Pan Dulce 101: Our Favorite Mexican Bakeries

Where to find some of the best local panaderias, along with some basic tips on proper etiquette when visiting them

Last week, we familiarized you with some of the basic shapes and styles of pan dulceconchas, cuernos, orejas, etc.—and now you’d like to head on over to the panaderia to pick up some sweets for your sweet. But where to go? Luckily, with L.A.’s large Mexican population, you’re never too far from a panaderia.

Many of the bakeries are found in the various Mexican enclaves in L.A: East L.A. and Boyle Heights; Huntington Park and South Gate; San Fernando and Pacoima; North Hollywood to Panorama City; and in and around Highland Park. La Monarca Bakery’s recent expansion is even bringing the traditional Mexican bakery to the Westside and South Pasadena.

Some of our favorite L.A. panaderias

La Mascota Bakery, 2715 Whittier Blvd., Boyle Heights, (323) 263-5513
Line up for a great selection of regional pan dulce from the state of Jalisco, get a coffee and have a seat. The ojos de buey here are to die for at this full service panaderia that also has some nice tamales. 

La Monarca Bakery, locations in Huntington Park, East L.A., Santa Monica, and South Pasadena
This Monterrey, Mexico style bakery is owned by one of L.A.’s most successful traditional restaurateurs: the Stanford-educated Ricardo Cervantes. La Monarca’s pan dulce line-up is lard-free, and there’s also a savory menu at its Santa Monica location. Try the hojarascas, a style of cookie from Cervantes’ hometown.  

Lily’s Panaderia y Pasteleria, 3425 E 1st St., East L.A., (323) 263-7616
The bread is always fresh and attractive in this Mercado de Los Angeles nook of a bakery. Their baker is from the D.F. (Distrito Federal, aka Mexico City) and specializes in pan de fiesta, rosca de reyes (three kings bread). The conchas are delicious and all the special occasion breads are exceptional.   

Meatland Bakery, 3801 E 1st St., East L.A., (323) 261-6233
The baking style comes from Guanajuato at another lard-free bakery (a trend you’ll find happening in many shops these days). Mexican cookies, elotitos, puerquitos, and just about anything else here is executed with care and old-fashioned flavor. 

San Rafael’s Bakery, 1506 E 1st St., Downtown L.A., (323) 780-9640
Although it’s Salvadoran owned, the baker hails from Veracruz, and has solid baking skills over the various styles of bread. Glistening cuernitos, buttered slices of bread, and tropical empanadas are the perfect accompaniments for a café de la olla.  

Sonora Bakery, 4484 Whittier Blvd., East L.A., (323) 269-2253
The pan dulce is very good here: a large selection that joins a delicious selection of cakes, tamales, and savory empanadas.

Sto. Domingo Panaderia y Jugueria, 3418 W 8th St., Koreatown, (323) 735-0403
Oaxacan bakeries are geared towards the local Oaxacan community. Here is where you come for pan de yema and other Oaxacan breads you’ll find in the display cases in our local Oaxcacan restaurants to enjoy alongside an atole (a drink made from hot corn masa and spices), or a chocolate de agua (hot chocolate).   

Panaderia Etiquette
Now that you know where to go, what do you do when you get there and find yourself faced with the plethora of sweet choices? Most Mexican bakeries are self-service, which is part of the fun—your significant other will appreciate the colorful selection of pan dulce picked by your very own hands. Well, the tongs at least.

Many bakeries will have a ticket system, so be prepared to take a number. Otherwise, it’s first come, first served.

Step 1: Grab one of the stainless steel pizza trays and a pair of tongs (they will be in a bucket or hanging behind the display). There’s also wax paper squares available for handling the product.   

Step 2: Fill up your tray with lots of delicious pan dulce.

Step 3: Take your tray of pan dulce to the cashier, who will box your choices and ring you up.

Step 4: Devour voraciously as soon as you get in your car home.