Sunday, November 28, 2010

Porto's Bakery & Cafe- Glendale

 Porto's Bakery Glendale Exterior
Porto's Cafe Glendale Exterior

It so happened to be a random sighting when a dining companion and I were driving on Brand to go to the Glendale Galleria for some shopping that popped an idea to visit Porto's for dinner one day. I had heard about Porto's first from the blog Brand Eating, where the author talked about Porto's Cheese Rolls. That is actually a trademarked name, according to Porto's menu! Actually, I had seen Porto's during a visit to the Alex Theatre for Shakesperience, but I never visited. So, since we were able to find a parking spot after out visit to the Glendale Galleria (and for free too, since it was out of the restrictions for paid parking that day), we decided to eat there.

Inside, it was bustling. You could just call it the Cuban version of the popular Asian bakeries JJ Bakery and 85C Bakery and Cafe. There were two giant lines; one was a snaking line in the "Bakery" section of the building (entrance that says Porto's Bakery) while the cafe section had a smaller line for drinks, a bakery section, and hot food options. It did take a while for us to reach the counter to order, but that allowed us time to decide what to order.

Still though, what was best to order? I could see some trends in what customers were buying, but I was not completely sure. So, when I reached the counter I asked the employee (I think his name was Andrew, he was in training) what was special. We first started off with the hot food section, where he talked about all the various options  that were available at the time including the famous potato balls. Then, after picking some selections from the hot food section we moved onto the glass dessert counter, where there was a wide selection of appealing cookies, cakes, and other various desserts and pastries. After picking some more options (he recommended the mango mousse especially, cheese rolls, and the refugiado (aka guava and cheese strudel), and also liked the tiramisu (we asked if that was good or not), we told him our hot food orders, and then went forward to payment, where baskets of baguette and other various breads enticed us. SO, we picked out a long baguette like bread (flauta bread for $1.25 USD, at least that what it was stated on the receipt) to our additional purchases. In the end, we had an ULTRA long receipt and paid probably double what I was expecting to only pay at first, but hmmm, we don't visit Glendale all that often! Ha. Andrew was very happy with our purchases and stated that we certainly got a lot of good stuff, since everything we ordered were all pretty much his recommendations!

We then grabbed a number to sit at a table so they would know where we were sitting to give us the hot made to order items.

Potato Balls

While we were waiting we decided to munch on the other items we had purchased. First was the potato ball (0.90 USD). This was fun, with a slightly crispy exterior (it could be crispier if it was made-to-order) from frying. Inside was layer of smooth mashed potato with the center being a slightly peppery seasoned ground beef mixture that was like chili, but better and less smoky tasting. A good appetizer to start! Lots of other people I saw were also munching on potato balls while they waited for their made-to-order food items.

Chicken Empanada and Meat Pie

We then moved onto the chicken empanada (0.99 USD, spanish: empanada de pollo) and the meat pie (0.78 USD, spanish: pastel de carne). Out of the two I liked the chicken empanada most; the dough crumbled and melted in the mouth, while the filling was absolutely scrumptious with a tomatoe-y and slightly spicy shredded chicken and vegetable micture. So good! The meat pie used pastry dough and was filled with the same ground beef mixture as the potato balls. Not as special perhaps but still yummy; it was slightly cheaper though.

Refugiado (Guava & Cheese Strudel) and Cheese Roll

Next were the refugiado (0.75 USD, guava and cheese strudel) and the cheese roll (0.70 USD). If you haven't noticed already, the items at Porto's are quite well reasonably priced! You can get even deeper discounts if you buy in large amounts, like 50 of a certain item, which would decrease the cost to 0.50 USD per item; that works for all the items I have talked about so far and these two as well.Of the two, the cheese roll was the simpler one, with a danish like sweet cream cheese filling and a puff pastry exterior which had some salt and sugar sprinkled on top. The sprinkle of salt and sugar was really the kicker for the item, as the rest is usually seen in danish like items. However, the salt and sugar crusting on top provided a contrast of flavor, and the crunch provided by the crust of the puff pastry brought in a really fun textural contrast.

As for the refugiado, it was also quite like the cheese roll- puff pastry dough with the same cheese filling, but also fruity guava puree as well. It was a nice combo with the cheese and guava, but we found the cheese roll simply more appealing. But if you desire some fruitiness, then the refugiado is certainly a great choice.

Cubano (Cuban Sandwich)- with Plantain Chips

For a sandwich, Andrew recommended the Cubano (4.85 USD), a cuban sandwich which had cuban bread stuffed with slow roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, butter, mayo/mustard, and pickles. We were originally going to order the pastrami, but we went along with Andrew's suggestion. Certainly, we were not disappointed! The bread was excellent, with a crispy exterior and a soft and fluffy interior. There was plenty of tender, slow roasted pork which was not too salty, as well as the ham, which was not very sodium packed either. My dining companion liked this point especially, as most sandwiches we have that use ham are way too salty. The mustard and pickles cut down on the meatiness while perking up the flavor with piquant notes while the mayo and cheese brought some creaminess and bound the whole entire sandwich together. All in all, it was very delectable sandwich! Large portion size too. My dining companion proclaimed it as the best sandwich that they ever had.

