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Europane vs. Lovebird's Bakery Cafe in Pasadena

After reading a couple of "raves" about the sandwiches at Europane here on Chowhound, we decided to check it out today for lunch. We were not impressed.

In our opinion it pales in comparison to Lovebird's across the street. The sandwich & pastry selection at Europane was more limited & more expensive than Lovebirds. Also, the seating was cramped at Europane & did not have an "inviting" vibe/feel. The service was also a bit curt & lackadasical at Europane.

I will say that the bread was tasty & fresh...but that's not enough of a draw to bring us back. We're locals & didn't think it was worth the drive.

Are we missing something?

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  1. Never been impressed by Europane - the food, the service - nothing blew me away. The egg salad that everyone raves about? Boring. The pastries? Dry. Tried a few times to make sure it wasn't an off day. It wasn't. Looking forward to trying Lovebird.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Lipps

      Hey- So I know that the service at Europane isn't the greatest, but hey, the food rocks like the beatles did! I'm a reg. as well, and even though the "tatooed, smarty pants" won't crack a smile, they try hard in the small space with large amounts of customers. Overall, Europane gets my vote. I reccomend the brown cake things (you know what i'm talking about) ;-) and the crossaints. I'm not such a big fan of the strawberry cake thingys (do i have to say it again??;-)]

      Love Sumi as well!

      -livininadreamoffood

      1. re: Lipps

        Europane makes there baked goods fresh every morning. There is no way that all of the baked goods that they have out at Love Birds sell in one day. There is absolutlely no comparison in the quality of ingredients that Europane uses compared to Love Birds. All of her fruit and vegetables com from the farmers market, and you can taste the difference. And for the record it is the best egg salad sandwich I have ever had. I personaly like my counter staff tatooed and artsy, it definately makes life more intersting.

      2. Fors starters, Europane has good coffee. More significantly, Europane is open when Lovebirds is closed. Did you try the turkey sandwich at Europane? It's very good.

        1. i'm a Europane lover, however, i must agree with the poster, service and ambiance is challenging for Europane.

          product is important, but service and ambiance do contribute to the experience.

          overall, i give europane (1-10 worst to best):

          food quality: 8+
          ambiance: 4
          service: 3.5

          4 Replies
          1. re: revets2

            You've underscored the reason there are two types of people who go to Europane: those who get a bunch of food to go and those who order and stuff themselves on premises, i.e., the regulars.

            1. re: mc michael

              mc michael...

              we like to sit outside with our dogs, but i do have to say, i dread having to ask a counter person to describe one more thing :(. more than once, i've hauled a** out of there with $150 worth of pastry for parties, etc. and can't believe how rude and poorly packaged these gems are.

              sumi is always accomodating and patient.

              i'm a reg, but i'd wish sumi would hire some people who care.

                1. re: mc michael

                  I agree, she is so sweet and one hell of a baker! When I have made the 60-90 minute drive for a cup of the excellent dark roast coffee and pastries, I have never been dissapointed and sometimes I have had, as I have posted about recently, pastries of 'world class' guality!!! There are no bakeries near my home and I must travel for high quality baked goods. EuroPane is well worth the trip.

          2. Food at Europane is consistently better than Lovebird's, in my opinion. But Lovebird's is good too and has a larger variety and more consistent availability (many a times I've gone to Europane to find my fave breakfast pastries was not made that day.) I also find Lovebird's a bit more comfortable if dining-in.

            1. wait just a cotton-picking minute here. this is a very silly argument. europane and lovebirds, other than both being places where you can buy bread and cookies and sandwiches in the same neighborhood, have nothing to do with each other. they are not playing in the same league. it's like comparing the serrano and manchego tapas at an AOC-type establishment and a grilled ham and american cheese at a denny's down the block: not a fair fight. i eat at both e. and l., but for very different reasons. if you want great bread and thoughtful complicated gourmet sandwiches and genius desserts and pastries by a parisian/nancy silverton-trained baker, you go see sumi at europane. you don't go there for the smiling service; it's tattooed and pierced smarty-pants young people working for an artist. they're a little distracted, but if you love the food, who cares? making a big deal of that is like complaining about the line at la super rica. it comes with the territory. but if you want a regular-joe sandwich or a plain, cheap, half-decent oatmeal cookie served by ordinary folks, nothing fancy, and who doesn't sometimes, you go to lovebirds. end of pasadena story.

              7 Replies
              1. re: paseater

                I know plenty of regular-joe, ordinary folk places that taste better than complicated, gourmet places.

                1. re: nd33x

                  i'm sorry i didn't make my point very well. because that was my point. sometimes you want a potato chip. sometimes you want potatoes cooked by a genius. they both "taste good" and hit the spot at different times of our lives. but that doesn't make the potato chip genius, if you're interested in food.

