How The Downturn Saved Rick's

Who is Rick?

Well, I don’t know, actually. However, his namesake has graced a certain burger stand in a little corner pocket of Pasadena’s Walnut and El Molino Ave. since 1964. Rick’s Drive-In is a down-home dive, a sort of greasy mecca that compels folk to ode in tribute of their thick cut fries, burgers, and potato + burrito concoction known as the Spuderito– none of which will cost you more than pocket change. A prime walk-up to cure your hangover, it’s an old spot that looks like a postcard from the past, an image that is wildly at odds with the looming luxury condo and apartment megaplexes that have sprung up all around it. In mid-2006, owners Ralph and Mary Lou Fonzo were notified that the property was sold to make way for more of them.

Rick’s Drive-In Pasadena

The Fonzos have tried unsuccessfully throughout the years to purchase the property on which the drive-in sits, and now have little say about the future of their business.

Fast forward a year– things in the real estate market soured quickly and the prospect of development on this block became much less attractive than it was only a few months ago. The condo onslaught had been postponed indefinitely and for now, Rick’s is spared of the wrecking ball. Still, we all know the deferment is likely to be anything but permanent. The owners haven’t ceased their search for another site to buy or lease, and they want to stay in Pasadena. (A website http://www.ricksdrivein.com was set up in outreach for public support). A place like this simply cannot survive for much longer, it’s not what the city has in the cards for the future of the Playhouse District. Like Bungalow News, which recently shuttered after nearly 50 years in business in Pasadena, take it as a last stand of sorts to the homogenization taking hold of the neighborhood; the antithesis to the upscale Roy’s opening not far away.