The plantain chips were also delectable, reminding me about a trip to Cancun six years ago where people were selling sweetened fried plantain chips. These were not sweet; instead they were salty, and eating each one was like eating a thick potato chip. Yum. Eat in moderation of course. You can however get only the plantain chips as a separate item as well if you would like.

Roasted Pork Dinner Plate

The second made-to-order dish we had was the the roasted pork dinner plate (7.65 USD). You can also pick from ropa vieja (cuban-style shredded beef), steak, or chicken as well. Overall, this was tasty and delicious, but the serving size could have been a tad bigger for me and it could have been served slightly warmer. There was a scoop of white rice, a puddle of black beans,  and maduros (pan fried sweet plantains) in addition to the shredded roast pork which was sauteed with onions. It was overall a simple dish, with the roast pork being lightly seasoned with salt and spices. Still, the whole plate was quite flavorful- the beans provided a bold flavor when mixed with the fluffy rice and the pork, while the sweet plantains cut the savory flavor by providing some sweetness. I liked this plate much more than what I had at Bongo's Cuban Cafe in Miami, FL. That speaks plenty for me! The food here at Porto's was simply much more flavorful, and the fact that I paid half than what I did there is just another nice plus.

Mango Mousse and Tiramisu

We were going to leave the mango mousse (2.60 USD) and tiramisu (3.50 USD) to eat at home, but ultimately decided to eat them there. You can get these individually like we did, or you can get them as a cake for 23 USD as a 8 inch round. Usually we never order individual dessert items anyway, but these looked so fresh and special, we could not resist. And it was a good thing to that they were awfully delightful! No boring dessert here.

Mango Mousse Interior

The mango mousse was suggested by Andrew as his favorite of all the desserts in the case, and I could definitely see why. The mousse was like tasting a sweet, fresh mango, but in creamy mousse form! The inner core was like a mango flavored cream cheese mixture which also was like tasting a fresh mango, but with the slight complex flavors of the cheese. As for the bottom, it was a simple thin layer of sponge cake, nothing to scream about, but at least it was not dry, unlike most bottoms of these types of desserts.

Tiramisu

The tiramisu was a good rendition, with one special thing. Yes, there was the rich cocoa powder on top, the creamy and lightly sweet cream cheese mixture and the espresso soaked white sponge cake which already made it a fabulous dessert (way better than JJ Bakery's version!), but then there were the small pieces of chocolate you see on the top, which were actually chocolate covered rice crispies. These were also on the bottom of the cup, and provided a very fun textural contrast to the entire dessert. Yes, it's the small things that count. My dining companion went to JJ Bakery a few days later, and stated their version certainly didn't look as tasty as this version at all. Porto's is amazing at what they do.

So amazing, in fact, that we decided to buy some more food to go home, since we finished most of the food you jut saw. It was just some more chicken empanada and cheese rolls. Funny thing, after I saw the receipt I noticed they forgot to charge me for the chicken empanadas! Oops. Andrew was very happy to see me back in line, but he was not able to serve me. They did however put out some free samples of you guessed it, the chicken empanadas and cheese rolls, of which we took plenty more. Why did they put them out? They were closing for the day. So, come during closing hours if you want freebies, but you also risk the chance of not having the full menu to select from. 

Cheese Roll Detail

And with that said, I took some pictures of the food at home, since the photos earlier were way too distracting with the plastic box and other random items in the background. Here's the cheese roll.

Chicken Empanada Detail

And here is the chicken empanada. Funny thing is, one day later, another dining companion told me his friend recommended him to go to Porto's! His friend said, he drives all the way to Glendale just for Porto's- and that drive starts from Orange County. So you see, Porto's is definitely a good place to check out. Not only is it cheap, it is SO GOOD. (Yes, just like the TVB show, "So Good" if you haven't seen it already)

Oh and the flauta bread, you ask? It became yummy croutons for two simple and easy salads. :)


Porto's Bakery & Cafe
315 N. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203
Open Mon-Sat 6:30am-7pm,
Sun 7am-5:30pm
Tel: (818) 956-5996

Porto's Bakery (Glendale) on Urbanspoon

Happy Cyber Monday! :) For U.S. readers!

8 comments:

kirbie said...

I love this place! It reminds me a lot of 85C too. I just went to the new location in Downey. I always get the potato balls, chicken croquettes, guava strudels and the mango mousse.

ProFatKid said...

I can't say enough about this place...My facebook has a dedicated Portos dessert page...

Personal favorite = Fruit Tart

Sue said...

It has been AGES since I've been to Porto's! I don't remember what I've eaten there...apparently I tried potato balls according to a friend, but I have no recollection at all. I must visit again soon! That Cubano looks SO GOOD!

EatTravelEat said...

kirbie,
I'll be on the look out for the chicken croquettes! I did not see them last time.

ProFatKid,
Aha, I think I'll try that too someday. They did look nice!

Sue,
You should definitely visit! The large cakes are also quite cheap in comparison to other bakeries.

joanh said...

mmm, never had the pork plate before, but the cubano and plantain chips are so good! also love their cheese rolls.. dang, you're making me hungry!

EatTravelEat said...

joanh,
Haha, I hope you are fine now! I agree, the sandwiches and cheese rolls are great. So tasty! The drive to Glendale is the only thing setting me apart from Portos...

Paul d said...

I just met someone getting their wedding cake from here...

I don't blame them at all!

EatTravelEat said...

Paul,
Neither do I, their cakes are very good!