It doesn't happen often. But every once in while, someone takes a familiar concept and makes it better.
Such was the case in my latest reconnaissance to Porto's Bakery & Cafe in Downey, California.
Admittedly, I didn't know much before my visit. I had chosen the closest of their three locations and the bakery & cafe concept seemed self-explanatory.
As I approached the entrance, the chatter amongst the patrons sitting outside created a nominal buzz in the air.
It was soothing compared to the hustle and bustle that greeted me when I opened the door.
Hesitantly, I stepped inside and took it all in.
The store was large with three distinct sections - bakery, cafe, and whole cakes & pies. Each section had a line with the entrance staffed by personnel wired for communication. Additionally, there was a dining area inside with service.
Once I got my bearings, I entered the lengthy bakery line. There was an immense chalkboard overhead listing the numerous items and their prices.
Honestly, it was too much to absorb. I gave up and decided to look at the display case when I was closer.
Assuming it would be a while, I began keeping busy on my phone.
But I was wrong. The line moved quickly.
There was a system to this madness.
I soon found myself near the front of the line. Not wanting to be the clog in the machine, I began assessing the desserts.
When my turn arrived, I knew exactly what I wanted. I pointed out my selections. The associate boxed them, and then another associate completed my order at the register.
Not only was my wait less than 15 minutes, but it was a great value too. Three baked goods for a little over $7.
I left Porto's eager to find out if the taste would match the experience.
Now it should come as no surprise that I purchased a cupcake. What makes it unusual is that I opted for one with minimal frosting, the Blueberry Strati Cupcake.
It's a white yogurt cake, layered with fresh blueberries and blueberry buttercream, and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
From the moment I saw those blueberries peeking through the cupcake's top, I couldn't resist. The frosting was secondary.
So when I got home, I grabbed a fork and took my first bite.
It revealed...a blueberry muffin.
Hmmm, that's odd. I took another taste.
The fresh berries burst in my mouth. The cake was sweet and moist with a muffin-like density.The frosting's consistency was thinner than I'm accustomed and its flavor wasn't pronounced.
The frosting's consistency was thinner than I'm accustomed and its flavor wasn't pronounced.
This was no cupcake, as expected.
Nonetheless as a muffin, I liked it.
Not knowing what to make of my 1st choice, I moved on to their Individual Creme Brulee. It's a rich custard, topped with caramelized sugar and garnished with fresh berries.
The custard was speckled with vanilla beans throughout. It was velvety, while the topping was crunchy with a hint of caramel. The fresh strawberry slice and blackberry was just enough to offset the caramelized sugar.
For $3.00, I was very pleased.
Alas, after a confusing start and a great finish, I needed a tiebreaker for my Porto's review. Hence I took a break and then returned for the final item.
The Brownie Slice - a dense chocolate cake with chocolate chips and chocolate ganache.
After assessing the brownie, I decided to heat it a smidgen above room temp, allowing the chocolaty parts to mingle.
Ooh, the result was fabulous!
I discovered melted pockets of chocolate chips throughout the warm brownie. And the thick ganache became a decadent glaze that covered each morsel.
Yes, I've had better. However not many, especially for only $1.35.
I give Porto's Bakery & Cafe 4 out of 5 stars.
Had the cupcake been more in line with expectations, the rating may have been higher.
Still, with efficient service and tasty desserts at a great price, they've earned a new customer. I will gladly return for more.
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