Category Archives: Bakeries

Cuban Bakeries – Portos vs Tropicana

Sorry for the long hiatus, things have been a bit crazy (to say the least) in the world of Wander Foodie.  So I hope you guys have been all doing well!  Hopefully the food blog will be regularly updated from now on – I know there are a lot of back-logged posts!  🙂

So today’s post is a comparison between two popular Cuban bakeries, both located in Downey.  Porto’s is pretty well known and an established chain in LA.  Tropicana Cuban Restaurant is more of a local mom-and-pop shop.  Here’s the verdict:

Porto’s Bakery & Cafe
8233 Firestone Blvd
Downey, CA 90241
(562) 862-8888
 
 
This Porto’s location is fairly new and is its own stand-alone building off of Firestone Blvd.  Finding parking was a breeze (either street parking or in the adjacent free structure).  The place is pretty big, so it was easy to find a table.  Lots of pastry and sandwich selections.  First, go up to the counter and order/pay.  Then, find a place to sit and your order will be delivered to you.
 
Potato balls, with meat filling inside.  Good flavor and filling!  I heard the Tropicana version tops this one.  $0.90 each.
 
Guava and cheese pastry. Pastry was flaky, with light guava flavor.  I like the one from Tropicana better – even though it’s less flaky, there was more guava flavor.  $0.75 each.
 
The Cubano (Cuban sandwich) – slow roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles on Cuban bread.  Comes with plantain chips.  So yum! $4.85.
 
Guayaba (guava) smoothie. There’s actually no dairy in this.  Basically it’s just guava juice ice blended.  Good flavor, but I prefer my smoothies to be creamy, instead of watered-down when the ice melts. $3.39.
 
 
Tropicana Bakery & Cuban Cafe
 
Right when you walk into Tropicana, you’re hit with the local diner vibe.  The wait staff fits into the Cuban theme with the Cuban style hats and shirts.  There are quite a lot of items on the menu, ranging from breakfast items, to sandwiches, to entrees, stews and finally desserts.  I actually like this style better, since it’s less of a crowd than Portos and it’s good for any time of the day.  🙂
 
Spinach empanada – stuffed with spinach, ricotta cheese and artichoke hearts.  It’s a good size with lots of ricotta filling!  Great to snack on before the entrees arrive.  $1.65
 
Guayaba and cheese pastry.  Like I mentioned above, I like this one better than Portos.  More guava flavor.  Yum!  $0.85 each
 
American coffee – free refills!  I heard the coffee was pretty decent.  $1.50
 
I think this is the frita cubana sandwich – Cuban style hamburger made with ground beef, chorizo and pork.  First time I’ve ever seen fries stuck to the buns of a sandwich, but I heard it was pretty tasty.  $5.95
 
Spinach & cheese omelet.  Good portion and well made. Even came with a few strawberry slices on the side! $5.95
 
Ropa vieja entree – shredded flank steak simmered in garlic, tomatoes, onions and bell peppers.  The meat had been stewed for a long time, so it’s nice and tender, with tons of flavor!  Comes with plantains and rice.  $12.49
 
In terms of drinks, I like Tropicana’s way better.  This is the papaya shake – thick but not too sweet.  There’s no papaya shake/drink at Portos… $3.89
 
You can also order coconut juice in a can, which tasted pretty good.  $1.59
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Cakes! Cakes!! And more cakes!!!

My birthday was a few months ago already, but I’ve been meaning to post up all of the wonderful cakes that I had eaten in honor of my birthday.  So finally, here’s a post dedicated solely to the birthday cakes!

Special thanks to my family and friends, who went through great effort to make sure that no cake and bakery was duplicated.  The cakes were all my favorites!!!  🙂

 

Cake #1:  Milk ‘n’ berries from Porto’s

3614 W Magnolia Blvd
Burbank, CA 91504
(818) 846-9100
 
 
 
 
Like the name suggests, it’s similar to a tres-leches cake, except that it is also filled with mixed berries and topped with whipped cream.  Mmmm….
 
 
Cake #2:  Mango mousse from JJ’s Bakery
 
2370 Crenshaw Blvd
Torrance, CA 90501
(310) 328-6668
 
 
 
One of my all-time favorite cakes.  It’s several layers of rich and creamy mousse mixed with several layers of moist cake.  The mango flavor is not overpowering and not too tangy.
 
 
Cake #3: strawberry shortcake from Angel Maid Bakery
 
4542 S Centinela Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 915-2078
 
 
 
Fresh strawberries and cream are sandwiched between two layers of moist cake.  The result?  Yummy deliciousness.  You can choose the toppings on top of the cake.  This one is with mixed fruit.
 
