It’s easy to miss, tucked around the corner, and especially since Busters so easily catches one’s eye right next to the Metro, as well as Mix ‘n Munch and the new La Monarca Bakery. But right up Meridian Avenue, just north of Mission in South Pasadena is Heirloom Bakery and Cafe.
Having lived in South Pasadena since February of 2011, it wasn’t until a Pasadena newcomer took us there that we finally found out what we were missing. It’s tucked under an overhang, next to a gym, on the bottom floor of an apartment building. It’s easy to miss. The interior is small and perhaps even a bit cramped when it’s busy, especially as you wait to order at the counter or wait to pay at the register and people or employees want to get by. But the tables are well-spaced and there is a covered outdoor patio that welcomes friends of the canine variety.
Informing Teran that we wanted to get a sampling of goods to go (some savory and some sweet), we asked for recommendations. He proceeded to show-and-tell the many goods on display, including the key lime pie that’s made fresh every day. After some debate, mostly because there were quite a number of attractive choices and we were attempting to keep the quantity to a manageable amount, we made our choices and headed home.
1. Savory Bread Pudding – a little tart that can be warmed up. We thought Taren had said ham, spinach, and parmesan, but we’re sure he meant red onion, spinach, and parmesan because otherwise the ham was incognito. It’s quite tasty—crunchy on the outside, very moist inside. The parmesan is nicely subtle and mixes well with the onion. Not much reason for the spinach as we can’t taste it and we’re sure there’s not enough to be able to count it as a one of the four FDA recommended daily veggie servings. The spinach does add to the look of it, adding color where there would otherwise be none, so we would just ask, “Please, Sir, could we have some more?” Since it’s a bread pudding, and even though small in size, the tart is very filling. And though it probably exceeds our daily bread intake (blast that FDA!), we could easily eat two.
2. Couscous with sweet potato, green onions, golden raisins, parsley, and slivered almonds – very light and fluffy couscous. The flavor of the sweet potato comes through well and because the pieces are small and soft, they’re perfect magnets for the couscous, onto which it clings. The sweet of the golden raisins is balanced by the green onions and the slivered almonds add a crunch, though we think if they’d been toasted they would be more integral to the flavor of the dish.
3. Penne pasta with grilled eggplant with calamata olives, parmesan, and fennel – the olives dominate, which is not a bad thing, and the fennel is powerful enough to fight through and make itself apparent. The eggplant is more a veggie filler, though it was quite tender and every now and then you get a bite with some grill “flavor” to it. The parmesan is a nice addition.
1. Key Lime Pie – great lime filling, surprisingly unsweetened whipped cream topping that we like, and (more surprisingly) unsweetened crumbly crust. Having the crust and topping unsweetened helps offset the quite sweet, though thoroughly enjoyable tart filling, but a bite of the crust alone tastes rather bland. We suggest poising the fork tongs downward and making sure to get all layers in each bite for maximum enjoyment.
2. The Hummingbird – banana and pineapple mini cake or muffin (we’re not sure). Lovely to look at with a very thin slice of fresh pineapple topping the cream cheese frosting, the “meat” of this dessert is moist, the banana flavor evident. With walnuts and topped with the cream cheese frosting, this seems like a banana version of carrot cake, which suits us just fine. The baked pineapple slice on top is chewy and adds a welcome taste of this tropical fruit—the Ananas comosus, that is said to have originated somewhere between Southern Brazil and Paraguay.
3. Heirloom’s “Hostess” cupcake – the cake is not too fluffy or too sweet, but thick and moist with the richest, most delightful chocolate taste we’ve experienced in some time. The frosting is a perfect replica of the Hostess cupcake, including white swiggly swirl, except that it actually tastes good and as though real ingredients were employed in the making of it. One taste tester summed up her opinion thusly: “Gorgeously perfect.” After that, she was only capable of emitting unintelligible sounds of pleasure as the aforementioned treat disappeared in an irrational amount of time.
Heirloom Bakery & Cafe, 807 Meridian Avenue, South Pasadena 91030, 626.441.0042. Breakfast, $6.50-$8; lunch sandwiches, $7.75-$8.75; lunch salads, $5.50-$9.25, pizza, $9.75. Major credit cards accepted. Street parking.