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In Orange County, an Underground Sourdough Baker Opens Big on the Waterfront

Rye Goods started in a Costa Mesa garage, before finding space in one of the wealthiest parts of Newport Beach. What’s it like to be the new kid on the block?

A worker in a mask prepares baked goods over a stove.
Owner Sara Lezama working at Rye Goods

While Orange County may not have the depth and breadth of exciting young bakeries that Los Angeles County enjoys these days, that doesn’t mean that quality carbs are hard to come by in the OC. Rye Goods, which began life as a food truck and a home bakery operating inside of a garage, has now gone legit with a brand new space (and long lines to match) at Lido Marina Village, the upscale development right on the waterfront. It’s a pretty upscale area for such the one-time underground bakery, but owner Sara Lezama says the dichotomy suits her just fine.

“Not everyone here is super on board with sourdough, or understands what the differences are,” says Lezama by phone recently, “but that’s just because the education is lacking.” In many ways, the new space, which opened formally last weekend, feels a lot like other bakeries around greater Los Angeles (and even the country) complete with the hand-written menu on paper scrolls, the floured bannetons ready for action, and the spare, muted tones from the floor to the exposed ceiling.

A corner shot of a new bakery with wheat signage overhead.

These sorts of touches may feel more familiar to a certain type of Gjusta-adoring Angeleno, but this is Orange County. Rye Goods is no longer hiding out in an overstuffed garage; it’s hiding in plain sight just steps from a Nobu in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country. “We kind of just fell into this space,” Lezama says, after striking out with two other addresses not far away. “We wanted to be as close to the ocean as possible for the weather, and what it does for the bread,” she says. The decision to move into the heart of a multi-million-dollar waterfront redevelopment certainly raised some eyebrows — for her, her staff, and customers. “I admit, it is weird being by Nobu.”

Thankfully, the move from garage to commissary kitchen to storefront bakery with regular operating hours has, so far, gone pretty smoothly, and the lines of waiting buyers down the sidewalk every morning means that business is likely to be sustainable for quite a while. “The crowd down here has been so welcoming,” Lezama says, pausing mid-phone call to politely inform a couple of walk-ups that they’re sold out for the day.

Still, there is a learning curve for both the massive developers behind the project, and Lezama and her staff. DJM Capital Partners funded the rebrand of the bayside property, and has built other Southern California developments like Pacific City in Huntington Beach, and the Runway in Playa Vista. “We’re referred to as the troubled child down here,” Lezama says with a laugh. “because we ask for so much.” There were design hurdles to overcome, like a three-month conversation about their sign, and other pragmatic needs. “They didn’t really have recycling before we got here,” says Lezama. Now, after some back and forth, they do.

While Lezama remains focused on pushing out loaves and cinnamon rolls and a variety of other baked goods to waiting customers and her wholesale accounts, she also knows that Rye Goods represents something more. The bakery is showing, in real time, that it’s possible to keep independent values when it comes to things like sourcing and sustainability, while working within an overtly wealthy development like Lido Marina Village. It’s all part of the process, says Lezama as she regretfully informs another customer that all the day’s loaves are gone. Thankfully, there’s more to come tomorrow.

Rye Goods is open now at 3418 Via Lido in Newport Beach, CA. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. or sellout.

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