Everyone has a weakness. Mine is bread. I adore it in all it’s unique and various forms, and therefore, find that abstinence is the best way to avoid temptation and an expanding waistline. However, every once in a while, we need to give in, right?
On this occasion, the absolute temptation was Pacific Whey Café. Known for its large portions and made-from-scratch muffins, scones, croissants, danishes, coffee cakes and more, Pacific Whey is also a destination spot for artisanal bread lovers.
Chris and I made our way from the Newport Indy’s sprawling headquarters up PCH to Pacific Whey’s flagship store in Crystal Cove. Upon arrival, we were surprised to find a queue already formed outside – guests standing patiently in line, waiting to put in their orders at the counter while ogling the pastry case.
We were met by Bryan Edwards, president of operations, who joined us and elaborated on Pacific Whey’s colorful culinary journey.
“The original owner, Gina, was a baker and a chef,” Bryan said. “She put together a company in which the bakery had an element in everything and the rest of the menu reflected that quality. Today it remains true to that concept. We get produce shipments seven days a week. Everything is fresh, and we don’t sell anything that’s not made by us.”
“How long has Pacific Whey been around?” Chris asked.
“Almost 17 years now,” Bryan replied. “The first Pacific Whey opened in Newport Hills, which is still open today. It was actually half the size, but when the space became available, business was so good Gina had to expand. This store at Crystal Cove was the second one to open and has since been our flagship store.”
“Really,” Chris inquired. “Why is that?”
“It’s our most profitable store and it’s certainly the busiest,” Bryan continued. “The infamous story is that we’ve got a line out the door all day Saturday and Sunday. I think the beach being across the street is a lure for visitors and locals alike. And having the ability to order breakfast all day is something that people love.”
“On your website, you say you’re unlike many others because you bake, you cut, you chop, slice, dice, and sauté. In other words, you cook,” I stated. “So tell us a little bit about this philosophy you’ve established.”
“The made from scratch concept is what’s really important to us,” Bryan responded. “We have a similar restaurant concept as a Panera or a Corner Bakery, but we offer much more diversity. Another thing that sets us apart from a lot of other folks is how generous we are with our portions. We’re not shy about putting a lot on a plate—the size of our pastries reflect that as well.”
“What are some of your signature dishes?” Chris asked.
“Our highest selling bakery item is the Cinnamon Custard Danish—it’s what all the yelp reviews talk about,” Bryan grinned. “But our most popular breakfast dish is our Eggs Benedict, which isn’t served traditionally on an English muffin, but on a fresh homemade pastry sheet. That’s a good example of how our philosophy of incorporating the bakery into every meal comes to life.”
“We also have a savory menu,” Bryan continued. “We prepare filet mignon, burgers, fries, and our Chicken Pot Pie is definitely a hit. And for the health-conscious, our Summer Salad is a mountainous dish with strawberries, dried cherries, and cranberries with Balsamic dressing.”
“So, you’re also the perfect place for a healthy business lunch, too,” I added.
“Exactly,” Bryan nodded. “The casual environment with patio seating is nice. Also, the quality is there. People wouldn’t wait if it wasn’t worth it. An extension of our philosophy is the three F’s: it’s gotta be fast, friendly and flavorful. Those ingredients have kept us afloat in a tough economy.”
“That’s a good point,” I acknowledged. “In fact, Pacific Whey is expanding in this economy, true?”
“Yes, it is,” Bryan smiled. “I always say that in a down economy, folks go back to what they grew up with and what’s familiar. Pacific Whey offers American comfort food with a gourmet twist, and one thing we’ve held true to even through the tough economy is our portion sizes. Our portions are who we are, so to trim that to save money or make money just doesn’t make sense. It isn’t fair to our customers and we made a big effort to purchase better so we can stick around without cutting back in other areas. But, I think we’ve made it through that.”
“I think so, too,” I said. “Now, about those pastries…”
For more information, go to www.pacificwhey.com.