Heirloom Bakery & Cafe: Seasonal American in South Pasadena

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Restaurant Los Angeles

Heirloom Bakery & Cafe highlights a mixed-use development's ground floor.

Sally Cook and Joe Martinez first met in 1993 while working at Pasadena’s Parkway Grill. They quickly became friends and decided they’d like to join forces in the future. Through the years, the distinguished bakers have enjoyed stints in the high-profile kitchens at Ciudad, Mako, Spago and Valentino (Sally) and Arroyo Chop House (Joe). In 2002, they seriously began discussing a bakery/cafe concept that would offer “classic American food” for breakfast and lunch. To ease their transition from the sweet life to the savory side, they decided to use “quality ingredients” and “keep it simple.”

Sally and Joe originally planned to open further east on Mission Street, but the deal fell through. Instead, they opened on the ground floor of a new mixed-use development, which turned out to be a boon for business. Not only does the location have parking, but Heirloom is across the street from a link in the Metro Rail’s Gold Line. Sally and Joe opened in August 2005, naming their long-germinating establishment Heirloom Bakery & Cafe.

Sally and Joe had complementary reasons for choosing the name “Heirloom.” According to Sally, “When I go to a restaurant and see heirloom tomatoes on the menu, I think seasonal. It’s also a quality standard. Joe said, “It’s also generational, treasured and passed on.”

Restaurant Los Angeles

Sally and Joe decided on “lively and cheery” décor to overcome the lack of natural sunlight in their “cave.”

Old-fashioned paintings advertising fresh fruits like apples, pears and peaches add freshness to the space. Countertop red and orange pumpkins were symbolic of Heirloom’s seasonal approach. Order at the counter and plant a stand with your number on the table and wait for your food to arrive. There’s a great patio that’s lined with metal tables. There’s usually a nice sized crowd of locals, including plenty of young families.

A blackboard lists Heirloom’s daily specials. There’s usually a different omelette, quiche and soup, and sometimes a strata, a savory bread pudding made using Heirloom’s fresh-baked breads. Everything at Heirloom is made from scratch, including breads, pastries, salads and savory items.

Breakfast Sandwich Los Angeles

Many times, I’ve enjoyed the superior egg sandwich ($6.75): crisp strips of applewood smoked bacon, fluffy omelette, yellow cheddar, Romaine lettuce and tomato slices on toasted country bread, served with portion of fruit. The toasted bread is astoundingly good, crisp at the edges. Ingredients are clearly top-shelf.

Sandwich Los Angeles

In order to sample other dishes, I limited myself to half a Meatloaf Sandwich ($4.75). A slab of juicy turkey meatloaf was brushed with ketchup that nearly caramelized in the oven. The sandwich also contained 1000 Island dressing, Tillamook cheddar cheese, raw red onions, lettuce and tomato on two more slices of that terrific toasted country bread.

Macaroni And Cheese Los Angeles

Macaroni & Cheese ($5) was presented as a cube in the refrigerated display case. The ziti was then reheated until the blend of gouda, cream cheese, Jack and crumbled Parmesan became more free-form and gooey.

Omelette Los Angeles

Their fluffy omelette ($7.50) – filled with corn kernels, spinach, leeks, and jack cheese – came with three slices of toasted, house-made French bread, butter, strawberry preserves, breakfast potatoes, and grapes.

Quiche Los Angeles

Quiche ($4.25) was sensational, full of corn, leeks, bacon, and melted mozzarella and ate more like a slice of pie considering the buttery crust.

Muffin Los Angeles

Since Sally and Joe both have pastry backgrounds, I opted for a moist lemon-poppy seed muffin ($2.25) lashed with icing.

Cheesecake Los Angeles

A fat slice of pumpkin cheesecake ($3.75) with a crushed cookie crust, topped with a layer of whipped cream and rich caramel sauce, tasted even better. The filling was rich and creamy, with serious pumpkin flavor, making this an Autumn classic.

Pot Pie Los Angeles

On a previously visit, I enjoyed this fabulous chicken pot pie ($7.50) with a flaky, buttery crust and a satisfying filling involving onions, mushrooms, and chicken. Thankfully, the pie was light on gravy, which to me is a plus. As with most Heirloom dishes, the plate featured fresh fruit.

Cupcake Los Angeles

A gingerbread cupcake with canary yellow frosting and two candied ginger matchsticks was untraditional, but another moist triumph.

Dessert Los Angeles

On a previous visit, I ordered the crisp of the day: strawberry. The crisp came in a white bowl topped with crunchy oats and was served with pitcher of fresh whipped cream.

Pie Los Angeles

Heirloom served their delicious slice of sweet potato pie topped with crumbled pecans.

Blondie Los Angeles

Their gooey blondie came studded with chocolate chips and crushed walnuts.

Brownies Los Angeles

Heirloom Bakery & Cafe’s brownies also hold classic charms.

Other dishes I’ve enjoyed include a moist square of walnut-laced chocolate chip coffee cake ($3.25), a strata ($4.25) with goat cheese, pesto, and sliced tomato, and sides like sesame soba noodles and green lentil salad with diced scallions, carrots, walnuts and walnut oil.

I’ve enjoyed some dishes more than others at Heirloom, but nothing’s ever tasted anything less than very good. Sally and Joe have deftly transitioned from pastry chefs to chefs, and South Pasadenans should be grateful.

Heirloom Bakery & Cafe: Seasonal American in South Pasadena


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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