LA's Porto's vs. Miami's Gilbert's: A Plato Royale of Cuban Bakeries
|Goodies from Gilbert'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 ($4.99). The only knock was that with our extensive order, three items were overlooked, so we had to sneak back into place and reorder.
Also a family-owned and operated business, it was inaugurated in 1976 and now has three locations. They are full-line bakeries with breads, cakes, desserts, cookies, pies, sweet and savory pastelitos, gourmet sandwiches, quiches, omelets, platters ready to go, spreads, and salads. During our recent trip to the Gilbert's on Coral Way, with only one customer ahead of us, we endured a wait of about ten minutes. It was dfinitely not the same assembly-line efficiency of Porto's. While the interior has couches for comfortable seating, the decor and lame bakery case presentations are less than thrilling. We sampled a guava pastelito ($.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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