The Raymond 1886

“Spontaneity is the best kind of adventure” ~Anonymous

The best way to experience a new place to eat is when you find it unexpectedly.

Spontaneously.

Such was the happenstance as when my mother and I intended to visit Universal Studios Hollywood but found ourselves at The Raymond 1886 instead.

A grand plan turned into a smaller still grand plan, an enjoyable lunch and finding a neat little place that showcased a bit of Pasadena’s history.

On one of my days off, my mom and I planned on taking a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood to see the holiday overlay. We got a later start, on account of a doctor’s appointment and general sleeping-in-ness. We set out a bit after 11:00 and, after Googling park hours for the day, we found that the theme park was closing early; by the time we actually parked, bought tickets and made it inside, it would’ve only been like 5 hours in the park—-not enough justification for a $100-ish ticket.

So, since we were out near the Pasadena area, we changed our plans and decided to have lunch and see Disney/Pixar’s Coco afterwards.

Mom found an address for a restaurant on her iPhone; she thought it was a cute diner in a railroad car because of the name of the street where it was located. She pulled up the directions and I drove.

Well, I actually drove past it because the entrance was hidden.

We had to do a loop around the neighborhood but we didn’t mind that because we like to look at the styles of the houses in the area.

Our second attempt was more successful. We turned off the road and found a small alleyway entrance and a solo option of valet parking (for $5).

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Hidden behind shrubbery and tucked away from a busy Columbia Street, the cute cottage is a quiet retreat for a nice lunch and a way to disconnect from your every-day routine.

*standby for a historical interlude*

The Raymond 1886 is actually the caretaker’s cottage for The Raymond Hotel, which was built in 1886 by Walter Raymond. Mr. Raymond was from Boston and wanted to build a luxury hotel for people who were visiting from the East Coast during winter. The original hotel sat upon Raymond Hill (originally called Bacon Hill before the hotel was constructed) and had views of the San Gabriel Mountains to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south (on clear day).

 

The grand hotel had 200 rooms and a horse-drawn carriage that took guests on day trips to Los Angeles, Pasadena and other near-by areas. Dancing, dinner parties, concerts and card games were held inside the hotel’s grand ballroom to also entertain guests.

The Raymond Hotel was the leading luxury hotel for the Southern California area until it burned down on Easter Sunday in 1895. No one was hurt; guests were directly the cottage for safety and bartenders kept everyone occupied after the fire.

Walter Raymond rebuilt his hotel and reopened in 1901. The second Raymond Hotel was more grand than the first, with 300 rooms each with their own private bathrooms; the foundation of the building was larger, fireproof and more modern for the time. There was steam heating instead of fireplaces; concrete and stucco exteriors instead of wood, tiled roofs and electric lighting; smartly, the new hotel also had several fire doors and extinguishers. The coolest part about the second version of the hotel is that it was accessible by elevator through an underground tunnel that is still located at Raymond Hill today, although it is sealed off to the public.

The second Raymond Hotel enjoyed several decades of success, with famous Guests such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and President Theodore Roosevelt, until the Huntington Hotel was built in Pasadena. The Raymond Hotel couldn’t keep up with the popularity of the new hotel and was foreclosed in 1931. Walter Raymond and his wife moved into the caretaker’s cottage until his death in 1934 and the Raymond Hotel was demolished.

*end historical interlude*

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The entrance to the restaurant is inviting and inside you can see how Walter Raymond and his wife made a home for themselves, even though the cottage is more business than home today.

Old hutches and fireplaces decorated with Christmas holly added a touch of history among the booths and tables for patrons.

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Lunch was flavorful. I ordered brunch: the Marinated Tomatoes and Wilted Spinach Omelet. The omelette was fluffy and light, stuffed with soft goat cheese; the spinach, tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms and pesto combined together well. I also got a side of potatoes, fruit and toast.

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Mom got the Hanger Steak Salad. She said the chipotle dressing had a lot of flavor and a small kick. I snagged a piece of steak that was very tender. The salad was rounded out with black beans, corn, roasted peppers and red onion, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, cotija cheese and tortilla strips.

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After lunch, we wandered a bit to get a feel of the rest of the cottage.

There was a really cool bar area and patio area in the back and front for hosting small parties.

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The Raymond 1886 was a bit expensive for lunch but it was a nice “treat yourself” afternoon and I would come back again for drinks with friends if I was in the area.

Have you had a chance to visit The Raymond 1886? Are there any cool historical restaurants near where you live? Comment below and let me know!

If you want to know more about the history of the Raymond Hotel, I found and quoted most of my information from a quick Google search that gave me a neat Wikipedia article and a very interesting piece from KCET by Nathan Masters. More pictures of the hotel are available here.

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