Bring an Andean Appetite
What is it with Bolivians and bread? Each of the three local outlets for the Andean country’s cuisine also sells pan dulce, a previous place was a pizzeria, and the newest restaurant is the grandest panadería of them all. Rollie’s is a large, gleaming space, with its western wall dedicated to Mexican sweet bread of all varieties: powdery conchas (those ubiquitous rolls featuring rows of granulated-sugar bumps that make them look like mini-armadillos), empanadas stuffed with pineapple or strawberry jelly, bolillos for your torta needs, elegant Napoleons. Don’t know which is which? In an act of ingenuity I’m amazed other OC panaderías don’t practice, Rollie’s prints the pictures and names of each available pan dulce on its takeout menu.
This is the only wab part of this half-Mexican, half-Bolivian eatery I recommend; the Mexican entrées, while bueno, simply cost too much considering SanTana is an exit away up the 5 and Taco Factory is within walking distance. Besides, why try enchiladas and sopes when you can gorge on salteñas? They’re ostensibly empanadas, but few in Latin America are so sturdy that they can contain broth inside their shells. Eat one like you would a chicken pot pie, stabbing it with a spoon to let steam out before scooping up ground beef, raisins, potato and carrot bits, and slices of hard-boiled eggs. Empty out the innards, and then eat the crust: sweet, flaky, wet with the original juices. At $2.40 a pop, Rollie’s salteñas are the most affordable complete meal since the bánh mì.
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A salteña is mandatory, but return to try the other Bolivian meals. The sil pancho is an expanse of pounded beef lightly breaded like it’s milanesa, but saltier and crunchier than that traditional Latin American cut. Two eggs over easy top the sil pancho; it makes chicken-fried steak seem as austere as a tofu block. Sopa de mani is a beef stew in a peanut-based broth, a dish better-suited for the coming winter chill but surprisingly refreshing. Other platters feature beef or chicken slathered in different ají sauces. No matter your Rollie’s choice, wash it down with a cup of mokonchinchi, chilled peach juice sweetened with cinnamon, a beverage so refreshingly tasty I’ve ignored the Orange Bang! on tap every visit—and I’m addicted to that frothy drink.
And despite all the tasty Mexican baked goods offered, the best dessert is also Bolivian. Their empanada de queso is a giant fried shell of dough sprinkled with powdered sugar. Rip it piece by piece, and you’ll eventually find a chunk of a salty cheese—unexpected, but an apt counterpoint to the sugar. Again: Bolivians and bread. A match made in Machu Pich—oops, wrong Incas!
Rollie’s Bakery, 14071 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 669-8300; www.rolliesbakery.com.