Miami and Los Angeles are atop the basketball world. But the heat
is rising between these East and West Coast cities in another way as well. They are home to two of the nation's most prominent Cuban bakeries.
family-owned operation opened in 1960 and has three locations:
Burbank, Glendale, and Downey. The menu consists of cakes,
pastries, sandwiches, and coffee bar products. Wait times are
typically between ten and fifteen minutes. On the day we tried the
Burbank Porto's, we waited for about fifteen minutes with
a crowd ahead of us. Because the bakery is usually busy, a
separate "cake only" line has been created. The bakery is
large, bright, clean, and refined, with a generous, well-kept seating
area. Porto's top-selling items include the cheese roll ($.70,
scrumptious cheese-filled pastry), refugiado ($.75, guava and cheese
pastry), potato ball ($.90, soft, moist stuffed potato that is
enhanced by a squirt of Tapatio hot sauce), meat pie ($.78), chicken
croquette ($.90), Cuban cake ($1.95, yellow sponge cake soaked in
light French Brandy syrup), mango mousse ($2.60), Cuban sandwich
($4.85), and pan con lechon ($4.99). The only knock was that with our
extensive order, three items were overlooked, so we had to sneak back into place and
Also a family-owned and operated
business, it was inaugurated in 1976 and now has three
locations. They are full-line bakeries with breads, cakes, desserts,
cookies, pies, sweet and savory pastelitos, gourmet sandwiches,
quiches, omelets, platters ready to go, spreads, and salads. During our
recent trip to the Gilbert's on Coral Way, with only one customer
ahead of us, we endured a wait of about ten minutes. It was dfinitely not
the same assembly-line efficiency of Porto's. While the interior has
couches for comfortable seating, the decor and lame bakery case
presentations are less than thrilling. We sampled a guava pastelito
($.90) that was flaky and not as soft as we've had at far less
prestigious Cuban cafeterias in Miami. For instance, a cheese pastry ($.90) paled in comparison to Porto's cheese roll -- it tasted fried and
lacked cheese filling. The potato balls ($.80) were cold, even though
we had to wait for them to be deep-fried -- and strangely, they teaspoon of meat
filling. The flan ($1.80) had a good, solid consistency and sweet
flavor without being too cavity-provoking. The selection of petit
fours ($1.00) had a delicious icing, but were a bit sugary overall.
The Winner: Porto's by several lengths.
Efficiency, excellent product selection, and a welcoming, yet
polished, ambiance come together to create a Cuban bakery that puts
ours in Miami to shame.
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