You don't often see croissants and sandwiches on a Mexican breakfast menu, but both are available at the little bakery and cafe called La Guadalupana on Dunlavy. My friend ordered an egg and chorizo torta (sandwich) out of curiosity. I got a sensational plate of "Machaca Norteña," a combo of scrambled eggs with carne seca (dried beef) and chiles that's popular in Monterrey. La Guadalupana's version was as good as any I've tried.
We also sampled the excellent migas, made here with scrambled eggs and chorizo, onions, jalapeños, tomatoes and tortilla chips and served with refried beans. One of the kids at the table ate a simple "homemade" breakfast taco with eggs and potatoes.
But it was the breakfast torta, made with eggs, chorizo, chiles, potato and cheese on a talera bread roll spread with refried beans, that blew us all away. The egg-and-Mexican sausage stuffing was tasty, but it was the bread itself that made the sandwich amazing. The roll was crusty on the outside and meltingly soft in the middle. It tasted like it had just come out of the oven — which it had.
La Guadalupana Bakery and Caf
2109 Dunlavy, 713-522-2301.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays; 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
Torta Cubana: $5
Mole enchiladas: $9
I asked La Guadalupana's owner Trancito Diaz about the various breads he baked. The crusty torpedo rolls called bolillos are just like French bread, he told me. The flatter, oblong talera bread rolls are made with sourdough, while the hamburger roll-like cemita breads are round and topped with sesame seeds.
La Guadalupana's front room is dominated by the bakery case and cash register, with a couple of small tables near the front window and another small dining room with a dozen tables or so off to one side. Located in an aging three-store shopping center, it neighbors a coin laundry and a run-down convenience store. There are several outdoor tables with umbrellas where you can eat al fresco while you watch people fold their clothes. If you want a beer, you can buy one at the mini-mart. "It really reminds me of Mexico," one regular patron observed.
On a second visit to La Guadalupana at lunchtime, a lunchmate and I sat outside on a cool, sunny day and tried a torta Cubana and a regular torta with chicken. And once again, the bread was outrageous. The chicken sandwich was a tad bland until I doused it with La Guadalupana's tart verde salsa.
The torta Cubana a la Mexicana had refried beans, avocado, ham and pork chunks on it. But it was not one of those towering, overstuffed creations you get from some Houston taco trucks. While there was no quartered hot dog in the middle (a favorite torta Cubana a la Mexicana ingredient), it was still a very good sandwich. I also got a guacamole sandwich to take home and a couple of bolillos, too. The guacamole sandwich was popular, and I made some extra avocado, lettuce and tomato sandwiches on the crusty bolillos. For dessert, I also bought a bag of pastries.
The pumpkin empanadas I selected from the display case of La Guadalupana were full of spicy, sweet filling that reminded me of pumpkin pie. The almond-topped cookies were wonderful, but the almond croissants were a little short on almond paste. I also tried some terrific flan that had been baked in a caramel-lined ramekin. I skipped the French puff pastry cookies called palmiers because they're so fragile, I didn't think I'd get them home in one piece. If La Guadalupana Bakery and Café seems a little French, it's probably because Trancito Diaz once worked as a baker at the Houston Country Club, where he made French pastries as well as other breads and desserts.
Between the wide array of sweets and the all-day egg dishes, La Guadalupana has earned a reputation as one of the best places in town for a Mexican breakfast. Thanks to the fresh-baked breads, the tortas here are great for lunch. But the cafe is open until nine on most nights, and there's also an ambitious dinner menu.
On a dinner visit, I had three chicken-filled enchiladas covered with some of the richest mole poblano I've had in Houston and topped with avocado slices, onions and a frizzy salad of chopped lettuce, sour cream and crumbled panela cheese. I am willing to bet that the owner is bringing his mole paste up from his former hometown of Puebla.
I was extremely impressed with all of La Guadalupana's antojitos — which is the Mexican term used to describe "snacks" made of masa, or corn dough. The pork tamales were soft, moist and utterly stupendous. The large sopes were not only top-notch, they were also ridiculously cheap at three dollars apiece.
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Sopes are masa discs topped with refried beans and your choice of meats, plus lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and white cheese. We tried one with the crunchy pork chunks called carnitas, one with meltingly soft barbacoa and a third with mild stewed chicken. I liked the carnitas best, but my tablemates were wild about the chicken topping.
The only letdown at dinner was the caldo de mariscos. We giggled about the translation on the menu that read, "shrimp, fish and seafood melody (sic) with vegetable soup." The bowl actually contained some fish on the bone, a half a crab and an odd mix of seafood my tablemate said she recognized as a commercial product called "seafood medley." Jana Worldwide, a seafood wholesaler, sells a product by this name that contains "a delicious blend of squid, octopus, mussels, shrimp and imitation crab," according to their Web site.
My tablemate spent 15 minutes coaxing the crabmeat out of the shell and boning the fish. I was already finished with my enchiladas by then. When she finally took her first bite, she winced and pulled a big fish bone out of her mouth. I sampled some of the soup, too. I didn't get any fish bones, but the seafood soup tasted dull and barely seasoned anyway.
So who orders seafood soup in a Mexican bakery anyway? My advice: Skip the seafood. Get the all-day breakfast. Or order one of the sandwiches on hot-out-of-the-oven talera bread. Get the corn dough antojitos or the empanadas or the pastries. It's hard to miss. La Guadalupana is serving homemade Mexican food at taco truck prices.