DOWNEY - For many months, the opening of Porto's Bakery in Downey excited not only residents of the city, but also many others who live too far away from the Glendale and Burbank locations. Eager to get a taste of Cuban food, I visited the newly opened location with my mother on its first Saturday of business.Even before entering the front door, I could already see that several customers were waiting for the same purpose-to sample the wide variety of pastries that makes Porto's so well-known in Southern California. The two lines were packed with both loyal Porto's fans and first-timers like me, but I did not mind waiting for my turn to order as I pondered about what I should try. A sample Cuban cracker whetted my appetite as I admired the endless display of treats at the counter. To my surprise, I ran into my fifth grade teacher, whom I had not seen for many years. I explained to her that this was my first time at Porto's, and she recommended one of the most popular items - potato balls. Quite honestly, I did not think much about the potato balls when I read a brief description on paper. But why not give them a try if they were the main reason that my fifth grade teacher loved Porto's so much? The potato ball is a combination of meat and potatoes in an interesting package. Ground beef is stuffed inside a mound of mashed potatoes and then fried to a golden brown. I could easily imagine having a few potato balls for a perfect light lunch. This customer favorite makes the stomach happy while not being too pricey. A coffee enthusiast, my mother chose the carrot and apple muffin to complement her drink. For just over $1, this muffin exceeded our expectations. It was not overly sweet, but it had the perfect balance of flavor that gradually built up as we savored each bite. All of the muffin varieties are highly recommended to anyone who wants to stick with a traditional item. For those who are curious to try both sweet and savory at the same time, the meat pie (also known as "pastel de carne") is the perfect choice. At first glance, the meat pie looks like any other puff pastry. When I bit into it, however, I was surprised with the flavorful ground beef. Combining the crispy, sweet exterior and the meat filling presents the best of both flavors. Porto's Bakery offers such a tremendous selection of baked goods, sandwiches, drinks and more that it is nearly impossible to experience every item in just one visit. The potato ball, carrot and apple muffin, and meat pie are just a few of the several delicious options. Best of all, the prices keep customers returning for more without burning holes in their wallets. "The thing that keeps customers coming back is comfort food," said Betty Porto. "People come here to buy our potato balls, then go out with many more items. We focus on providing affordable quality, consistency and great customer service."
********** Published: November 18, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 31