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Restaurant Review: High expectations not met in half-baked 99 Ranch Market Bakery and Cafe opening

A smoothie is pictured alongside the Japanese Flower and cream cheese bun. The 99 Ranch Bakery and Cafe offers various pastries and drinks. (Emily Tang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Christopher Buchanan

Dec. 9, 2023 8:08 p.m.

The 99 Ranch Market Bakery and Cafe did not rise to the occasion of the grocery store’s grand opening.

99 Ranch Market officially opened its highly anticipated Westwood location last Wednesday on the cross section of Rochester Avenue and Westwood Boulevard. A distinguishing factor of the market’s location is the integrated bakery and cafe situated in the front corner of the store, offering a quick and simple self serving option mediated by a cashier at the cafe. The bakery’s straightforward options of bread, drinks and pastries cater to a college student’s simple palate, but some of the recipes unfortunately fell flat.

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The bakery is situated on the lower floor of the two-story building and offers a comforting, naturally lit seating area that encapsulates the ambience of a college study space. It is slightly elevated above the ground floor by stairs, and can be entered through a front door of the store. To the left of the bakery are several options of fruits and small cakes for purchase with staple flavors such as taro and tiramisu, and to the right is a cafe and register.

In the middle of the bakery, a glass pastry case with various options of decorated breads instantly attracts the eye. Customers are met with about two dozen different types of bread and provided with communal self-serve tongs and a large tray to facilitate their purchase. Once the bread case is opened, a gentle aroma of cheese and butter meets the nose to enhance the already warm atmosphere.

As for the menu, the bakery offers a diverse selection of pastries. The prices are the most stellar aspect of the cafe experience, as they perfectly align with the budget of an average student. Almost every bread, regardless of specialty, is priced between $2.49 to $2.69. Pastry sizes are more than generous, and the presentation heavily influences the amount that one would be willing to spend.

In terms of taste, the Japanese Flower was an impressively decorated chrysanthemum with a thin, crisp exterior and an airy fluff of bread in the center. The outer layers were similar to a cracker, while the inside melted on the tongue and left a hint of sweetness in its wake for a delicious eating experience. Another rendition of the baked good is available, adorned with a layer of chocolate that enhances both the taste and presentation of the bread with a softer sweetness.

Moreover, the garlic cheese bar, which nearly covered the length of the considerable serving tray, could have been a regular entree in terms of its proportions. However, the bread was slightly too sweet on its own – mostly masking the garlic – but the hardened layer of cheese on top provided a pleasing flavor contrast that redeemed the initial taste.

The Danish Waltz was less redeemable, with a cream cheese layer at the bottom of the pastry, leaving more to be desired in taste and texture. The initial taste was less than average, and a considerable part of this pastry was dry, aside from a soggy bottom portion, which was an unpleasant surprise.

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The cafe component of the bakery offers coffee, tea and smoothies at reasonably low prices for the Westwood area. All of the smoothies, with the exception of the tropical smoothie for an additional dollar, are priced at $6.99. Considering that the smoothies are some of the priciest items available, the mixed berries smoothie was watery both in consistency and taste. The flavor felt unflatteringly homemade, and small ice chunks interrupted the flow of liquid. Consequently, the drink felt more similar to a fruit juice than a smoothie.

Some of the other drinks sadly suffered the same watery fate as the smoothies. The Royal Thai tea had an overpowering, sweet flavor that was diminished over time until all that was left was a vague memory of the initial taste. However, at $4.49, this item could be a better alternative to the pricey shops in the Westwood area with some improvement in consistency.

The 99 Ranch Bakery and Cafe hosts an almost infallible atmosphere for students, but seemingly forgot to apply that same regard for quality in their execution of drinks and breads. Students will appreciate the cheap, quick fix that the location can offer, but they should not expect to be knocked off their feet. If more attention is given to the quality of their items, the bakery and cafe could offer a haven for students exhausted from shopping or living deep in Westwood.

Only time will tell if 99 Ranch Bakery and Cafe can rise beyond its half-baked selections.

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Christopher Buchanan
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