                2. re: paseater

                  The reason they even bring up the service is that it is such a problem that it distracts from the food. It also hinders any first-time customers from becoming regulars unless they're masochists. That said, in a blind taste test, a Europane croissant would whoop a Lovebird one. Unfortunately, a lot of people can't tell the difference because of the sour taste the service at Europane leaves in their mouths.

                  1. re: ozzygee

                    mmm. i acknowledge the service ain't great. but it's not actively bad in my experience. just indifferent. and my god, that croissant at europane: it does a lot more than whup lovebirds' airline-style one. it whups most all of 'em this side of the atlantic. makes a fellow ignore a lot of surliness.

                    1. re: paseater

                      I'll agree that I haven't been put off by the place either. But when I want to have a cup of coffee, some pastries and relax and read the paper on a weekend morning, I find myself at Lovebirds.

                      1. re: paseater

                        I dunno. Surly counterstaff is still a demerit.

                        And lovely as Europane's croissants are, if you are a local they can't beat the frozen ones you can buy by the dozen at Nicole's deli in South Pasadena. These cook up in 15 minutes at home and are the best croissants I've had since being in France! Fabulously light and flakey. And no need to look for parking!

                        1. re: Reeter1

                          Never had surly service at EuroPane, they are patient while I decide what I want and IF I ask for suggestions they offer them! This has been the case even when they are busy. Maybe I'm just more surly, or is it surlier, than they are! Oh well......

                          Now the idea of having high quality croissants in the freezer at home so that I don't have to drive to EuroPane (or Amandine or La Maison du Pain or where ever) is a really appealing idea. I have been to Nicole's a couple of times but have not spotted the frozen croissants and the next time I am anywhere near there I'm gonna buy some to try at home. Any other treasures that I should look for? Ready to bake baguettes would be nice!!!

                  2. I think service plays a large part in an eating establishment. Whenever I think about going to Europane, I don't go anymore. Don't care how incredible that turkey sandwich is or how perfectly sweet/tart that lemonade is. Just do not want to experience the witches behind the counter.

                    Re the croissant, maybe it's better when first baked in the morning, because I've only gotten it in late morning and I don't see what the big deal is at all.

                    1. I have no opinion one way or the other about Europane vis-a-vis Lovebirds.

                      But, that being said, Lovebirds does hold a special place in my heart simply because its roast beef avocado sandwich (with sprouts and tomatoes) was an integral fabric of my high school days (back in the day when Lovebirds was but a tiny little hole on Main St.).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        AHS Class of '91 here! The old Lovebirds on Main St was a favorite afterschool hangout :)

                      2. I probably make it to Europane a couple times a month, I am super sensitive to surly service, yet I have never had an experience at europane that would stop me from going there. In fact I have had some very gracious service there, staff going out of their way to help me after they were already breaking down the operation for the day, which in my mind is when people have the most right to be burnt out after a long shift.

                        Of course every business has the potential of doing something that turns someone off, service wise and I have a few of my own I would never go back to. But I still recommend what they sell if the chow is outstanding, with a caveat that the service can suck.
                        There are many many many places where you will be served by friendly staff, but the food is ordinary or worse. Bakery items as tasty as served Europane are very few and far between. It is all about the product, made from the very best ingredients available, and with a creative edge.

                        1. The SO and I get something from Europane ("You're a pain") probably once a week. Sometimes it's just a Sunday morning coffee and pastry run; sometimes it's for a sandwich. I've never been to Lovebirds, but something about the place never seems inviting to me. It seems to chainy and mass produced, even if it's independent. But this is the root of this discussion: to each his own. I prefer my coffee strong, baked goods fresh, and counter help a little edgy. I've lived in Portland and Baltimore for cryin out loud. I expect brooding with my joe.

                          I am a true regular at Europane, and yes, the service is of the "eh" category, but it has never kept me away. The pastries are always incredible, even when they don't have what we want. The sandwiches consistently fresh tasting; nothing like it in the area. it's ALL about the bread in that category. Why eat a SANDWICH on crappy bread? Eat a salad instead, is my theory. I'm not an egg salad person myself, but I see it served to every other person in the cafe. I'm partial to the chicken salad on rosemary-currant bread, and we picked up a mighty fine BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avo, tomato) sand the other day that was freakin' awesome (though it would've been even better toasted).

                          Anyway, I digress. I'm not sure what makes the staff there so surly in the eyes of others. They're counter help, there to get you want you want. You order, they deliver, you pay. What else does there need to be in such a simple space? This isn't high-end, fine dining. It's a coffee and specialty bakery/cafe. Why should there be the a** kissing? I do have to say that there was one lovely woman who worked there up until maybe six months ago or so; she was always friendly, polite, helpful, sunny. Pleasure to see her. And Sumi is always a delight.

