I grew up in Pasadena when old town was place where drug dealers and prostitutes hung out. Basically roll up your windows, lock the doors, and stop for nothing. The evolution has been amazing and great for the community but not for dinning.
Atmosphere, community, and shopping are fantastic yet I cannot say the same for food. Yes there is selection but sometimes less is more. The small impacted strip that covers five square blocks of "Old Town" pasadena does not offer anything spectacular in cuisine.
I have a good friend that owns two of the busiest restaurants and he's confidentially stated that his food is decent, but "the night life and drinks is where I shine." I can attest that it's a great place to mingle, have a few drinks, and go home via cab but to have dinner before that would be a no.
Someone posted on CHOW about Pasadena and how it's dining destinations have become a elegant truck stop for tourists. Short of having a roller coaster and clowns giving free balloons on ever corner the true heart of food is lost in a facade of high end retailer stores and faux 4 star menus with white linen tables.
Mi Piace, Wokano, Sorriso, Twin Palms, etc non-chains. Barney's Beanery, Hooters, Gordon Biersh, Il Fornio, Mortons, Cheesecake Factory, etc are chains. All fare that you can find anywhere
When visiting Pasadena if you want to get a great dinning experience get away from the tourist trap of Old Town Pasadena.