LA's Porto's vs. Miami's Gilbert's: A Plato Royale of Cuban Bakeries

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.

LA's Porto's


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


Miami's Gilbert's

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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John Zur