Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners have been announced, and in most cases picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we'll be rounding up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories during the next several months. Bon appétit!
The second you walk into any Mexican bakery you are overwhelmed by the wide selection of breads, pastries and desserts. Every day, Mexican bakeries in Houston churn out an incredible number of bolillos, conchas, empanadas and cuernos, to name but a few. And that's not all. The bakers are also creating cakes, puddings, pies and other traditional Mexican desserts.
Whether you enjoy a fresh baked bolillo, or love diving into a slice of tres leches cake, Houston is home to some great Mexican bakeries that will satisfy your culinary needs.
So, without further ado, here are the top five Mexican bakeries in Houston. ¡Buen provecho!
Over by the Sam Houston Tollway and Beechnut, you will find Panaderia Tierra Caliente. This unassuming bakery is home to some of the best bolillos in Houston. In fact, customers will wait for the freshly-baked bread loaves to come out of the kitchen if there aren't any available. Similar to other Mexican bakeries, you are handed a metal tray and tongs upon entering, allowing you to pick and choose which pastries and breads you want to take home. At first this can seem overwhelming, but don't worry if you grab too much, because the prices are incredibly cheap. Each bolillo is firm and crunchy on the outside, but soft and delicate on the inside, lending itself to being the perfect loaf of bread to use as a sandwich. While the bolillos are the best bet at the bakery, you can't go wrong with a simple slice of moist sweet vanilla cake with white frosting, or a cuerno, a croissant-shaped savory loaf of bread topped with sesame seeds.
There are several Arandas Bakery locations throughout Houston, and each offers a multitude of classic Mexican cakes, pastries, cookies and savory baked goods. Arandas hands you a metal tray and tongs to select from the wide variety of pastries and breads; the only downside is the lack of labels, but that's what makes shopping at a Mexican bakery so much fun! While anything you choose is bound to be tasty, the best savory options are the pan de anis (bread with sesame seeds) and, of course, the bolillos (especially when they are fresh from the oven). Sweet-tooth cravings can easily be fixed with a guava-filled empanada, a delicate and soft concha, or a single serving of luscious, creamy flan.
La Guadalupana is a tucked-away gem on the residential portion of Dunlavy. The quaint cafe and bakery is an excellent breakfast stop or a perfect place to sit and relax with a pastry and cup of coffee after lunch. La Guadalupana serves a variety of classic Mexican sweets and breads, but also offers a few traditional French baked goods, such as croissants and palmiers (owner Trancito Diaz worked as a baker at the Houston Country Club, where he made French pastries and breads). Your best bet for an excellent Mexican pastry for breakfast or a snack is an ojo de buey or marranitos (little pigs). The pig-shaped molasses cookies are soft, slightly sweet and pair wonderfully with a fresh cup of coffee.
2. Viva Itacate
Just off of I-45 on Sawdust, you will find Viva Itacate, a family-owned Mexican bakery. On a nice day the owners will open the bakery doors, allowing for a breeze to drift through the cafe as you enjoy pastries, breads, desserts and even lunch. Sit down with a torta de tinga de pollo (roasted chicken sandwich with beans, tomato, cheese and pickled red onions stuffed in a fresh bolillo) or a torta de cochinita (slow-roasted pork with tomato, cheese and pickled red onions with beans inside a bolillo). Pair a piece of pan de elote (cornbread) with carrot soup to warm up on a cold winter day. Sweeter options include the horn-shaped pastries (cuernitos) and coronita cajeta, which is basically a Mexican doughnut with dulce de leche. If you're unsure as to what you should order, just ask the manager, and he'll be more than happy to help you make a decision.
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1. El Bolillo
You can't take a trip to El Bolillo without getting a bolillo (or two ... or a dozen). But, if you're interested in something sweet to eat at this Mexican bakery on Airline Drive, then order a slice of tres leches cake -- you won't regret it. The moist cake comes in a variety of flavors, including pineapple, chocolate and strawberry, all of which add an extra-sweet component to the popular dessert. But if you're more a fan of traditional Mexican pastries, there's an endless array of options for your metal tray. El Bolillo has everything from conchas and cuernos to pastries filled with fruit jams and ones topped with a sweet icing. Either way, if you don't walk out of the bakery with a bolillo and a slice of tres leches cake you're shorting yourself on the best possible experience El Bolillo has to offer.