Food Face-Off: Lemon Bars

Is there anything more difficult to find in a bakery than a truly excellent lemon bar? We're guessing no -- there are those bakeries that make excellent cookies, and those that specialize in pies, but at least in the corner of the world, a good lemon bar is hard to find.

"Good," of course, is subjective; what I'm looking for is face-puckering tartness that doesn't overwhelm the sweetness of the sugared-up lemon curd. The pastry layer must provide a buttery counterpart, but must also be much, much thinner than the lemon layer. It's asking a lot, I know, but I set out to find this pastry unicorn, heading to opposite sides of town to try two variations that the foodist glitterati promised me were among the best.

Lemon Bar #1: Euro Pane in Pasadena is a small, almost underwhelming space, but their cooking and baking is the real deal. The place usually has a few regulars hanging around, along with newbies who have heard about Euro Pane's macarons and quiches and sandwiches -- and lemon bars. Which are pretty good. The pastry is buttery and dreamy. The filling does reach the appropriate levels of tartness. But beyond that it doesn't have much lemon-y flavor, and the crust and filling separated in every sticky forkful, which is a disappointment.

Lemon Bar #2: The diminutive lemon bars at Lido Bakery in Manhattan Beach are pretty cute, and the almost bruleed-looking tops give them a distinctive appearance. There is actual lemon peel in these bars, and they have a somewhat jammy texture, so they feel wholesome. Virtuous to eat, even. But they fall victim to that most common of lemon bar faults: no tartness! Adorable food is well and good, but without big flavor, looks just don't matter much.

The Final Verdict: While face offs normally have an obvious winner, this one is a little tricky. After much debating, we have declared Euro Pane the victor. And yet ... we are unsatisfied. The search is very much still on. And we need your help. Food fans, where is your most beloved lemon bar?

Euro Pane Bakery
950 E. Colorado Blvd. Ste. 107, Pasadena, 626-577-1828

Lido Bakery
3001 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach, 310-545-8955

[Photos by Amy Tierney.]

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About the Author

Katherine's role as the Living editor at KCET.org keeps her running from farms to markets to restaurants to pop-up swaps all over SoCal. She's been living in and writing about this area for over a decade.
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I agree, finding an exceptional bakery made lemon bar is a challenge. My favorite is made by the mother of a childhood friend- I still get to eat her for lemon bars when I go home to visit my parents. Recently she taught my daughters how to make them. When it come to lemon bars, homemade wins!