Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mary's - Sierra Madre's Hidden Gem

You know you’re in for an experience when the first question you’re asked before entering Mary’s Market and Café is, “Do you wanna paint a rock?”

I look down and find a bright, hand-painted collection of river rocks that pay homage to Mary, the namesake of the market and café in Sierra Madre.

“I don’t have time today,” I explain, in an attitude not in keeping with the laid-back vibe of Mary’s, The tiny restaurant and store is tucked into the foothills of Sierra Madre, off the beaten path of the two main drags in town, Baldwin Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard.

Drive less than five minutes away from that downtown intersection, up a couple of narrow, curving roads, and you’ll find Mary’s, in the center of a quaint mountainside residential area. Mary’s looks as though it’s always been there. In fact, the institution has served the foothills community since 1922.

Walk in and you’ll find old-fashioned bar stools at the front counter or by the front window over looking the tree-lined street. Or choose one of the three comfy booths or one of the tiny outdoor tables.

The oil-splattered menu, glued on to the back of a brown lunch bag, is as simple and unpretentious as the setting. On my first visit, I chose Mary’s equivalent of an egg McMuffin for $3.50. On my last visit, I went with yogurt, served in a vintage brown transfer-ware bowl, with fresh granola and three kinds of fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and bananas) for $3.50. I’ve paid nearly $10 for a similar bowl at high-end cafes. Other options include a breakfast burrito, bagel with cream cheese or oatmeal.

Wherever you choose to sit, take some time to lounge outdoors for a few minutes before moving on. Breathe the fresh mountain air. Close your eyes and listen to the sound of chirping birds and water streaming down the storm drain. Watch the sycamore tree leaves blowing in the breeze.

And, before you head back to the hustle-bustle world, don’t forget to take time to paint a rock.

Mary’s Market and Café

561 Woodland Dr,

Sierra Madre, CA 91024


No need to rush after that second cup of coffee - free parking for 48 hours.

Special thanks to Altadena Hiker, who introduced the Restless Chef and me to Mary's.


Kalei's Best Friend said...

didn't think there were still places like that especially here in Cali.. Now Oregon, that's a place where they take all day to do one simple thing..

Petrea Burchard said...

I've always meant to stop in. Always been in too much of a hurry. Time to change that, eh?

Cafe Observer said...

Well, it was a hidden gem that only a few Sierra Madrean's, MG/MH/DP, and me knew about!

Now, with all you blogger's spreading the news, I think one of you's need to organize a blogger get together there one day.

Anonymous said...

Like the pictures and now you've sold me on the granola.

Wandering Chopsticks said...


I'll have to keep it in mind next time I'm up that way for hiking. I pass the downtown area and think it's pretty cute already.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I'll paint a rock

Mary Bergfeld said...

If ever I am there I know where I should be :-). I always love to read your breezy and well-written posts. Great fun! Have a great Day. Blessings...Mary

likenarnia said...

I always pass by marys on the way to a friends but like most of the other bloggers, i too have never stopped. i have seen live music outside a time or two.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I was there a couple of Sundays ago. Mary's was closed as it always is when I'm nearby. I walked up the street where it dead ended. I looked up at the interior walls of the canyon and caught a unexpected peek at a couple of 60's ex-patriots climbing naked into a hot tub (most likely one that was once a red wine barrel).

But the best find of all was this fixer upper

Petrea Burchard said...

It'd be nice to live up there if one had the money to fix it up, eh, PA?

Susan C said...

Chrissy, Mary's is definitely an unexpected surprise.

Petrea, Yes, definitely slow down and stop in.

CO, A bloggers' meeting at Mary's? Now that's an idea.

AH, Thanks again for the introduction!

WC, Yes the downtown SM area is very cute and quaint. I think of that area as "Off Broadway" and the Mary's canyon area as "Off-Off Broadway."

PA, I'd love to see your painted rock. I think I fudged when I told the woman I was too busy to paint a rock. I'm really embarrassed at my lack of artistic abilities. Someone had already painted the yellow yolk on the white egg. That would have been my speed.

Mary, Why thank you! If you're ever in this area, you will definitely have to visit your namesake.

Likenarnia, We're just going to have to get you and Petrea to slow down.

PA, I miss everything! The only vestiges of the 60s I saw were tie-dyed T-shirts. Thanks for the clip. It really shows how "rustic" the area is. I like my part of Altadena because I think of it as manicured rustic. I guess that's kind of like when J Crew went Bohemian.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

hint: get the roundest flattest stone available. Paint four small dark circles in the center and call it a button. All will be impressed with your ability to think conceptually

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I went to Marys finally (with friend Mary) It was charming. Bagel with cream cheese on Tempko china. It was great fun