Porto's: LA's Iconic Cuban Bakery That Always Has A Line Out The Door

Southern California residents who haven't been living under a rock will be happy to tell you all about the magic that is Porto's Bakery & Cafe. If you don't live in the Golden State or haven't visited in a while, then you might have only heard of Porto's through the grapevine. Perhaps, you've seen photos and videos of the lines out the door on social media, or you've heard food lovers extol the wonders of these Cuban-inspired delicacies. Porto's Bakery is absolutely worth the hype, and if you spend any time in Southern California, it's worth a visit. 

Whether you're in the mood for classic Cuban-inspired plates and sandwiches, classic Cuban coffee drinks like cafe con leche, or decadent cakes, tarts, or pastries, Porto's has you covered. Not only is this bakery a local SoCal legend, but it's a true American dream success story that starts back in the 1960s in Castro-era Cuba.

Porto's History

Life in Cuba in the 1960s was difficult for residents of the island. Their day-to-day was heavily controlled by the government, and if you petitioned to leave the island, you could be fired from your job and considered an enemy of the state. It would be easy to want to give up, but Rosa Porto decided to bake cakes instead. Porto and her husband Raul Sr. petitioned to leave Cuba in 1962 but didn't arrive in Los Angeles until 1971. During that time, Rosa supported her family by running an illegal bakery out of her home. Her community had her back, placing orders for cakes on the sly and keeping her secret safe from the government. 

When they arrived in L.A., the family moved to Echo Park, which was a sort of sanctuary neighborhood for Cuban refugees. The Porto family joined Raul Sr.'s family and some friends from back in Cuba. Once they arrived, the community began ordering Rosa's cakes once more. This led to the Portos opening their first bakery at Silver Lake and Sunset Boulevards. They started selling cakes and Cuban-inspired pastries and savory dishes. The neighborhood loved them, and eventually, their popularity led them to open their flagship location in Glendale, and the rest is history.

A menu for the community

Before her death in 2019, Rosa Porto expressed that her main goal with her bakery was to adapt to their community and welcome everyone. While the bulk of Porto's extremely affordable menu is Hispanic and Cuban-inspired, there was a time when they made whatever the community wanted. When they first opened in the 1970s, there were thousands of Cubans living in Los Angeles, and in Echo Park in particular, but as new Cuban Americans began to succeed in their new country, they moved to outlying areas. As the community changed around them, Porto's innovated. If you look closely at their pastry cases you can see Mexican, French, and even Filipino influence. 

Today, Porto's top-selling menu items include their cheese roll ($1.05), which is a puff pastry filled with cream cheese filling and topped with sugar. Also popular are their potato balls or Papa Rellenas ($1.25). Creamy potato puree stuffed with beef, pepper, onion, and olive is deep fried to golden brown perfection. Porto's also offers Spanish-style croquetas ($1.15). One of the more heartfelt offerings is the guava and cheese strudel ($1.09), known affectionately as the Refugiado ("refugee"). This cream cheese and guava jam-filled puff pastry is the first of its kind and one of Porto's signature pastries. Popular lunch items include the pan con lechon (slow-roasted pork sandwich) and the classic Cubano, both under $8 each.

Where and how to try

If you're in the Los Angeles area and you have the stamina to wait in the line, there are currently six Porto's locations you can try that offer dine-in and take-out options. The flagship location is in Glendale, but there are also locations in Burbank, Northridge, Downey, Buena Park, and West Covina. While there are always lines out the door during the lunch and dinner rushes, you can place pastry or cake orders online for pickup. 

If don't live in Los Angeles and you won't be visiting any time soon, Porto's offers delivery on many of their signature items, and they also have bake-at-home options where they will ship you their pastries in bulk unbaked and frozen. This way, you don't have to be spending time in La-la-land to enjoy some of Rosa Porto's famous Cuban-inspired treats. Porto's is still family owned and operated, and it's easy to feel the love whenever you visit. The staff is warm and welcoming, the food is delicious, and you'll leave with a smile on your face, a satisfied stomach, and a firm resolve to come back.