A chalkboard sign with colorful script sits in the sun, with the entrance to Pencil Cafe hidden on Harkness Ave.

William Nestlehutt / Courier
The Pencil Cafe located at 12 Harkness Ave, Pasadena CA 91106.

Swinging it open and walking up the three steps to the main seating area, it’s as if you entered a charming indie apartment. A plush doll rests on the waiting area seats in front of the cashier. Rainbow string lights are pinned above a shelf of books on the wall, with abstract art reproductions in harmony with the cheery yellow paint. A mantled unicorn head, with a pencil for a horn, quietly surveys over the place.

The chairs and tables in the Pencil Cafe are mismatched, but still maintain a sense of coziness, as does the whole of the lunch spot. The staff, donning simple black t shirts, smile and greet whoever happens to walk through the front door, and immediately offer samples of their most popular drink, mango lemonade.

After ordering a full cup of mango lemonade and a turkey avocado sandwich, I sat down and let myself blend into the ambience. Students casually chat with one another, or work peacefully on their laptops, as upbeat alternative music hums over the cafe.

The food arrived, and in my red wire basket lay two sandwich halves of french rolls with a pastel colored rainbow in between. The turkey avocado sandwich contained the obvious two ingredients, sliced hard boiled eggs, cranberries, arugula, cucumber and mayonnaise. The bread was fairly soft, and before biting into it, very fragrant.

There’s a distinct but adequate amount of sweetness from the cranberries, as well as the crispness from the cucumber, but it kind of overpowers the other flavors. Though there was not as much avocado as I would’ve liked, it was a novel and enjoyable sandwich.

As for the lemonade, a lemon wedge rested on top of the ice and some seeds and pulp rested near the bottom of the beverage. There was a great blend of the sweet and the sour, with a tangy aftertaste that lingered until the next sip. Both mango and lemon were in harmony.

William Nestlehutt / Courier
The main counter at the Pencil Cafe located at 12 Harkness Ave, Pasadena CA 91106.

The meal was certainly not your average lunchtime indulgence, but it was worth the experience. By that, I mean, the Pencil Cafe is not somewhere you go to, to partake in an average lunch hour. It’s a place where you want something familiar but different at the same time, twists on the classics.

It’s a place that almost feels like your friend’s place, like your room, like a niche where one can indulge on a meal that makes them question, “why haven’t I put cranberries in my sandwich before?” Pencil Cafe is a spot that welcomes you with a sort of familiarity, but leaves you with a sense of something new and fresh.

4.5/5 pencils

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