AGNES RESTAURANT & CHEESERY
MIDWEST INSPIRED COMFORT FOOD COMES TO PASADENA
Sometimes a dish is so good that it alone is reason enough to visit a restaurant (again and again). That can be said of the delicious Cornbread Éclair at Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery. Available on the dinner menu, this gluten free, out-of-this-world glorious mix of chicken liver mousse with cherries on top is mind-blowing.
It’s why I first paid a visit to Agnes and bellied up to the bar and ordered one (along with a cool cocktail). It was also what I was looking forward to when I went back for dinner. And yes, it was once again absolutely scrumptious. But what I also found out is that the Agnes’ menu if loaded with Midwest inspired comfort food that is so worth a night out.
Housed in the former horse stable of the Pasadena Fire Department (originally built in 1922), the space, found along tree-lined Green Street in Pasadena, offers an al fresco dining area out front; an upscale marketplace in the entryway (think cheesery and wine shop); a cute and cozy bar; impressive open hearth; and a fabulous outdoor patio perfect for a safe and sensational experience.
From the team of L.A. Native Vanessa Tilaka—anywhere else she’d be the cheese monger but at Agnes she’s the head cheese—and Iowa-born Executive Chef Thomas Kalb, is a warm and inviting destination that offers impressive cocktails and the most comforting Midwest inspired cuisine.
Thanks to a mix of the duo’s European style culinary training, world travels, warm Midwest hospitality and an eclectic juxtaposition of old and new, Agnes, opened during the pandemic, has quickly become a foodie hotspot.
During our recent visit for dinner, we started with the highly recommended ½ & ½ Board served with the head cheese’s selection of two cheeses and two cured meats along with accompaniments. You can also order a cheese board or a cured meat board but the combination of the two seems like the way to go. Although I think I want to order the Tinned Fish with options of pâté of mackerel, sardines, tuna, fillet of mackerel, sea sprat, and marinated mussels on my next visit.
Of course, an order or two of the Cornbread Éclair is a must. The Crispy California Cheese Curds with dill pickled celery, Fresno buffalo sauce and blue cheese dip is a great one to share. It’s a grand and decadent “snackadoo” as the Agnes team likes to call its starter items. The Honey Baked Ham Balls with Huli-Huli sauce, pineapple chow chow and herb salad is Chef’s take on his favorite Hawaiian Pizza in meatball form.
Another popular selection is the Loaded Baked Potato Dumplings with roasted broccoli salsa, sour cream, Prairie Breeze cheddar, bacon lardons and shoe string potatoes, which comes across as a tasty deconstructed loaded bake potato. Wow! Other house made pasta options include Pasta Primavera, and Beef Cheek Stroganoff but the dumplings (think fluffy and fab gnocchi) is comfort food cool.
The Grilled Half Mary’s Organic Chicken, served with smoky gravy, is a menu staple. We opted for the Pachamama Pork “Tomachop” with ice cream fed heritage pork chop and blackberry barbecue sauce. While the entrée was solid, for some reason it tasted sensational the next day as leftovers. Go figure. Considering the menu is an ode to Midwest grub, we were surprised there was no meatloaf variation on the menu. I could only imagine how good that would be.
And don’t forget about the cocktails at Agnes. I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting much from the bar program but boy was I wrong and impressed, because I found a solid and first-rate list of handcraft cocktails.
The Como la Flor with Bahnez Mezcal, Cocchi Americano, Carpano Antica, and Yellow Chartreuse, and the B-A-N-A-N-A-S with Planation Pineapple and OFTD, Wray & Nephew Rum, lime and Banane du Bresil are boffo boozy cocktails. Both pack impressive and satisfying punches.
The Corn Maiz with Le Gritona Tequila, Nixta Elote Licor, sweet corn, cilantro, and lemon is a refreshing margarita variation, and the Rhubarb Cobbler with Old Overholt Rye, Oloroso Sherry, rhubarb and mint is perfect summer drinking.
And if you save room for dessert, the S’Mores Cocoa Taco with dark chocolate, graham cracker pizzella, marshmallow and peanuts is over-the-top fun.
At Agnes, you will find a comfy and welcoming place with inspired cocktails and hearty comfort food. In fact, an evening of cocktails alongside a bevy of snackadoos sounds like a good time to me. I need to reserve my spot now. Speaking of which, dinner reservations are recommended and any reservation cancellation must be made eight hours in advance as there is a cancellation fee of $25 per guest.
Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery is located at 40 West Green Street in Pasadena. Open Tuesday through Sunday. Call (626) 389-3839.
Story & Photography By: Jose Martinez
Some Photography Courtesy Of: Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery