There are myriad reasons to stand in the seemingly permanent line that fills the San Gabriel strip mall sidewalk outside of Golden Deli. There are the cha gio, or fried spring rolls, which function as magnets for certain neighborhood foodists. There is the glorious pantheon of phở, which is happily catalogued on the menu pages, like CliffsNotes to a masterwork. And there is now something so incommensurate that it took two recent visits for some of us to really believe it exists. What is the last thing you'd expect to find in a San Gabriel phở palace? Guess. Guess again. Cupcakes.
Yes, for the last few months, Golden Deli has been serving cupcakes. Not a few cupcakes, not one or two that might reasonably pair with your order of bánh hòi , but, at last count, FIFTY SIX flavors of cupcakes. That's in caps so you know it's not a typo.
It seems that one of the people in the Golden Deli kitchen is also a Pasadena Cordon Bleu alum, a pastry chef with a certain affinity for cupcakes. Thus she has been baking cupcakes, which are listed in an entire separate very thick menu, like a French wine list, complete with photos of each iteration: chocolate velvet, chocolate bacon (!), mango milk tea, Butterfinger, red bean, chocolate orange, Rocky Road, even Bananas Foster (some of us remember that class at the same cooking school), Thai tea and strawberry cheesecake. One could go on. For the holidays, there was even a special flavor or two, most recently snowball (coconut and green velvet) and a red velvet cupcake decorated with red and green sprinkles.
If you're worried that your Vietnamese dining mecca is turning into Sprinkles, fear not. There are only two or three cupcakes offered each day — if you want something not on the day's menu, you have to order it ahead of time — because otherwise the kitchen would have to turn out buttercream faster than your spring rolls. You can also special order one of the cupcake trays ($25 per dozen, with some decorations with an extra charge). Something to think about when you're standing outside in line.
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