I Can't Stop Ordering These Cuban Pastries for Myself and Everyone I Know
Every time I walk into a location of L.A.’s beloved Porto’s Bakery, the huge line makes me smile. Porto’s is, in fact, the only place I’m happy to wait in line, because there's no restaurant like it. It's one of those magical places where you can easily put together a $4 breakfast or a $6 lunch and treat yourself to an extravagant but affordable dessert.
Porto’s, famous for both sweet and savory Cuban food, has two greatest hits: guava-and-cheese strudels and picadillo-filled potato balls. These strudels are perfect: flaky and airy and fruity and sweet, but not too sweet. The potato balls, which are coated in panko and deep-fried, are pure comfort, filled with mashed potatoes, ground beef, peppers, onions, and spices. These potato balls are exactly what I want to eat right now, for lunch or for breakfast or for late at night when my mind is wandering and I can't remember what day of the week it is.
During this extremely weird and unsettling moment in time when there is no line at Porto’s because no customers are allowed inside Porto’s, you should be pleased to hear that Porto’s has bake-at-home items that can be shipped nationwide.
Like everything at Porto’s, a bake-and-home order is an incredible value. A dozen guava-and-cheese strudels or a dozen potato balls are $16.99. That same price also gets you a dozen empanadas or a dozen meat pies or 15 cookies. Porto’s likes to keep to things simple and affordable.
The refrigerated shipping varies, but you can, for example, pay a $24.99 shipping cost for four dozen pastries sent to Brooklyn. Factor in a $10 discount for your first order, and that means 48 items in Park Slope for about $80.
Those of you in L.A. can still drive over to pick up freshly baked Porto’s items. I’ve been telling friends that Porto’s curbside pickup is as efficient as an expertly planned military operation. You would expect nothing less from a group of bakeries that feel as vast as airplane hangars and serve millions of customers every year.
After founder Rosa Porto died late last year, the Los Angeles Times published a piece that called Porto’s’ “the most beloved bakery in Los Angeles.” It was a truth that was self-evident.
Porto’s has helped define Los Angeles food for more than four decades. It’s crossed cultures in a way few things have: I remember talking to Chase and Chad Valencia at modern Filipino restaurant Lasa nearly three years ago. They told me they grew up thinking Porto’s pastries were Filipino food because they ate so many guava-and-cheese strudels and potato balls at family parties.
Porto’s is in the business of selling great food, but you also get indelible memories. So when I go there, I think about how my son stuck his finger in his Lightning McQueen birthday cake from Porto’s before we could take a picture of it. I think about how I took my parents to Porto’s not long ago and how they flipped out and said they preferred Porto’s to any Chinese bakery. I think about how they’ve insisted on getting guava pastries every time they visit L.A. I miss the line at Porto’s a lot right now.
A few days ago, I posted some photos of my most recent Porto’s order on Instagram. A friend who had recently left L.A. and moved out-of-state DMed me and asked me to send him a potato ball. I told him that he could now easily get a dozen shipped to his house. I’m pretty sure I’ve changed his life.