Monday, September 24, 2007
Located in Glendale since 1960, Porto’s is the most famous—and possibly the best—Cuban bakery and cafe in all of L.A. county. Even though I grew-up right next door in Burbank, neither Tim nor I ever ate there until last spring. Our first visit was most memorable.
Vaguely remembering its address, I creeped along Brand Blvd. until I saw cars jostling for parking spots in front of a store with sidewalk tables and umbrellas. We parked two blocks away and walked in the front door.
Inside was pure chaos as mobs of people stood on line for pastries (on the right) and hot food (on the left). Even with 20-30 employees working behind the counters, the lines were ridiculously long—but everyone was happy! We decided to stay.
After about 20 minutes, we ordered two “pan con lechon” (roasted pork) sandwiches and then went in search of a table. We found one right next to an open doorway that led to another entire store filled with Porto’s goodies! Over Tim’s shoulder, I could see shelves lined with bread in all shapes and sizes. I could barely finish my sandwich before leaping out of my seat and running over to see what other delicacies awaited.
Of course, it was complete unbridled havoc in the bakery. Where the cafe had (albeit long) lines of patient customers, the bakery was another matter altogether, with everyone standing in one massive group waiting for his or her number to be called. We grabbed a number (#83) and joined the crowd. There were some 20 people ahead of us.
Porto’s is probably best known for its fabulous cakes which, in most cases, look like works of art. The people ordering cakes seemed to know exactly what they wanted; but for the rest of us the options were endless. I spied something that looked like a knot of dough covered in cinnamon in the corner of the display case and so squeezed through the crowd to get a better look.
“They’re brioche,” I reported back to Tim. “They look phenomenal!”
“I’ll have what she just said!” the man next to me replied when his wife asked what he wanted. Our collective appetites were soaring!
Finally I heard a voice behind the counter yell my number and I snapped to attention.
“EIGHTY-THREE!! EIGHTY-THREE” I cried as I elbowed my way to the front of the pack. No one was going to stand between me and my brioche!
I ended up taking home four brioche, half-a-dozen polverones (Spanish sugar cookies that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid), and a baguette—and all for the remarkable price of only $7.50. A haul like this would have cost twice that much on the west side.
We now find an excuse to stop in Glendale every time we’re east of downtown L.A., including last Saturday when I convinced Tim to accompany me to a paper collectibles show by promising to eat at Porto’s afterward. The place was as crazy as usual, but the food smelled just as tasty; so we slipped into line and waited to order. Mmm, mmm! Pork and pastries—what a feast! And such a deal, too!