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Nothing fancy, but good fusion

October 15, 2011|By Rebecca Bryant
  • Marcela Gomez holds a salmon dinner order at the order window of Gerlach's Grill on the corner of Fair Oaks Avenue and Glenarm Street in Pasadena on Thursday, October 13, 2011. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Marcela Gomez holds a salmon dinner order at the order…

When a menu ranges from Mediterranean to Mexican to seafood to burgers, you can usually expect at best mediocre food. It’s like going to a movie starring Jim Belushi, Eric Roberts and Carmen Electra. Gerlach’s Grille in Pasadena is the exception.

Across Fair Oaks Avenue from an old Pasadena power plant and a 1938 fountain that once cooled a steam turbine, Gerlach’s is an institution that just doesn’t look like much of one. The take-out kitchen juts off to the side of a wine and liquor shop, a tiny spot on an easily overlooked corner. Nothing fancy. Until you take a bite.

Customers stream through the chaotically small parking lot for fish tacos and burritos.

Allied Waste drivers in their highlighter-yellow safety vests pick up their orders from the walkup window. A well-dressed matron offers encouragement to a young mother with a baby on her hip and a toddler at her side. A guy with a Dodger logo tattooed behind his ear waits at a plastic table and chairs in front of the wine shop. They’re not there for the ambience.


Gerlach’s fuses fast-food efficiency (you can call in your order and it’s ready in 15) with sit-down quality meals. Fish and chips come tender and only lightly breaded, not the crunchy, air-pocketed coating you may be used to from British-styled joints. So you taste the fish, not just breading. Big fat fries are perfectly crisp, not greasy. Salads can be ordered with a variety of fish or chicken. The salmon salad is romaine leaves with olives, cubes of feta, tomatoes and a generous grilled fillet served with a dilly herb dressing.

The grill offers plates with salmon, swordfish, tuna, mahi mahi or bassa, with vegetables, rice and salad. The grilled bassa is a favorite, a full fillet dusted with seasoning and cooked until just done — flaky, fresh and flavorful.

The grilled mahi-mahi sandwich is fresh fish, lettuce and tomato wrapped in fluffy pita bread, a filling but healthful meal, served with a side of sinus-clearing chile sauce. The grilled salmon burrito must contain an entire fillet.

The kebab options are chicken, lamb or beef. We ordered a combination of beef and lamb. The beef was wonderful, flavorful, savory, cooked until almost medium. The tender, herbed lamb was even better.

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