Our Daily Bread: Glendale Fine Bakery
January 3, 2012 § Leave a comment
There are no faded pictures of bucolic mountaintop valleys in bloom on the walls of Glendale Fine Bakery, no images of the crumbling remains of past glories. In short, no immediate markers of the usual nostalgic* immigrant narratives that usually adorn most panaderias, pancit houses, pupusa joints, and noodle shops around Los Angeles.
A friend introduced me to Glendale Fine Bakery by describing the décor as Soviet chic: The front counter window is half empty, and in one corner of the small room that serves as the retail storefront, cooking oil is stacked haphazardly against the wall (not artisanal olive oil, mind you, but economy-size gallon jugs). The walls are mostly bare, with only a lone clock keeping the hours, and by the door, a display case that looks as if it might have advertised carrot cake at Marie Callender’s in better days sits in dusty repose.
Spend enough time lurking around Glendale Fine Bakery and you’ll realize that the Spartan decorations do nothing to dissuade a steady stream of customers eager to bring home the shop’s fresh-baked bread. There’s not a huge selection on tap, about a half-dozen varieties of bread plus coffee by the pound, but customers are regular and plentiful enough to keep the bakery open, and baking, 24 hours a day. Most popular is white- and wheat-bread lavash, the almost-parchment thin strips of unleavened bread that you probably know from Middle Eastern-style kabob houses. Here, the lavash is fresh and springy, worlds better than the half-stale specimens on sale at the market.
But a good percentage of the predominately Armenian customer base opts for the madnakash, a heartier ovaline loaf that tears off easily into fluffy pieces and is versatile enough to work with dips, sandwiches, or your morning toast.
It’s tough to conclusively recommend this as the best Armenian bakery in the area—Glendale and surrounding neighborhoods are teeming with enough bakeries, pastry shops, and specialty stops to keep you sated well into the next presidential term—but clutching the still-warm bread in your arms on the way out is a reminder of one of life’s small and endearing pleasures. From matrons on Sunday afternoon to late-night cabbies, the clientele of Glendale Fine Bakery recognize the virtues of daily bread, fresh from the oven, and it serves as the best and most delicious picture of home.
*Swiss Johannes Hofer coined the term “nostalgia” in 1688 to describe the afflictions of Swiss mercenaries who exhibited a “sad mood originating from the desire for return to one’s native land.” The syndrome was linked to melancholic medical conditions until the middle of the 19th century, at which point it largely became the provenance of philosophers and romantics.Glendale Fine Bakery 316 E. Maple St.
Glendale, CA 91205 Open 24 hours