                          As for the atmosphere, I hate the chairs myself. I like the semi-banquette seating along the one wall, if I can get it. We get our food to go more often than not.

                          PS: someone told me yesterday that Sumi sells baked goods to the two Peet's Coffees in the area. Any confirmation on that?

                          1. The ambience at Lovebirds is better than europane????? I guess those people prefer eating in a high school cafeteria, jostling for tables, rather than in a coffee shop or restaurant.

                            Lovebirds is a TERRIBLE place to eat during lunchtime in pasadena. way too crowded, and I would never wait in that line. Which rbings up why i don't like lovebirds: when i call the order in, 20 minutes in advance, it's rarely ready when i get there. That would be fine if it was almost ready, but waiting for 10 minutes isn't cool. It's not because I'm not patient, it's b/c they have nowhere that makes sense to wait and not be in someone's way who hasn't ordered yet.

                            I agree w/ Paseater: there are times and places for both, but the quality is definitely at europane.

                            I have experienced very little in the way of "bad" service at europane - really the only thing is that sometimes they don't pick up the phone. I'll take that every time when compared to the industrialized smiles that come out of lovebirds

                            1. "PS: someone told me yesterday that Sumi sells baked goods to the two Peet's Coffees in the area. Any confirmation on that?"

                              Peet's on California and Lake has some of Europane's bake goods.

                              IMHO, Europane is more rustic and tastes really individual to me. It doesn't bother me when I go in the morning and find that my favorite bakegoods are sold out. They only made a small batch, just pick the others. They are all good.

                              1. I have to agree with the Europane fans - this side of town, this is the only place to get a decent croissant. early in the morning, just out of the oven and extra crispy, a hot croissant and a fresh brew -what more does one need?

                                yeah, ok, maybe the service isn't all fuzzy-bunny rabbits but i've been there enough times to see customers behave badly too.i wouldn't blame anyone for being surly. i've pretty much had friendly and prompt service every time, spare a smile and get one back. and don't expect too much during a rush with 10 people behind you - know what you want when you get up to order and get out of the way. i don't think it's anything personal.

                                the atmosphere may not be extra cozy, but i think it's fairly comfortable when it's not packed, and i've stayed to read the paper over a quiche and coffee many times.

                                in the end, when i want a hug or a warm and fuzzy, i go home to mom. when i want great bread or a real croissant (on this side of town) i go to europane.

                                plus they have chocolate bread during christamastime. i'll forgive anyone anything for some good chocolate bread.

                                1. I've walked in and out of Europane twice, due to long lines, crowds and no seating. When I looked at the available pastries, I wasn't impressed. I still have not managed to taste anything due to the lines.

                                  Lovebirds (on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena) has always been closed when I've wanted to try it. I like the look of the interior space better though-- much larger and less cramped.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: katkoupai

                                    I agree with yoyomama 100%!

                                    I've been to most of the bakeries that are posted about on CH and covered in mags and newspapers and blogs but in my book EuroPane consistently produces the highest quality pastries in S. California! Everything is at least good and some things are world class like the Custard Tart w/Raspberries when it was fresh out of the oven a couple of times. Better than anything I ever had elsewhere in L.A. or in Paris, New York, New Orleans or San Francisco! Sumi Chang's Granola is similar to La Brea Bakery's but better. Never had it in the bakery but I usually take a bag home. I don't eat Egg Salad but folks that do often say that it's the best. The few sandwiches that I've had have been pretty tasty but not as wonderful as the bakery items. One of my lads aka BreadBoy loves to get the bagettes toasted and served with butter. Wash any of it down with the Dark Roast Coffee, my idea of a good start to the day!

                                    1. re: sel

                                      i believe nancy silverton gives sumi chang credit for creating the la brea bakery granola.

                                      1. re: sel

                                        Another vote for Europane. Their egg salad is delish and I LOVE their baguettes. SO GOOD! I have never had surly service there, but they are sure not jumping up and down to greet me when I walk in, either. Either way, I have never taken note of negative service (and I am someone who will comment on moodyness, attitude, etc of a server to their face) so I think I am pretty aware as far as that goes.

                                    2. You are definitely missing something! Part of me would prefer that you keep going to Lovebirds because I don't need Europane to get any more crowded, but Europane deserves the accolades.

                                      I just read all the postings here and I'm shocked that no one has mentioned the Europane meatloaf sandwich. This is by far the best meatloaf sandwich I have ever had and I've had a lot of them.

                                      So the service is a little spotty [seems better lately though]. You don't go to Europane for the service. You go for the daily fresh baked bread [you can't make a good sandwich without good bread, people!] and the homemade quality of everything on the menu from the soups to the desserts. Even the coffee and espresso is especially good.

