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

Categories: Plato Royale
Gilbert's_John Zur.jpg
John Zur
Goodies from Gilbert's
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

This 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 reorder.

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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Location Info

Gilbert's Bakery

3340 Coral Way, Coral Gables, FL

Category: Restaurant

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3 comments
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Aaron
Aaron

With all the respect to Gilbert's Bakery, I'm sure they're good. WOW! check how Porto's beats the competition. Certainly, a prefer spot of most Californians. Just so u know how they get things done...nice!!! Porto's anybody??? =D

no1lady
no1lady

Being a california native...I am well aware of the massive machine that is Porto's. The newly opened one is Downey Ca is huge, clean & gorgeous & the line is out the door for bread EVERY DAY even at 7am (which is when my cuban tio gets up & goes). And yes, the service is awesome & so is the food...GILBERT's was good when I first move here from LA 15 years ago at their 37Ave location but since it has moved it has totally sucked, yes John I agree, the filling in the potato balls have VERY LITTLE FILLING & last time I was there I had the same experience of waiting about 10 minutes for someone to help me and there was only one other person in front of me...and there were 3 people in the back making god knows what since everything in the display looked like it had been there since morning. Everything was super overpriced, not fresh & quite frankly, not even good. How can the West Coast (in a city where there are not as many cubans) do better than MIAMI? That is the million dollar question,,,who has the answer? L2M you are on the money...it is embarrasing. I would rather give my business to El Brazo Fuerte on SW 32 Ave.....

L2M
L2M

Now you know why I miss Porto’s. This story basically encompasses a recurring theme with I find with restaurants, particularly Cuban ones, in Miami. Most here are just a bit sloppier, a bit messier. Service is a bit slower and a bit more nonchalant. The way things are presented is just subpar. It’s as if there’s a general laziness and I don’t care/take it or leave it attitude. It’s embarrassing.

Porto’s was a machine, the quality of the food was light year better, the service was light years friendlier and more efficient (and everyone speaking English was a plus). The owners came from the same island as the owners of Gilberts (and pretty much every Cuban bakery in MIA) so why such the big discrepancy? It maybe means people are more discerning in LA? Gilberts wouldn’t last a second there (and would probably getting a C grade from the inspectors). Maybe people here should demand a little better?

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