Ask an acquaintance to name a favorite regional restaurant and you're bound to get a few prime choices casually tossed off, from longtime classics to newer spots with some heat.
But bring up Porto's Bakery & Cafe with anybody who has been in Southern California for over 17 hours, give or take, and you're in a whole new ballpark. The person may need to sit down, and close their eyes, as they conjure a rapturous description of the last potato ball they consumed, and how it tasted, and when they ate it, and the way they felt when they ate it, and when they're going back for more.
The family-sweet Cuban bakery, which serves up not only powerhouse pastry but an array of savory staples, has gained a staunch following over the last few decades, in Downey and Glendale and later Burbank.
And now, clearly, the world at large. The cakes-to-Cubano-sandwiches treasure has just topped a Yelp list of "Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2016" inventory, which will surely draw more devotees of potato balls and tres leches cakes into the full-of-tummy, full-of-heart fold.
The list was released via Yelp's Official Blog on Wednesday, Feb. 10.
It's a grouping, says the online review site, that "honors businesses that rank so highly in the Yelp's community opinion that they have earned the status of 'must try within this lifetime.'"
Serious stuff, in the best sense. And restaurants truly run the gourmet-to-easy-grub gamut, or "fancy to casual," in Yelp's parlance.
Did other Golden State go-tos make the glossy roster? "And how" seems the only sensible way to answer that question. California appears to dominate, with places from San Diego to Napa Valley, and beyond, showing up and standing tall.
Other Los Angeles eateries, by the by, include but are in no way, no how limited to The Morrison, Langer's, and Genwa Korean BBQ.
Are you still thinking about potato balls? Have you been thinking of them since you started reading this? We'd never snap our fingers to get your attention, because that is rude, and plus we wouldn't want to interrupt your potato ball-based reverie.
But to eye the whole caboodle of top restaurants around the country, per the active Yelp community, best place those dream potato balls to one side of your brain, for a moment, and read all here. (Best don a bib, or have a napkin nearby, in case those saliva glands get busy as you peruse, because yum.)
Have you been to every last one in town? How about the state?