                                      Lovebirds is okay, I go there once in a while for a change and every time I do, I wish I would have gone to Europane instead.
                                      There absolutely is no comparison. Europane is in a different league. You have to appreciate that someone cares enough about the quality of their food to get most of their ingredients fresh from the farmers market even though the average diner wouldn't know the difference.
                                      If you can't appreciate the difference, keep going to Subway or Lovebirds so I don't have to wait in line at Europane.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jassylove

                                        Thank you jassylove! I was thinking the same thing... why doesn't anybody talk about Sumi's kick-ass meatloaf sandwiches? Ever since tasting my first, it's been my favorite sandwich @ Europane. The egg-salad sandwiches are also fantastic... light, perfectly-cooked eggs, fresh herbs, etc. But man, that meatloaf sandwich...

                                        Other favorites: fig custard tarts, Laduree-style macaroons, ginger scones

                                      2. Dear SoCalqtpi,

                                        I am sure your question is answered by now, but I must post! Europane's foods are delectable; my favorite place for breakfast pastries and the chicken salad on rosemary bread is too die for. We often pick up a Chiabata slipper, along with a loaf of sliced rosemary bread on our way out.

                                        The cinnamin rolls are delicious, the monkey bread is my children's favorite, and I think their french toast is the best in LA! Sumi is a real treat, always greeting customers, and has a real sense of the asthetic with her walkway bamboo and flowering plants.

                                        We have gotten to know 5 of the servers/bakers over the years and all of them are incredible. Never a bad word spoken. Now if you are used to fast food, this may not be the place for you, but the time they take to make everything, slow food, is why it is worth eating in the first place. And you can always sip your coffee and read a free LA times or Pasadena Star News while you wait.

                                        The original Lovebird's in Alhambra was a great place to stop for lunch, better ambiance than the Pasadena location, just quaint all the way around, serving Fosselman's ice cream and Dietrich coffees, it sure beat Subway.

                                        The Pasadena location opened when the sweeter of the two founding brothers (the more savvy of the two stayed in Alhambra) wanted to expand. And Pasadena is just that, a larger, more commercial lunch spot with very fresh ingredients. Much more "fast food" style, with sodas and "lunch specials" and service with a smile. But, they do mess up my order EVERYTIME I go in there. And there is nothing to do but eat it, because I must be off! The room is warehouse meets efficiency, and has an odd vibe with wild acoustical results from moving iron chair legs across laquered concrete floors. The neon Coke sign and misplaced art, leaves much to be desired in aesthetical accompaniments.

                                        At Europane, you get a European experience, gallery art adorns the walls, porcelin cups hold the delicious drinks, flowered designs cover the plates under your tasty pastry. People move slower here, have more time to savor life, are more apt to greet after you have been served, and enjoy the longevitiy of relationship that builds upon subsequent visits.

                                        I wouldn't trade it for any old cup of joe! And, I am a local, but would go out of my way to enjoy a morning here.

                                        1. I will cast my vote for Lovebirds. I bought a box of their large cookies (every kind they had) for my coworkers. Everyone loved them. I like the space better. It's larger, and I actually can breathe in there. I also spoke with the owner, and he was very friendly. Although I've been to Europane three times, I can never manage to order anything-- lines are too long, service is too slow, and there's no place to stand or sit. I get clausterphobic everytime I go in there. The only thing behind the counter that looked appetizing to me at Europane was the tray of lemon bars. One day, I may actually be able to taste one-- maybe. :)

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: katkoupai

                                            Well, I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one!!!
                                            1.) Most people think the food at Europane is maybeabove average but the service is a bit ridiculous at times, and the place often has a hectic unfriendly feel.
                                            2.) I too have had many orders at Lovebirds screwed up and their hours could be more accomodating.
                                            I'm definitely going to try those frozen croissants in SPas.

                                            1. re: MaryT

                                              I was wondering when Europane and Lovebirds would be spoken about in the same breath. Other than what was already stated that they are both bakeries/cafes, they don't have much else in common. That being said I have been a LONG TIME Europane customer (probably almost as long as she has been there) but I have not patronized it as frequently since the expansion. I couldn't care less if someone is pierced or tattooed, what I care about is care. I wish I could stop Sumi at the farmers market when I see her and tell her that things aren't as friendly as they used to be. There is definitely an artsy/fartsy/entitlement/stake your claim attitude of many of the folks that work there. That being said, I love everything I have ever eaten there, just not the attitude. I know it's hard to find, hire and keep good waitstaff/counter people but I go when I know it is totally off hours. I have recently tried Lovebirds and what I like about them is that they are predictable and friendly and there is plenty of room to sit, just not a lot of places to park unless you pay for the lot. I won't repeat what else has already been said but again, the two are totally different and I wish Europane had some of the more positive qualities of Lovebirds. Maybe I'll get the nerve up to say something to Sumi the next time I see her.