Pasadena Magazine’s Restaurant Callout: Little Beast

*This article was originally published in Pasadena Magazine.

Eagle Rock partisans have long yearned for a place like Little Beast. Its ambiance, established by a reconverted 1911 bungalow with a homey patio on Colorado Boulevard, is unfussy and sets an ideal scene for catching up with a friend over a glass of a slightly obscure, yet affordable, white wine complemented by bites of wild salmon tartare. Or a romantic candlelight dinner ending with a mason jar full of chilled salty chocolate pudding. On a recent Tuesday night, every table at the small independent eatery was full, and the sound of convivial murmurs and clinking glasses was at full volume. Owner, chef and South Pasadena resident Sean Lowenthal, and his wife and partner, Deborah Schwartz-Lowenthal, knew the community was ready for their progressive American comfort food when the pop-up dinners they hosted down the street at Le Petit Beaujolais sold out, despite not doing any publicity. Lowenthal’s cooking chops, and his penchant for American modern cuisine, were honed during his two-year tenure working as Chateau Marmont’s sous chef. He’s split the menu into two sections: “Small Plates,” with fiercely seasonal things such as juicy, perfectly ripe peach slices served with a generous dollop of creamy burrata cheese, and “Mains,” entrees including plump seared scallops atop a bed of buttery roasted cauliflower puree. For beerheads and soda aficionados, there is an adequate assortment of craft beers on draft as well a couple of bottles of cool artisan pop. But it’s very much expected that most diners will take advantage of Little Beast’s uncommon wine list, a selection that may range from a $6 glass of tart, low-alcohol Vinho Verde to an intensely fruity glass of 2009 Sangiovese.

Chicken Pie Shop in Fresno, California: Rocksteady Dining While On Tour With The Delirians

Sometimes you just got to say “fuck it” in life and go on an impromptu tour with your old high school homie’s rocksteady/reggae band. That’s what I did last weekend and oh how happy I am to have done so. I woke up last Friday to a text from my friend Anthony Medina at 10 AM.

Tony: “Hey, you wanna come on tour to North California with us? We are leaving in half an hour, we’ll be back Monday morning.”

Me: “Dude! What the hell? I have math class, I have fencing club, I was going to cut my hair, I was going to Silver Lake Jubilee [blah, blah, blah, blah].

Tony: “Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, just say yeah, just say yes….just go, we are loading the van now, see ya’.”

Me: “I don’t know dude.”

And sure enough by the time I made up my mind, calling around and getting opinions from my parents, friends etc….it was too late and they had already left. “Damnit!” But then as soon as I knew it, they were in front of my house and waiting for me. And that was that, I left un-showered, with only $60 in my pocket, my laptop, camera and a couple of handfuls of whatever clothing I could snag on my way out.

A few hazy hours later, we arrived in Fresno and I had the munchieeees! Most of the band just settled on a thrifty dinner of Keystone Light and Filet-O-Fish sandwiches but those days were gone for me, thus, I convinced Carlos (swinging trumpet’er of the band) and Cuca (smokin’ saxophonist of the band) to come with me downtown and hunt our meal.

chicken pie shop facebook

We researched and found this sushi place earlier but on the way there, my foodie sense was tingling for this place that touted “Chicken Pies”. We immediately made an illegal u-turn, parked and sat in the neon green diner’s counter.

cafe at the bar

It was about seven in the afternoon and we were the only ones sitting inside. It was a spacious restaurant, the pastel -green theme of the empty place gave it an eerie, zombie-like feeling, I knew I shouldn’t had watched that movie “Legion”, haha.

“When are you going to find something like this in L.A?” I told Cuca and Carlos as I worriedly tried to rationalize my random decision to eat here.

The laminated, two-page menu boasted an entire page of traditional breakfast foods with only a quarter of the other page dedicated to dinner. They offered pies in two sets, “lunch” for $6.95 (pie, biscuits and choice of side) and a “dinner” option for $8.95 (pie, whipped potatoes, daily veggies, choice of side and dessert). “What ya’ll be taking” our waitress asked, “the lunch or dinner?”

” We can actually choose?!” I replied ecstatically. From that point on it was official, Fresno rules!

chicken pie shop lunch plate
biscuits and gravy
daily veggies

Cuca and Carlos jumped on the wholesome dinner plate’s. I knew I was going to be drinking in my carbs later on that evening so decided to jump on the frugal-lunch gravy train, with a side of veggies and extra gravy. And the verdict? Well, the pie was better than Marie Calendar’s (my standard unfortunately) that’s for sure! The whole meal screamed “homemade”, the flour-dusted biscuits were light but it didn’t really matter when dunked in their shmalt-intensive, lump-less gravy. The coleslaw was lightly dressed and the crinkle-cut veggies were marinated in this spicy, dill flavoring. In the words of Cuca and Carlos, “That shit was all booooooomb!”

desserts at chicken pie shop
strawberry rhubarb pie

For dessert, I persuaded my friends to order the the diner-dessert archetypes, their house-made apple betty and a slice of their rhubarb-strawberry pie. The server must had seen my craving displacement, she brought me a free rice pudding as well! And I was grateful! The apple betty mash was sweet and tasty, cooked gelatinous apples tossed and turned with this dulce de leche-like thick caramel and yellow cake pieces. The rice pudding was creamy, and packed with al-dente short grain rice. But my absolute favorite had to be the strawberry-rhubarb pie, with a tart, filling of rhubarb and strawberry and even more of that shortening-loaded crust. After all, I love pie.

The Delirians at Fulton 55 whole band two tone
Fresno Rude Boy Pride

The Delirians show was particularly more enjoyable thanks to a full tummy that night.

Stay tuned to see what else I ate on this trip!

Chicken Pie Shop
861 E Olive Ave
Fresno, CA 93728-3352
(559) 237-5042

Hours 7 AM- 8 PM