An alternative to the gastropubs and nightclubs that populate Old Town, White Horse is a charming spot to settle in for a whiskey cocktail and garlic fries.
For those living in its vicinity, going to Old Town is a divisive proposition. Some people love it, some people hate it, and, due in large part to its geographical convenience, both parties will inevitably end up here. In a neighborhood crawling with gastropubs, sports bars and whatever that weird nightclub next to the tattoo place is, White Horse Lounge feels like an Old Town retreat for the rest of us. Tucked away down forgotten De Lacey Street, this cocktail-forward concept comes courtesy of Dustin Nicolarsen, the brains behind The Derby in nearby Arcadia. That explains the bar’s equine name, which also happens to be a direct translation of the location’s departed predecessor, Cheval Blanc. White Horse keeps much of the opulence of the former occupant, with warm, red tones and dark woods creating a boozy bordello with turn of the century southern charm. An ornately carved bar dominates the space, welcoming you to sit down and stay a while, while the cocktail menu is catered to those with a lust for whiskey. The bar food is your standard pub fare done better, all served with a smile by patient staff happy to sub out the key component in your picky companion’s salad. This is still Pasadena, after all.
Good for: Catching up with friends in a bar where you can actually hold a conversation. If you’re in the pro-Old Town camp, this is a good place to imbibe and line your stomach before hitting the main strip. If you’re not, you don’t even need to set foot on Colorado Boulevard—White Horse is right next to the De Lacey parking structure.
The scene: Young professionals, middle-aged drinking buddies and familial relations all seem perfectly at home in this elegant but casual atmosphere. In addition to the bar and front lounge area, where you’ll find the regrettable addition of inexplicably large chairs, there’s also a restaurant seating area for the food-focused. Tunes are in line with a classic wedding reception playlist, with plenty of upbeat funk, soul and R&B to sing along to as you sway on your bar stool.
Drink this: Hands down, the best drink on White Horse’s menu is the Smart Ass ($11), a refreshing and tart mix of Irish whiskey, lemon juice, honey and mint rounded out with a homemade Guinness reduction. Other drinks, while perfectly good, seemed ever so slightly out of balance and veered to the sweeter side of the spectrum. While the homemade syrups certainly add a unique component to many of the drinks, a bit more acidity could make a world of difference. That said, we enjoyed the Punch 41 ($11), a rye-based take on a Caribbean-style milk punch with Grand Marnier, pineapple, coconut milk, pomegranate syrup and nutmegl the Bella Firenze ($11), a Negroni with a strawberry basil twist; and The Esquire ($11), a sweet and sour blend of Buffalo Trace, Grand Marnier, orange bitters and a delightful cabernet reduction.
Our Tip: Get the garlic truffle parmesan fries. In fact, get two—they're some of the most addictive fries around.
|Venue name:||White Horse Lounge|
41 S De Lacey Ave
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri 4pm-close; Sat, Sun 3pm-close|
|Do you own this business?|
Average User Rating
4 / 5
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Old Town Pasadena becomes kind of a weird place at night; it takes on a sloppy, clubby vibe that's at odds with its otherwise charming, historic streetscape. So White Horse could easily rest on the fact that it's a cocktail lounge and not a gastropub or club. Instead, it earns its spot as Pasadena's low-key nightlife alternative. Most of the cocktails are pretty good—though I found the White Horse, a sort of maple-bacon twist on an Old Fashioned, a little disappointing—and the garlic fries are fantastic. But the decor (those chairs!) really seals the deal for me, from the amber glow of the front bar to the dark, handsome main dining room.