From its mid-century modern wallpaper to bright orange booths, Cindy’s on Colorado Boulevard still feels like the Route 66 diner it once was. The diner has maintained most of its original design elements throughout closures, as well as many changes in ownership, over its decades-long history. Though the spot on Colorado has been a restaurant since the mid-1930s, it was not until 1948 that it became Cindy’s, named after the original owner’s daughter. The original owner’s family lived in a house behind the diner until they the business it in 1980, according to current owner Paul Rosenbluh. Despite having many different owners over the years, Cindy’s has maintained its homey and personal feel, according to Rosenbluh, who bought Cindy’s with his wife Monique King in 2014.
“It’s the kind of place you go to your whole life,” Rosenbluh said via email. “You watch people literally grow up in front of your eyes. Then they leave and come back years later to still find it going. It’s a form of continuity that people really love.”
Rosenbluh said he and King bought the diner from the business’s current landlord Bob Barone, when Barone could no longer run it after his partner fell ill. Rosenbluh said Dianne Barone, Bob Barone’s eldest daughter, had known him and his wife from their other restaurant, Firefly Bistro in South Pasadena, and she asked them to take over the diner.
Though its vintage atmosphere remains, Rosenbluh and King have made a few renovations to the restaurant including restoring the iconic Cindy’s sign, for which they raised $16,500 through a Kickstarter campaign. They also revamped the kitchen, which Rosenbluh said was in a deplorable state when they purchased the diner.
Cindy’s history includes numerous pop culture appearances, in everything from Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” music video to NBC’s cop drama “Aquarius“ and “Surviving Christmas” starring Ben Affleck ’95. In fact, the restaurant is often closed for filming, to the dismay of Cindy’s regulars like Steve Wada, who has been a loyal customer for over three years.
“Every so often I’m kinda bummed because they’ll say on Instagram ‘We’re closed tomorrow because of filming,’” Wada said. “I get kind of excited to see it on TV — but dang it, they’re closed!”
Wada said his favorite part of coming to Cindy’s is the quality of their food. While he enjoys the hearty gumbo and the filling brisket hash, he said he most looks forward to trying their popular cakes or pies.
“I always hope that I’ve left room for dessert,” Wada said.
Olivia Loscavio (sophomore) said she has been coming to Cindy’s since arriving on campus last semester. She said the best part of the restaurant is the nearby offering of good food at affordable prices.
“Places on York can be so expensive,” Loscavio said. “For three-dollar coffee, this is delicious.”
Loscavio said she specifically loves that the coffee is roasted locally in Pasadena. She said she enjoys trying all the pies at Cindy’s, and especially loves the peach cobbler. Loscavio said that after a meal at Cindy’s she usually gets a pie to go.
Rosenbluh said the quality and prices of the food is the selling point of Cindy’s.
“It’s a delicious local restaurant with no pretense. The food is better than it should be, and that surprises most people who have never been here. It’s just comfortable and yummy,” Rosenbluh said via email.
While there are customer favorites, Rosenbluh said, there is not one particular menu item that takes the cake.
“We designed the menu to be delicious,” Rosenbluh said. “I’m not trying to be arrogant, it’s just that if an item wasn’t good, we would never put it on the menu, or we would remove it and replace it.”