Setting The Table: Meet Agnes

August 15, 2023 | Posted in Food

At Agnes, gathering with loved ones for an excellent meal is celebrated - and so is the cheese.

Thomas and Vanessa...

(This story originally appeared in the Visit Pasadena 2023 Summer Experience Guide in print, penned by Ramona Saviss. Photos are provided courtesy of Agnes)

Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery is not your average eatery. Set in a former horse stable built in 1922 for Pasadena’s fire department, the restaurant features an indoor dining room and a sprawling outdoor patio. Here, chefs/owners Vanessa and Thomas Tilaka Kalb combine 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry to create a a culinary juxtaposition of old and new.

Named after his maternal grandmother, Kalb’s goal for Agnes was to combine warm Midwest hospitality with a modern and elevated twist on Americana comfort food through re-imagining family dishes.

“Vanessa and I met while working in the Bay, fell in love, and decided to open our own restaurant and cheesery right here,” Kalb says. “Pasadena constantly finds itself being compared to L.A. or the Westside, but it’s in a league of its own. Our patron scare about us and each other….about who the staff are and what they are interested in.”

Tilaka’s family has been in the food business for several generations. Her grandparents owned a restaurant in Thailand, and her father and uncles opened L.A.’s first Thai market.

Tilaka is also the shop’s cheesemonger. “I discovered my love for cheese after taking a cheese education class in San Francisco, and the rest is history, ”she says. In addition to elevated comfort food, the restaurant’s marketplace offers 50 to 65 different cut-to-order cheeses and cured meats, a midday takeaway menu of sandwiches and salads, plus wine by artisanal and local makers.

There’s a genuine sense of community at Agnes. Guests can also take classes and tastings to expand their appreciation and knowledge of cheese, “learning about regional varieties, pairings, and best practices for buying and storing cheese,” says Tilaka. “We hope to grow with the community each year,” she adds, “and become a staple that people can rely on for good food, wine, and cheese.”