Quality Cuban pastries at Porto’s Bakery and Cafe
Portoâ€™s Bakery and Cafe is a Cuban restaurant famous for its tasty, authentic Cuban fare. From pastries to cakes to sandwiches, this establishment boasts a wide variety that attracts all kinds of customers.
With locations in Glendale, Downey and Burbank, Portoâ€™s is quite accessible. Even with multiple locations, the Buena Park store, the one I visited, was completely filled with people. Large in size, the building gives a lasting first impression.
The buildingâ€™s large windows and high ceilings made it seem extremely spacious. The natural lighting made it very comfortable and homely. However, the open space is offset by the hordes of people inside, waiting to buy their food. The store is split into three different lines, two for food and one for beverages.
Another component of the decor that stood out to me was its rustic implements. There were fresh loaves of bread with the letter â€śPâ€ť drawn with flour displayed on the walls. Wooden baskets and rakes are also propped against the wall to give the building a very modest feeling. The two-toned walls, white on top, and wood on the bottom, helped emphasize the modern and comfy vibes that merged together to form the storeâ€™s ambiance. The restaurant had massive paintings and signs on the wall, offering the customers a look at Cuban culture and the bakeryâ€™s history. The wide variety of seating arrangements, from booth to open air, gave customers the freedom to choose what type of dining experience they wanted.
The servers in Portoâ€™s was very polite and efficient. Although there was a large number of people waiting their turn, the servers were very quick to take orders and pack up pastries. Despite the pressure to work quickly, they were still able to stay patient and helpful, which made me, as a first-timer, feel very comfortable.
Instead of the more typical buffet style service of most bakeries, servers take down selections from behind the pastry counter, and meals are ordered at the cash register. This method is ingenious, as the crumbly pastries would quickly be destroyed if everyone served themselves.
From their bakery selection, I decided on their famous Cheese rolls, a Guava strudel, a Refugiado strudel and a Tres Leches mini cake. I also bought a Medianoche sandwich, a Cubano sandwich and black bean soup served in a bread bowl.
The pastries averaged at less than $1 for each and the meals were all less than $6 individually. The superb quality of the food, paired with low prices, makes Portoâ€™s extremely worth visiting. The pastries are made daily in-house, which accounts for its fresh taste and texture. The first pastry I tried, the renowned Cheese roll, did not disappoint. Upon biting into it, I was instantly enchanted by the flaky crust that gradually gave way to the smooth creamy filling. The texture of the pasty was sublime. The outer shell had a thin coating of sugar that gave it a crunch when I first bit into it, which was followed by the airy lightness of the inner pastry dough. The cream cheese found inside the pastry was sweet. Despite its name, the filling in the roll tasted nothing like cheese, but more closely resembled a cream with a custard consistency.
The Guava and Refugiado strudels were both made with the same crumbly, airy crust as the cheese roll, but both had a simple egg wash crust. Instead of a hard crunch when biting into these two pastries, the outside layer was just a bit harder than the fluffy insides. This layer helped hold the whole pastry together. These two strudels were extremely similar; the only difference was that the Refugiado had cream cheese and the Guava didnâ€™t. I didnâ€™t know what to expect when eating these pastries, as Iâ€™ve never eaten guava jam before, but I was impressed from the first bite. The Guava strudel tasted exactly like guava juice, sweet without being saccharine. The pastry had the perfect proportion of jam to dough so that neither overwhelmed the other. The Refugiado was extremely similar, but the added consistency of the cream cheese made the taste smoother and more refined.
At this point, I was extremely excited to try the main courses. I started with the Cubano, which turned out to be a thick, fluffy sandwich presented in a heart shape, and it was filled with pork, ham, swiss cheese, mustard and pickles. It also came with a side of fried plantain chips. All the ingredients in the sandwich were so perfectly proportioned that the flavor of each individual component shone through without overshadowing anything else. The mustard had a pungent flavor that helped the sandwich from being too sweet. The Medianoche was extremely similar to the Cubano in all its ingredients. However, it was on a sweet roll instead of Cuban bread, and it was smaller and denser. Instead of the fluffiness of the Cubano, the Medianoche was more solid, with a cheesier and more prominent mustard and pickles flavor. Its smaller portion of ham also reduced its sweetness.
The black bean soup in a bread bowl was a delightful surprise to me. I normally do not like the taste or consistency of beans, but this soup was palatable and tasted similar to chili. The soup was thick and had to be scooped instead of drunk. The beans were so thoroughly cooked that the insides were flavorful.
Portoâ€™s is a definite must-go. Not only is the food excellent, but the overall ambiance contributes to the stellar experience it provides. The only downside to Portoâ€™s is that it is far in location, but I believe that the food from Portoâ€™s is well worth the trip. It is an amazing store to try new things and explore a different culture simultaneously.
Written by Nicole Chiang, News Editor
Photo by Nicole Chiang