“Always enough, the man said while playing his guitar, the song is called Always enough…”
54 Holly Restaurant, located in the heart of Downtown Pasadena on the corner of Holly St. and Raymond Ave.
Before entering, I thought to myself, it’s about time we get some American breakfast. I’m starving and this trendy Insanity Workout unleashed a monster of an appetite. After stepping inside, all of a sudden it’s as though there was a rift in the space-time continuum. Welcome to the era where the retro dining, where archaic typography, and where an awkward clash of turquoise and maroon makes its dominance clear as day.
The man at the register dropped two menus in front of us and calmly replied, “Kamusta ka na?”
Damn, our identities were compromised, surely if Chris didn’t accompany me perhaps I would have been mistaken as being Cambodian or Mexican today. Looking through the menu, it was interesting to note they recently acknowledged their 20th Anniversary at the location 7 years ago, making them a healthy 27 years of age.
Within a good five minutes it we decided to order the following items:
The first dish is an American Classic with only a touch of Filipino influence (the diced tomato and onions). The eggs were standard, the hash and corn beef remained crispy, and the diced items added a bit of acidity and texture.
Whereas, the Second Dish has an essence of Lola’s/Lolo’s (the term grandma/grandpa in Tagalog) one wouldn’t forget. Sausages were meaty, somewhat dry but with a nice spice to it. The crab omelette and fried rice, easily a filler. However, the sunny side up eggs, the two runny yolks attached to pristine egg white containers and a small pinch of garlic, were the stars of the dish. These culinary notes were definitely reminiscent of my grandfather’s culinary skill as a chef for the U.S. army back in his more youthful days, while he prepared his young grandson a meal while watching new episodes of Salute Your Shorts.
While eating all of these hearty homemade recipes, staring at the Pasadena Paraphernalia led me to ask, “why all the old trinkets?” Sure their wall of fame has government folks, locals and of course Elizabeth Hurley (who didn’t like her role in the movie Bedazzled). You would think the rapid gentrification of Downtown Pasadena would force long-term local establishments like these to toss their bric-a-bracs faster than a kindergartener playing with Legos at your grandma’s garage sale. The answer Ernie (the man at the cash register) replied in a modulated tone,
“If there’s one thing, I would like to say about this place… it’s the ambiance that keeps people wanting to come back. The ambiance is first and the food is second”- Ernie: Co-Owner of 54Holly
He’s right about that… the food wasn’t the highlight of this place. The flavors did lack a bit of depth and originality even some Yelpers cry out that its premium price isn’t enough compensation for its “vintage feel.” However, Ernie did continue mentioning his clientele consists of 60% Filipino, 20% Caucasian and the rest mixed ethnic origin, which then he concluded when I asked him about the future regarding this place,
“I can’t really predict anything…but I wanted to make changes and majority of the customers wanted to stay the same (no changes).” -Ernie
On a final note, after paying a hearty tab of $40.00 for both plates and thanking them for their hospitality,
A reoccurring theme came to mind: the local community is a major influence when it comes to the sense of direction any business would take. For the Filipino clientele in Downtown Pasadena, maybe its the only sense of identity they cling on, a footprint of their ethnic culture. The trips to West Covina, Carson, Cerritos or even Eagle Rock might be too daunting of a task, so they come here to mingle, eat longanisa and possibly chismis (gossip in Tagalog) with one another until the brunch spot closes.
Maybe all businesses aren’t alive solely on exotic tastes, well crafted lattes or fine dining flair. Maybe we just need a place to belong in this cultural melting pot we call America. Just as I begin to fall under the deep spell of food coma, I’ll always remember…
Asian food and hospitality in general, are always enough.
54 East Holly Street
Pasadena, CA 91103