 
Cake #4:  strawberry tiramisu from 85C Bakery Cafe
 
Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center
2700 Alton Pkwy, Ste 123
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 553-8585
 
 
 
 
If I remember correctly, this tasted more like a strawberry mousse rather than a strawberry tiramisu, but it was good nonetheless!  Every time I go to 85 Degrees, I usually just make a bee-line for the freshly-baked breads.  I’ve been missing out on the cakes!
 
 
Cake #5:  sesame cream puff ring from Patisserie Chantilly
 
2383 Lomita Blvd
Ste 104
Lomita, CA 90717
(310) 257-9454
 
 
 
 
This was basically one giant cream puff, filled with sesame cream.  It was the most unusual birthday cake I’ve ever received.  The crust was light and crunchy.  The sesame cream filling was wonderfully bursting with sesame flavor, and enhanced the taste of the puff.  Yum!  On Chantilly’s website, this is called the Paris-Brest Sesame.

Angel Maid Bakery

4542 S Centinela Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066

(310) 915-2078

Hours:

Tue-Thu 8 am – 6:30 pm

Fri-Sat 8 am – 7 pm

Sun 8 am – 12 pm

http://www.yelp.com/biz/angel-maid-bakery-los-angeles

 

This is one of the few Asian bakeries on the westside.  It’s small and not in an Asian area of Culver City at all.  We love their cakes and desserts, and usually whenever there’s a birthday, this is where we come.  It’s better than JJ’s Bakery!

The cake flavors we usually get are strawberry shortcake (they use real strawberries!) and chocolate chiffon.  We’ve also tried strawberry mousse, mango mousse (seasonal), german chocolate, chocolate pudding and all have been great.  This bakery uses whipped cream instead of frosting (so it’s not too sweet) and the cake itself is spongy, not dry.  Be aware though, they sell out of cakes pretty quickly so the only way to ensure you’ll get a cake is if you place an order 2 days in advance.  Also note the hours – it closes earlier than most bakeries, especially on Sundays.

 

Strawberry shortcake with special floral design.  8 inch cake runs about $24

 

Slice view of strawberry shortcake

 

 

 

 

 

 

85 Degree C Bakery aka 85度C

Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center
2700 Alton Pkwy
Ste 123
Irvine, CA 92606

(949) 553-8585

http://www.yelp.com/biz/85c-bakery-cafe-irvine-3

 

I know many of you have heard of this place.  85 Degree C Bakery originates from the popular Taiwanese coffee shop chain, which is most well-known for its sea salt iced coffee.  The name itself represents the perfect drinking temperature to enjoy coffee.  The Irvine location is the first US outpost.  There are also locations in China and Australia.  The second US location just opened in Rowland Heights this past weekend.  The locations in Taiwan mostly concentrate on the coffee and teas, although cakes and pastries are sold as well.  The US locations, however, focus a lot on the bread-baking side. Bread is baked fresh out of the oven every 30 minutes or less.  Ever since the Irvine location opened almost 3 years ago, there has been a constant line outside the store, just for the bread, ALL DAY EVERYDAY.  Average wait to get in the store is about 30 minutes, which is why  I’m surprised it took them this long to open a second location in SoCal.

The line has only grown longer, especially with the NPR article (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127474607).  Ever since the NPR article, I do see a lot of non-Asians at 85 Degrees.  I’m glad Taiwanese bakeries are taking over!  😛   The store is organized into 2 sections:  bread/bakery and drinks/cakes.  The line is for the bread.  Get in line to select your breads.  Then get in the cashier line to pay.  For those of you who only want to order drinks or cakes, there is a separate line inside the store, which is usually WAY shorter than the bread line.  Sea salt iced coffee is highly recommended — the sea salt is not in the coffee, it’s actually on the foam.

A lot of people willingly drive all the way from LA to Irvine just for the bread.  Therefore, you’ll see people with BAGS full of bread, so don’t be shocked.  I only stop by if I’m in the area.  Every time I’ve been, the selections have been different.  All of the breads I’ve tried are good, but I especially recommend the blueberry cream-cheese and the mochi egg tarts.  So if you see something you’d like to try, just try it — you might not see it at your next visit.

 

The storefront.  Relatively short line (about 10 minutes) since it was around lunch time and the Rowland location just opened on the same day.

 

The bread selection

 

 

The dessert section.

 

My selections for the day, from top left:  mini apple pie $1.80, mochi egg tart (my fav!) $1.50 each, blueberry cream-cheese $1, almond croissant $1.50 and walnut raisin multigrain $2.75