Pasty Bakery in downtown Long Beach could use a little help. A liquor license, a spruced-up exterior, a marketing campaign that actually tells people it exists--anything to ensure the sweet Welsh man who freshly bakes pasties with his Salvadoran wife in the back-corner storefront of Pine Avenue's dead movie-theater complex get the customers they deserve.
The one thing Pasty Bakery doesn't need help with, thankfully, is the food, which includes a small selection of meat, veggie and fruit pies all priced so low you can buy lunch with spare change.
For those unaware (as I was until a pasty place rolled into town), pasties (pronounced "pass-tees") are a regional British dish made by baking a bunch of cheap-but-filling ingredients into a folded piece of pastry. The result is something like a handheld pot pie or a meal-worthy empanada.
Though traditional pasties come out as a semi-circle with ruffled edges, Pasty Bakery--no affiliation with Pasty Kitchen in Los Alamitos--makes theirs a round mound by folding each corner of the pastry into the center so it becomes a mini-bundle of food. When all baked in the on-site convection ovens, the pasty is about the size of a CD, and on a hungry day, it's easy to eat two.
Meat selections at Pasty Bakery include chicken, beef and lamb (priced $2.50-$3.75), locked in a carbohydrate cave with potatoes, onions and carrots--the latter replacing traditional-but-hard-to-find-in-SoCal rutabaga. For vegetarians, there is a cheese-and-onion pasty made with Gruyere (warms the soul like a comfort-food grilled cheese) and a straight-up "vegetarian" pasty (both $2) filled to bursting with refried beans, broccoli, red peppers and peas.
Despite all the wonderful flavor that comes with seasoned meat (especially the uncommon lamb), the vegetarian pasties are the ones that more often end up in my belly. In them, the crumbly beef and chicken are replaced with smushed beans that encapsulate the veggies in a savory protein paste that becomes one with the soft-but-not-too-doughy crust.
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Regardless of which pasty you order, make sure to load up on Pasty Bakery's curry sauce. A red masala-like sauce that could easily be eaten as a tomato-onion stew if so inclined, I buy multiple ramekins of the stuff to pour over the pasty's insides as well as to dip French fries into (the adjacent Johnny Rockets sells some that suffice).
With frozen pasties available by the dozen and shepard's pies in the planning stages, Pasty Bakery is bringing quick-and-cheap working-class British food to Long Beach's broke-and-hungry masses. Now if only the Yellow Pages would stop saying the place has closed and the landlord would start allowing a sign out on Pine Avenue that advertises the hidden storefront, then downtown's only $2 lunch spot might actually thrive.
Pasty Bakery, 245 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562).