Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Wanderings - 85C Bakery Cafe, San Jose CA

As someone who loves food, how can I not be curious to see what the huge hype is about. There is apparently this great bakery that's made its way up to northern California and everyone is talking about it: 85 Degrees C Bakery Cafe. 

This bakery craze originated from Taiwan and is considered to be as big as our Starbucks, huge! In recent years, it has slowly made its way over to the States, and in California, it seems to have made a home down south and in the last few months this popular hot spot has started to migrate north. First making its presence in Newark which is close to about an hour drive away from me, so though curious, I never gave it any thought to pay that location a visit and not to mention all the reviews say its super busy all the time. No thanks!

However, to my greatest surprise, I found out they had just opened a location in San Jose 4 days ago, awesome! Since I have Mondays off, I thought "Hey, it's got to be less crowded on Mondays since normal folks should be at work and I can just make my trip, snag a few baked items, and done!"... oh was I in for a surprise when I arrived. Not only was I wrong but there were plenty of people to make a nice crowd. Well its too late now, I'm already here, the only option is to go thru with it. 

My thoughts?
Its crowded and I am led to believe this is the case no matter what time you show up... well okay maybe not 7am (when they open) but I went at 11am on a Monday, crowded. Don't people have to work?! Anyways upon arrival, I thought the decor was very nice, the place is well light, overall very modern, spacious, and slick. Its split into 2 areas: the baked breads section with its own registers and the "cafe" section on the other side where you can order drinks and little cakes/desserts and has a seating area for you to enjoy your treats. The sections function independently so at least if all you want is a drink or cakes, you can just go to that side. If you want breads...well there's a nice line for you to wait in.

Most of the breads are self serve. Very traditional to Asian bakeries where all the breads are placed inside a bread display shelf and you, with a tray and tongs at hand, pick the breads and its quantities you desire. That said, there were several notable downfalls:
  1. Total madness and not to mention extremely annoying when something comes out and this person in front of you snags like 80% of everything off that batch. Total disregard to others around them. Have you no shame? Share please?!
  2. Though it would appear to be lots of display cases, as you get closer, you realize that there's actually only about a good dozen different types of breads and everything else is a repeat. I wish they'd tell you that OR split the line into 2 so that more people can get through. For me there was about a good 10% of those displays where I was like "Oo that looks good and Oh! that too" and then rest of that walk thru/waiting in line to pay was pure repeats of things I've already encountered at the beginning. Seems rather inefficient.
  3. Supposedly there is a constant flow of fresh baked breads coming out every 3-5 minutes and for the most part, that held true, but when it came to their most popular item, the taro marble bread (that they keep behind the counters), they ran out. I was so disappointed, I love LOVE taro! What the hell! I was told the next batch was to come out in an hour, an hour! I was not pleased especially after standing in line for a good 20 minutes...
  4. There is also a section of the line where they baggie all your baked goods, though very nice in terms of packaging, can I just say how environmentally unfriendly that is... every item gets it own individual plastic bag... not only was this time consuming but imagine the trash you're generating. I suspect this practice will not last too long. I would've been perfectly happy if they had just placed all the breads into the box it came with and called it a day.
Needless to say, I was not impressed. So what about the baked items? The breads were extremely fresh and that I can't deny. They were also pretty tasty for the most part but is it worth that long wait in line? Thats debatable. If it wasn't so crowded or somewhat unorganized, I'd go back again. Maybe my experience was partially turned off by the long wait. Many bakeries in Asia are very fast paced, you go in, and you come out and its all the same concepts. I have extremely high expectations...

My conclusion: though pretty good, I don't think it lives up to the hype. Worth a try I suppose but expect some long waits and also some emotional moments when you see some Asian lady snag all the fresh bread that just came out onto her tray, can't say I was all too calm about that...
  
Things to ponder on: calamari stick (aka squid ink garlic cheese buns), mango bread, taro marble bread (apparently highly recommended by a lot of people, I have no comments since they ran out when I got to the counter...yes still bitter), and sea salt coffee (I was not a fan, their cream or whatever it was kept separating back to the top...which leads me to believe its not real cream... a little disturbing but apparently very popular) 

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