As 2017 came to an end, Dots Café began. Yup, the adored cupcake purveyor with a pair of successful storefronts on the west side of town (Dots Arroyo and Dots One Colorado) expanded their sites to Pasadena’s east side and their sights to include the kinds of food you used to need to eat elsewhere before indulging yourself in Dots’ baked goods..
As of now, Dots Café and Bakery occupies the front unit of a newly constructed wood-clad shallow L-shaped three-unit structure on the north side of Colorado Boulevard between Rosemead Boulevard and Michillinda Avenue just east of Yang Chow and west of the entrance to the Foothill (210) East. The exterior is pleasantly different from the plainer more commercial stucco storefronts in the neighborhood, and the interior is downright adorable.
On our first visit a month ago, we were immediately cheered by soft sage walls, cabinetry, wood-paneled walls and high coffered ceilings all glossy white and a front windowed wall letting the south sunshine stream in. We were absolutely mesmerized by the gay, brightly colored wallpaper covering the entire east wall, with bees and butterflies busily enjoying a lush garden filled with flowers, fruits and vegetables. (A staff member confided that it came from Anthropologie.)
Copper lamps depend from the ceiling; copper chairs abut the tables. Hanging from the southwest corner is a variant of the traditional Dots logo — an orange hexagon within which is featured (rather than their iconic cupcake decorated with a flower) a coffee cup, similarly ornamented.
And speaking of hexagons, they’re everywhere: the grey, black and white tiles laid on the part of the floor nearest the kitchen, the tangerine and lime seats on the stools that flank a larger table and the bar along the front windows, the salmon, blue and pink shapes facing one section of the counter, labels indicating cupcake flavors, and even some of the plates.
We placed our order: Thai almond salad ($9.50), chipotle chicken melt ($10) and three specialties: risotto balls, goat cheese croquettes and a fried chicken tamale (each $6). The food arrived promptly, five ping pong ball-sized crunchy/creamy arancini, an equal numbered, sized and textured croquettes, with gooey melting herbed cheese, and two pieces of crisply battered tamale; all piping hot with three kinds of dipping sauces.
We downed the tamale and one each of the risotto and goat cheese fritters before our entrées arrived, reserving the remainders for home consumption. The salad was lovely, greens enlivened with colorful bits of carrot, red pepper, cucumber and slivered almond with a citrus dressing, perhaps just a touch too salty. The sandwich, also paired with a side salad and a couple of pickle slices, surprised us by the unexpected and welcome inclusion of roasted corn kernels.
After our meal, we (OK – I) couldn’t leave without buying a half dozen mini-cupcakes (each $1.75) including two chocolate orange, one blueberry cheesecake, one tiramisu, one snickerdoodle and one raspberry chocolate. I don’t have to rave about them. Anybody who’s gone into a Dots bakery in the past decade knows how decadent, delicious and drop-dead gorgeous they are.
I was ready to write the café up a month ago right after our initial visit, but some intervening “special” issues and required reviews caused me to put my notes and photos for Dots away, wondering when or if I’d ever get to them again. But yesterday my editor informed me of a change of schedule and asked if I had a restaurant I could substitute on quick notice.
I acquiesced with the caveat that the piece would get to him at end of day since I felt the need to refresh my memory of the café with another visit. So this morning (April 13) at about 10, I called in an order for pickup: breakfast burrito with sausage ($10) and brioche plus scrambled egg plus cheddar and sundried tomato mayo with bacon ($8.50). They were packed and ready when I arrived 20 minutes later.
Another and, I confess, the “real” reason I required a second visit was the guilty pleasure of buying 12 more minis ($19.25): passion fruit, cookies and cream, chocolate mint (2), chocolate coconut (2), Meyer lemon, raspberry lemon, carrot, “mostess” and the daily specials of lavender and honey and chocolate toffee. Plus two irresistible three-inch wide and almost half-inch thick cookies: chocolate brownie and almond with multicolored sprinkles ($1.75 apiece).
The entrées were still warm when I presented them to my husband. Each consisted of an enormous amount of scrambled egg, our chosen meat and melted cheese augmented with a small amount of hash-browned potato in the burrito. The sausage was mild pork link. The burrito came with a cuplet of rather bland green salsa and a fat grilled chili with plenty of zest.
In both sandwich and burrito, the soft, moist and sunny egg predominated with cheese, mayo and potato subtle accents. I only wish I knew Dots’ secret to making scrambled eggs that perfect! Portions were generous and we stowed half the burrito in the fridge so we could cap our brunch with the rich and supremely satisfying cookies. Our luscious cupcakes will remain untouched until another day unless one of us sneaks downstairs for a sample before I screw up enough resolve to freeze them.
Dots’ breakfast menu (served from 7 till noon) includes various toasts, quinoa bowls with spinach and fried eggs, French toast sticks, country fried steak and eggs, waffles with bacon and eggs and, of course, pastries (ranging in price from $1 for a cookie to $10.50 for the waffle combo). The lunch and snack menu (available from 11 till 6:30) has several salads and sandwiches, pizza, mac and cheese with bacon, linguine and meat sauce and other specialties (all between $4 for a side salad and $12 for a turkey BLAT). And, of course, they have coffees available all day long.
Before I left with our breakfast order and my stash of cupcakes, I asked a staff member if he knew who was going to occupy the two other units in the complex. He said there were several tenants the Dots owners were considering, revealing that Dots had not only broadened the scope of its bill of fare with this new enterprise but had also become soon-to-be landlords. Here’s wishing them well with both endeavors.