WORDS BY: HANNAH LEW
PHOTOS BY: AHN NGUYEN
Picture this: sweatpants, hair tied, chillin’ with no make-up on, and a warm cinnamon roll from Sweet Jill’s on a chilly December night. Is there anything better? Nope. I made my way to some diverse bakeries all baking and serving unique sweets. Whether you’re chillin’ at home, or out with friends to find the perfect treat, here are some diverse local bakeries – Cuban, Jewish, Taiwanese, and more – in and around Long Beach that will hit the spot.
Porto’s Bakery and Café
Despite the chaos that is parking at Porto’s Bakery and Café in Downey, the Cuban pastries are well worth the pandemonium. As you walk in, nine times out of ten you’re faced with a long maze of people eagerly waiting to place their order. But it’s OK. This gives you enough time to decide how many cheese rolls you need to make the trip worth it. And the workers get through the line in no time.
This traditional Cuban bakery traces back to 1960, when Raul Sr. and his wife Rosa migrated from Cuba to California. Their first store opened on Sunset Boulevard in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, serving about 50 customers a day. The bakery eventually expanded to a 20,000-square-foot facility that introduced a café with traditional Cuban sandwiches and other favorites.
While the Downey location is the closest to CSULB, there are additional locations in Burbank and Glendale.
8233 Firestone Blvd., Downey, (562) 862-8888; www.portosbakery.com
I was in an Uber on my way to an event over the summer and was fortunate enough to have a friendly, older driver. He lived in Ontario, and when I told him I was from the Long Beach area, he asked if that was close to Los Alamitos. He enthusiastically said: "Oh, I know where that is! There’s a place I go to all the time with my friends -- Katella Deli.” If this man drives an hour to come to this restaurant and bakery, it must be good.
Upon entering the bakery section of the restaurant, you pick a number and wait your turn. Once you’re called, you can choose from an array of rugelach, a crescent-shaped Jewish pastry, bear claws, and every type of cookie you can imagine.
Katella Deli also decorates made-from-scratch cakes for any special occasion. They’ve done Sesame Street cupcakes, a Spongebob Squarepants birthday cake, and an array of beautiful wedding cakes.
First established in 1964, Katella Deli was started by a couple who began by selling Rye Breads and other traditional Jewish foods in the community. It’s been a part of the community for almost 50 years.
4470 Katella Ave, Los Alamitos, (562) 594-8611; www.katellabakery.com
The cinnamon rolls -- if you decide to get anything from here, let it be a cinnamon roll. You can get it with or without walnuts and can even add icing by request. I prefer to opt for the old-fashioned gooey plain, and it’s just the right amount of sweet.
In addition to the cinnamon rolls, Sweet Jill’s has a variety of cupcakes and carrot cake made from scratch. Pumpkin cookies, chocolate chip cheesecake bars, caramel brownies, and apple deep dish also grace the store’s counters.
There are two locations: one on Main Street in Seal Beach and one on Second Street in Long Beach. The owner, Jill Kinney Pharis, created the bakery in 1987. Pharis learned to bake from her grandmother throughout her childhood, and soon her baked goods became a hot commodity in the local beach communities.
5001 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 438-4945; sweetjillsbakery.com
85°C Bakery is a relatively new addition to the city of Cerritos. Unlike the other bakeries, this one’s self-serve for the most part. You get your own tray, a pair of tongs, and pick as many baked goods as your heart desires.
While 85°C Bakery generally keeps it classic with croissants, multigrain breads, and cinnamon twists, they also have treats like whole-wheat mushroom bread, red bean bread, and tuna danishes. While these might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they certainly make the bakery unique. Another item the bakery sells is milk toast, which can be used to make the oh-so-popular brick toast.
The store’s name came from believing that coffee is best at a temperature of 85 degrees Celsius. Aside from all the pastries, you can order tea and coffee that is just as tasty and unique as everything else here.
11486 South St., Cerritos, (562) 402-8585; 85cafe.us