone cheese, fried in a crispy spring roll and served with a sweet chili dipping sauce). Snake bites, Cajun filet tips with buffalo sauce, and blue cheese and celery also looked interesting.

Asked about customers’ favorite entrees, Leticia said she takes lots of orders for the burgers, and, pointing to my menu, the sirloin with asparagus, with the option of shrimp cargot — jumbo shrimp sautéed in a garlic sauce topped with Havarti cheese. I picked the sirloin, and of course, for you readers, I chose the shrimp and cheese option.

I know many steak lovers will gasp, but I sometimes prefer mine well done, and sometimes that means eating seasoned cardboard, but not here. The chef cooked the lean meat perfectly for my taste, and it was still tender and well-seasoned though rather on the small side. Mild but flavorful and creamy, the cheese sauce and shrimp complemented the steak well. The shrimp were tender and tasty, but a few more of them would have added a lot.

Now, I'm not a huge asparagus fan, primarily because asparagus is usually undercooked and flavorless or mush, but Twain's did an excellent job on this “love it or hate it” vegetable. The chef hit it right, preparing the veggie with just a touch of seasoning and cooking it to that perfect fork-tender stage.

Leticia said the customer dessert favorites were cheesecake and chocolate cake with caramel sauce. Faced with a tough choice, I asked for her personal preference. She gave me a conspiratorial grin and said, "Cheesecake, of course."

Beautifully presented, the cheesecake was covered in chocolate sauce with mounds of whipped cream. Isolating the cheesecake for a taste, I'd give it a C. It was a bit bland, not really the dense, rich taste of a superb cheesecake, but I didn’t expect a superb cheesecake at a local tavern. C for cheesecake still outranks most desserts, and covered with chocolate sauce, it was a pleasing end to a nice meal. The chocolate, whipped cream and cheesecake blended to make a sweet after-dinner delight.

Prices were reasonable – less than $40. There are always specials. Wine Wednesdays feature 99-cent red or white wines and acoustic music; Thursdays are free music trivia nights with prizes. Food and drink specials include surf-and-turf Tuesdays for $13.99, prime rib night on Wednesdays, $2 domestic drafts all day Thursday, and half-price bottles of wine.

Check out the website, www.twainstavern.com, for all of the specials, sporting events, bands and more.

Twain's does a good job balancing the bar/restaurant experience. It's a fun place.

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