On September 6th I finally had the chance to visit this bakery. As I was driving on Adams Blvd. comparing the building numbers to the address I had written down on paper, I was beginning to doubt that I was heading in the right direction—not because the block numbers weren't getting closer to my destination address, but rather because I saw no signs of an Armenian neighborhood on the streets. There were numerous Hispanic stores to my left and right and the people walking the streets were nearly all Hispanic or African-American. Maybe I was on the East block of Adams and the Armenian neighborhood was on the West? Or maybe I would soon arrive at a very small, concentrated, block of Armenian homes and shops. But no, before I knew it I saw the unassuming sign of Partamian Bakery in the middle of this inner-city neighborhood.
After circling the few blocks around the bakery for parking, I finally found a spot not too far away and made my way to the bakery. Once inside, the emptiness of the bakery was probably the first thing to hit me. Not only was I the only customer in the store, but the place itself looked extremely bare: no fancy decorations, no mouth-watering pastries displayed behind glass (as it turns out Partamian does mostly hot foods rather than pastries), just a lot of walking space with a few shelves in the middle of the store containing some jarred foods and a few breads. Next thing that caught my attention were the two people working at the store: it was the same two (Francisco and Jose) who were pictured in the original LA Times article that drew me to this bakery.
Although not nearly as popular as bakeries in the Glendale area, Partamian gets many large orders from organizations, churches, and other group events all across Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley (while I was there, they were preparing a large order of lahmajunes for Ararat Home in Mission Hills).
I ordered a lahmajune and picked up a drink from their fridge filled with "Mexican Coca-Colas" (Coca-Colas in small glass containers made with real sugar cane—unlike the domestic kind that uses high-fructose corn syrup), Jarritos, and a few types of beer. I took a seat an one of the two circular patio dinning tables, both of which have seen more than their share of use over the years. My main motivation for eating inside the bakery was to get a glimpse of what kind of customers the bakery received. After about 5 minutes a man walked in, very casually spoke to the owners as if he'd known them for years, and ordered a few items to go. Judging from his complexion I got the impression that he was Armenian. So what better way to find out than to ask:
"Excuse me sir, are you Armenian?"
Silence for about 5 seconds while the man analyzed this complete stranger asking him questions.
"Does the Pope shit in the woods?"
Good thing I have watched The Big Lebowski and knew exactly where this quote was from. To make a long story short, it turned out that this gentleman was in fact Armenian. He came over sat down and we ate our lunch together while we spoke for a good hour about everything from the movies to the neighborhood. I learned that the neighborhood where the bakery is had its good share of Armenians a few decades back, mostly from a small village in south central Turkey called Antep (now known as Gaziantep). But over the years these Armenians moved out and today there is no remnant left other than Partamian Bakery.
About the food: the lajmajune was by far the best lajmajune I have ever ate—and I may not have grown up in a culture that eats lajmajune every other day as snack, but I have certainly tried my fair share in LA over the last few years. I also purchased a few cheese and spinach boregs (the boregs come frozen and need to be heated in the oven before eating) to take home with me for a family gathering I was attending that night. These boregs were so popular that let's just say I could have bought three times as many as I bought that day and they would still have been consumed faster than any other meal on the table. They were delicious.