The number of international chains with outlets in Los Angeles County grew by one when 85°C Bakery-Café opened in Hacienda Heights on Saturday. The Taiwanese chain, with nearly 500 stores in Taiwan, China and Australia, opened its first U.S. location nearly four years ago in Irvine. Since the September 2008 opening, the Orange County location has become known for long lines and traffic issues.
The new location is larger than the one in Irvine and sits in a shopping center on the southwest corner of the busy intersection of Colima Road and Azusa Avenue, catty-corner from the Puente Hills Mall. The center is home to an Albertson's and popular Taiwanese shaved ice and snack spot, Guppy House, which is just across a narrow portion of lot.
So, what happens when a new branch of a wildly popular Taiwanese bakery opens in an area with one of the largest ex-pat Taiwanese populations in the world? Some predicted it would be "the real carmaggedon" or we'd see lines longer than the latest Harry Potter movie.
While it didn't quite reach carmaggedon level, parking was extremely difficult with many commenting they had never seen that shopping center lot so full. Then there was the line. It stretched around three sides of the building and took an hour-and-a-half just to get inside. People driving past on Azusa Avenue slowed and pointed with jaws agape. Workers from the Taco Bell came by, drinks in hand, to look over the throng in awe.
What could have proven a nightmare was orderly and efficient. Folks were allowed inside in small groups, which mitigated the chaos of people armed with plastic tongs running around to load up their trays from the bread bins. Shouts of "fresh bread!" by servers emerging from the swinging bakery doors inspired hungry patrons to descend on the fresh trays like a pack of cheerful and mannered vultures. (The trademark cries of "fresh bread!" are as familiar a sound in 85°C as the ringing of the bell to Trader Joe's patrons.) If that tray was full of one of their marble taro buns, it was immediately scavenged for every last crumb.
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The line proceeded to tables, where breads were individually wrapped and boxed before moving on to a bank of cashiers. Drinks were ordered at the cashier and picked up at the far end of another counter.85°C is known for several items: the aforementioned marble taro buns, cakes and other various breads and buns, including a squid ink bread. They are also noted for their sea salt coffee and sea salt teas, which feature the salt mixed in with the whipped cream for a zing in each sip. Flavored teas, milk teas and fruit slushes are also among the fare. While some refer to 85°C as "the Taiwanese Starbucks," a better comparison for Angelenos would be Porto's.
85°C Bakery-Café: 17170 Colima Road #A, Hacienda Heights; (626) 839-7885.