That Armenian bakeries sell substantial and savory breads for two dollars is an incredible service to the many people who have irrevocably screwed up their lives by moving to Los Angeles. For everybody who moved here and fell flat on their face; for those poor souls who amassed credit card debt, got evicted, got towed, and piled up parking tickets, there’s a deliciously cheap meal that can heal you. Bad credit score? Get after some cabbage piroshki. No idea where next month’s rent money is coming from? Grab a buttery cheese beorek for just a handful of quarters. These bakeries, unassuming yet mighty, are the pillars of Little Armenia.
If you wanted to, you could do a crawl of the bakeries in Little Armenia. They’re all within a mile or so of each other, and although their menus all appear to be pretty similar, each bakery does one thing different from the others. Armenian bread is a union of Georgian, Turkish, Syrian, Russian, and Ukrainian sensibilities. From stuffed bread filled with cheese, spinach, and cabbage to leavened doughs topped with ground beef spread and baked in gigantic ovens, there’s so much to try. Grab some friends, park on Santa Monica, and take a carb tour of some of the best bread in Los Angeles.
Taron Bakery’s Spicy Cheese Beorek and Lahmajun
Everything at Taron is excellent, but it’s the only bakery serving a spicy cheese beorek the size of your forearm. It’s a warm boat of bread stuffed full of briny white cheese and chile peppers, then brushed with a little oil. Coming in at $4.50, it’s the most expensive thing on the menu. Taron also reheats their baked goods in their mammoth six-tier oven no questions asked. That’s part of the reason their lahmajun is so good, too. This thin, round, flatbread topped with minced meat spread and herbs gets double-baked treatment whenever it’s reheated. Their crispy crust is reminiscent of a good slice of tavern pizza, only thinner. There’s something calming about the environment at Taron, too. Listen to the massive and weathered oven squeak, the vent hoods rattle around. Take note of the brick wall that strangely doesn’t quite reach the ceiling and the guy outside wearing an apron, puffing on a cigarette. Taron is good people; they hustle and bend over backwards to make sure you’re happy. Well worth the patronage. Taron Bakery, 4950 Hollywood Blvd., East Hollywood.
Goldstar Bakery’s Meat Pie
Goldstar is the place to go if you want whole loaves of rippable, eat-with-your-hands matnakash (flatbread) or some sesame-laden barbari bread, but their small glass case selection of stuffed piroshki and khachapuri is worth the stop as well. Goldstar’s meat pie is a flaky, buttery vessel stuffed with ground meat and herbs. This is the type of pastry that’s best eaten over a trash can or at least on the street; the dough flakes will rain down to the ground like snow. Goldstar’s stuffed breads all cost under $2, and their full, fatty texture is one of the most practical and satisfying meals in the city. Goldstar Bakery, 5216 Sunset Blvd., East Hollywood.
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Sasoun’s Tahini Bread
Other bakeries sell tahini bread, but Sasoun is the only one that coats there’s with a little sugar. It is a sizable, sesame-oil flavored cookie the size of a toddler’s head. The tahini bread at some of the other bakeries definitely falls short in the flavor and texture department, but Sasoun’s has a soft, chewy texture and nutty flavor that’s only further enhanced by the addition of sugar. Sasoun has five locations, but the original opened in 1985 right on Santa Monica Boulevard. Sasoun Bakery, 5114 Santa Monica Blvd., East Hollywood.
Papillon’s Nutella Ponchik and Bulgarian Mozzarella Piroshki
Papillion’s speciality is sweets, and they are numerous and versatile. Enter the ponchik, an Armenian donut that’s fried, filled, and then topped with powdered sugar. Papillon does a bunch of different fillings, including raspberry, custard, and dulce de leche, but the Nutella ponchik is on another level. It’s fried fresh, and so when it reaches your hands it’s actually quite hot. The Nutella oozes and melts and burns, and the dough is deliciously chewy and softly fried.
Also of note is the Bulgarian mozzarella piroshki, which is gooey like a stuffed breadstick, but with much more flavor. Bulgarian mozzarella has the flavor of a mild feta, and its uniquely melty quality is perfect for the piroshki. Papillon serves some otherworldly, indulgent treats that cost next to nothing. Papillon Bakery, 5019 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz.
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Karabagh Meat Market’s Cabbage Piroshki
Karabagh Meat Market and the adjacent Cafe Paris open early and serve a rotating selection of jungal bread, khachapuri, and piroshki, and their cabbage iteration of the latter is excellent. It’s a pungent, wine-flavored mixture of cabbage, carrot, and onion stuffed into a small cylinder of baked bread. If coffee and cabbage don’t sound like a winning combo to you, you haven’t been to Cafe Paris yet. Karabagh skews Eastern European, and that sensibility comes through in a lot of their fillings. Don’t sleep on the jungal bread, either, which comes stuffed with cheese or a cooked parsley mixture. Karabagh Meat Market, 5363 Santa Monica Blvd., East Hollywood.
Mush specializes in maneishe, a soft flatbread topped with the dried herb spice blend Za’atar, sesame, and oil. In the same Levant style, Armenian pizza category as lahmajun, there’s something delightfully simple about maneishe. It’s lemony, tart, grainy, and filling all the same. You’ll see a maneishe pizza on the photo menu, and while they don’t always serve it, it’s a delicious, herby flatbread topped with olives and tomatoes. Mush Bakery, 5224 Sunset Blvd., East Hollywood.
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