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Wake Up LA: Porto's Bakery
I fell in love with Porto's Bakery long before I ever actually visited one of their Glendale or Burbank bakeries -- they've always been our go-to place for catered meals at work. It only took one bite of one of their famous potato balls to convince me that this was a place I HAD to visit.
But even though I drive by the Burbank location almost every weekend on my way to Costco or Best Buy, I've always been hesitant to actually try out one of their breakfasts. The place always looks packed with brunching locals, and there's nothing I hate more than waiting in lines and fighting over tables.
I finally screwed my courage to the sticking point, though, and I'm happy to say that this weekend I became one of the hordes of happy locals feasting on delicious, cheap, and filling Cuban specialties. Porto's is definitely the kind of place where you want to spend your morning.
It's a street-parking-only kind of joint, but luckily Burbank actually has street parking widely available on the weekends (ahhh the Valley!). The first thing you'll notice when you walk in is that this place is HUGE -- with two wide service counters at a perpendicular angle to each other, joined by a massive coffee bar. You can either line up at the bakery counter to choose from a dizzying array of pastries, croissants, cookies, cakes, and the oh-so-popular cheese rolls and guava strudels.
Or, you can hop in the deli line, where you can choose from a nice selection of breakfast entrees, sandwiches, and salads. I went straight for the chorizo-and-cheese omelette on Cuban bread, while my boyfriend inexplicably felt like eating a pastrami sandwich (pastrami at a Cuban bakery? I don't know either).
We also had to try some of the house specialties -- a pork tamale for me, and an empanada for him (these came highly recommended by the guy in line in front of us). The tamale was quite tasty -- very moist and embedded with chunks of slow-cooked pork. The empanada was probably also very good but it got eaten up in a matter of seconds by Mr. Greedy Pants Pastry Face, and so I did not have a chance to try it. I'll have to get two next time.
Porto's is a huge operation, but the experience is pretty smooth for such a high-volume kind of place. We got our snacks, grabbed our number, and found a table pretty easily. Not easy was getting a drink -- I ordered an orange juice, which took about ten minutes to actually get. You go to the coffee bar to pick up your drinks, and wave your ticket at the counter guy, who is carefully orchestrating the distribution of coffees, smoothies, lattes, and OJ's to impatient patrons. The orange juice, by the way, is freshly squeezed in a monstrous juicer that has to be constantly supervised -- it may take a while to get your OJ, but wow, does it taste fresh and delicious.
The chorizo sandwich was excellent, made even better by a generous smear of Tapatio sauce (which they offer in single-serving packets -- genius!). While I've never been a big fan of Cuban bread (too white), this stuff was pretty tasty. The pastrami sandwich was also a winner, and came with a hefty portion of fried plantanos.
Porto's has a wide range of other lunch-time savories, including the classic medianoche sandwich, the Cuban sandwich with ham and roasted pork, and papa preparada, a sandwich filled with the aforementioned potato balls. Add some croquetas or pastels de carne on the side, and you have got yourself a meal. Best of all? It's cheap -- sandwiches are only around $3.00-$3.50, while the meat pies and croquetas are all under $2. Two people can load up at Porto's for under $15 no problem.
The atmosphere is bustling, of course, but extremely family-oriented and local-friendly. It's the kind of place that becomes a familiar part of your weekend routine.
Burbank: 3614 W Magnolia Blvd
Glendale: 315 N Brand Blvd
Mon-Sat 6:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
Sun 7:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m