When I first walked into Pappa Rich, I assumed it was a rip-off of Beard Papa, but this Korean import (133 stores under the name “Pappa Roti” in South Korea and counting) is completely different. Its large, soft, sienna-brown buns are brushed with a barely sweet mocha coating that soaks into the golden dough and caramelizes on the bottom; the warm insides are buttery. You get a slightly sweet, slightly salty cakey bun with a little crunch and melting softness. Nice! There are unique, fragrant herbal teas and better-than-decent coffee, and a postmodern, kitschy-woodsy decor. But the killer app at Pappa Rich is the dipping of the bun (stay with me here) into clam chowder. The chowder is delicious and delicate, potatoes melting into the just-creamy-enough soup that’s light on clams but long on flavor. Dunking the sweet/salty/crunchy/soft bun into the savory, slippery soup is kind of revelatory, especially on a cold day.
In my opinion, the cookies-and-frosting concoctions (red velvet, German chocolate cake, etc.) are too heavy and overly sweet after a single bite; my 13-year-old son disagrees and would happily go back daily for one (or probably two).
And although I saw a gofer from the Korean Film Festival take out multiple bags of buns, I recommend eating them at the store (there’s a nice patio on Green Street, in addition to tiny tables and a short counter inside). Heating up these “father of all buns” at home does not do them any favors (microwaving is actually better than a conventional oven, and do disregard the instructions on the bag recommending “15 seconds in a 305 degree oven” — it needs a minute or two, plus standing time).
And you really, really need to dip them in that clam chowder!
100 W. Green St., Old Pasadena, 626.440.00o9, papparichusa.com. Open daily. AE, MC, V.