Pastries from 85°C Bakery Café. Photo credit: JiaYing Grygiel
A 90-minute line for buns? No way, not for me, not with two fidgety little kids in tow. The super-popular Taiwanese chain 85°C Bakery Café opened its first location in the Northwest on Feb. 24, at Southcenter Mall in Tukwila. As much as I love bread, I couldn’t make that pilgrimage.
But then, my friend Victoria Wan picked up a box after work and delivered it to my house. She knows the way to my heart is through my stomach. So I was “forced” to quickly taste-test seven buns from 85°C, because they are best eaten fresh. The struggle is real, folks.
Here's what you need to know before putting 85°C on your menu of family outings.
What’s the big deal?
Founded with the mission of providing "five-star quality at affordable prices," the first 85°C bakery opened in Taipei in 2004, and now there are 900 locations worldwide, mostly in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Australia. The Tukwila store marks the 26th in the U.S. As advertised, the bakery is famous for fabulous fresh pastries at modest prices – most items are under $3.
Unlike your typical American pastry – say, a doughnut – the Taiwanese pastries can easily pass for a meal, especially the ones topped with meat. The menu includes 50 varieties of pastries that are baked hourly (many varieties of brioche, puff pastry, cheese strudel), as well as bread, cakes and drinks. The menu changes seasonally and boasts unique offerings such as the "calamari stick," a squid-ink based bun with Swiss cheese inside and out.
Why is it called 85°?
The company's name refers to what it says is the perfect brewing temperature for coffee: 85°C, or 185°F.
I usually run for the sweets, so I was surprised how much I liked the savory buns. Chicken and tuna on a flaky pastry? Strangely amazing. My children inherited my sweet tooth, and their favorites were the berry tale bun and the mango bread.
The Tukwila store’s bestseller is the marbled taro bun, according to 85°C spokesman Christopher Jocson. Nationwide, the top spot goes to the brioche, a soft bread that’s buttery and milky.
I’m just about the only person in Seattle who can’t stand coffee, so I didn’t try 85°C’s best-known beverage, an iced sea salt coffee. The store does have non-caffeinated drinks (for kids, and me), like hot chocolate, milk and orange juice.
What the grandmother from Taiwan says
My mom, who visits Taiwan every year, says there’s an 85°C on every corner in Taiwan. She might have had a tiramisu there once, but otherwise, a pastry is not something you crave in Taiwan, where there are so many other delicious eats.
The lowdown on the wait
Even on a weekday evening, there is typically a 10-minute line outside the store, and another 10-minute line inside. After you pick out your pastries, you wait (in another line!) to get them individually wrapped.
But if you’re just getting drinks or cake, there’s a separate till, typically without a wait. The cakes include crowd-pleasers such as chocolate mousse and red velvet, and they are prepackaged so check-out goes faster.
You can sit at a table in the bakery’s lobby to dig in right away. The store is located in the northeast corner of Southcenter Mall, near Buffalo Wild Wings. Note that there’s no store entrance inside the mall.
Hot tip: To avoid a long line, visit on a weekday morning, right when the store opens.
If you live a distance from Southcenter, it's probably not worth the drive just for the bakery. But I’m dreaming up excuses to run an errand at mall and pick up some buns “by the way.” And if you need an indoor outing anyway, you can combine it with more fun at the mall (see below) for a fuel-and-treat stop on a rainy day.
If you go...
What: 85°C Bakery Cafe
Where: 1341 Southcenter Mall, Tukwila, 206-244-1885
Hours: Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7 a.m. to midnight and Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
More 85°C: Jocson confirmed plans underway for stores in Lynnwood (and Federal Way). 85°C plans to open three or four more locations in Washington by the end of this year.
More Taiwanese bakeries: If you can’t wait that long (and you don’t want to drive to Southcenter), try Kiki Bakery & Café (13200 Aurora Ave. N., Seattle), a Taiwanese pastry chain out of California.