Thirteen is a lucky number for Pasadena, which just acquired the 13th California outlet of the Taiwanese bakery cafe 85°C.
In case you’re not familiar with this chain—until now the closest branches were in Torrance and Gardena—the name indicates the perfect temperature for hot coffee. This leaves out the bakery cafe’s most famous beverage, sea salt coffee, which is served iced. The salt is in thick cream on a base of strong Guatemalan coffee. You shake it up before you drink. If you’re not a coffee drinker, you can have sea salt green tea.
85°C is in a new building that replaces a parking lot at the corner of Fair Oaks Avenue and Green Street. It’s lined with windows to let in the morning sun; there’s a wooden communal table, cheerful accents of warm color, and plenty of space to handle crowds. On opening day, the line to get in ran down Green Street, reminiscent of the humongous wait when the first American branch opened in Irvine in 2008. No one suffered, though, thanks to trays of free coffee sent out by the café.
Inside, the staff was busy loading fresh bread and pastries into serve-yourself compartments. All branches herald the arrival of a new batch with the shout “fresh bread,” which starts a frenzy as shoppers rush to get the latest thing.
Specialties include marble taro buns, egg custard tarts and chocolate bowls, which are huge buns filled with chocolate chips and coated with sugar. Walnut tarts are stacked so high with nuts you wonder why they don’t topple over. Pumpkin strudel and cranberry Danish are on hand now.
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Savory stuff includes what may be the oddest bread in town—calamari sticks. They’re small round buns colored black with squid ink, stuffed with mozzarella cheese and topped with garlic spread.
Cakes have their own section, where you’ll see a taro brulee cake composed of chiffon layers with taro filling and vanilla crème brulee and a spectacular mango crème brulee cake along with the usual tiramisu and Black Forest cakes.
Founded in Taipei in 2004, 85°C will open its 14th California branch in November, in San Diego. We’ve heard that Taiwanese customers consider the breads and pastries in California better than those in Taiwan. That’s because milk and butter are superior here. In Taiwan they’re not as important. After all, you don’t mix dairy with dim sum.
85°C Bakery Cafe, 61 S. Fair Oaks Ave., #120, Pasadena. (626) 792-8585.