In 2019 the United States Census Bureau reported that 64.2% of the population in San Antonio was Hispanic or Latino. The Alamo City continues to flourish as a cultural melting pot, and Latino-owned businesses keep thriving and contributing to their community which in turn embraces the diverse history of this Mexican American culture wholeheartedly. One of these businesses, which has survived the challenges of the current pandemic, is Mexican artisanal bakery La Panaderia.
Recently named Best Bakery by readers of the San Antonio Current, and a 2020 Traveler’s Choice Winner by Trip Advisor, ranking in the top 10% of restaurants worldwide, La Panadería is a must try when visiting San Antonio.
David and Jose Cáceres inherited their passion for baking when they were young boys selling their mother’s bread on the streets of Mexico City. The family worked hard to make ends meet but their craft elevated them to owning three brick and mortar bakeries which operated for years.
After their mother’s passing, the brothers took over the homegrown business and started baking on a larger scale, growing into an industrial operation that supplied pastries and bread for companies throughout Mexico such as Walmart, Starbucks as well as the popular cafeteria chain, VIPS.
Seeking to expand their dream and their trade, the Cáceres brothers left Mexico City for San Antonio, opening their flagship La Panaderia bakery on Broadway Avenue in 2015. Today, the brothers run two very successful locations, with a third on the way this fall. Their attention to detail and the welcoming atmosphere found at La Panaderia have quickly made the bakery and café a staple in the Alamo City.
“Our Mother Doña Josefina taught my brother and I the art of baking and the desire to never stop pursuing quality,” says Jose Cáceres. “Our recipes come from generations of bakers. We have been evolving our recipes for more than 30 years, day by day pushing the limits, and taking pan dulce to the next level. The outcome is a unique blend of cultures. We have traveled the world looking for inspiration and for learning, but at the end we remain true to our origins. We call it our ‘Bread Cultura’.”
La Panadería specializes in handmade bread and pan dulce, traditional Mexican sweet pastries that rose to popularity thanks to the French influence in Mexico at the turn of the XX Century. The buttery croissants, the crunchy orejas (palmiers), and the ever-present concha are somee of the most traditional and beloved Mexican pastries. The Cáceres brothers also draw influence from Italian and American breadmaking techniques, including a 72-hour fermentation process, that result in unique, artisan baked goods.
To further honor their roots, they offer seasonal treats year-round, such as pan de muerto, a brioche-like sweet bread flavored with orange peel enjoyed during the Day of the Dead festivities, and rosca de reyes, Mexico’s version of the King Cake.
But honoring tradition doesn’t mean they don’t innovate. In 2018, La Panaderia caused a sensation when they released the croncha – a mash up of the croissant and the concha.
Throughout the pandemic, the Cáceres brothers and their team at La Panadería have shown resilience. When restaurants were forced to shut down in-room dining, La Panadería quickly shifted its business practices to provide essential items like bread, milk and eggs to the people of San Antonio when items were in short supply, and began offering curbside pickup and delivery of their bread and pastries, as well as their popular breakfast and lunch items.
“The pandemic has been devastating for the entire restaurant industry. However, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent our business,” says Jose. “For more than 25 years, life has been evolving to virtual/online experiences and online ordering, and we are perhaps one of the few industries that still depend on the in-store experience. We are changing that and taking La Panadería online.”
Since then, they have expanded their business with online ordering and two-day statewide shipping of their pan dulce throughout Texas.
“Imagine,” he adds, “I grew up with my mother yelling in the streets of Mexico ‘Roscas! Roscas de a $5 y de a $10!’ Now we are selling our cronchas, Tequila Almond croissants and all our popular pan dulce online for pickup and delivery and have the capability to ship it all statewide. It’s amazing how we are evolving our business model.”