David (left) and Jose Cacéres
“I remember selling as a kid in the markets of Mexico [City], yelling ‘Roscas, roscas de cinco y diez,’” Jose Cacéres said.
Houston Street is a far cry from those bustling markets, but the Cacéres brothers, Jose and younger brother David, are now bringing bread cultura to Downtown San Antonio with their second La Panadería location.
The story of La Panaderia began long before they opened an instantly popular pan dulce booth at the late Quarry Ranchers and Farmers Market in late 2013. The brothers learned their trade from mother Josefina in D.F., who owned a bakery, but Jose and David would go on to grow their own bread-centric empire in Mexico with close to 500 employees and later producing baked goods for Alsea, a restaurant company that owns 2,000 fast-food chains in Mexico and Latin America. In 2012, David, an engineer, officially ditched desk work for the kitchen an earned his culinary arts degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Mexico City before attending the San Francisco Baking Institute. At this point Jose moved his family to San Antonio and began extensive market research, popping into bakeries and restaurants to study local customer patterns and eventually landing them a spot at the market.
La Panadería's launch at the Quarry was successful — how can you go wrong with perfectly rounded conchas, sweet orejas and tequila almond croissants? A year later, in April of 2014, the pair made a permanent leap into a brick-and-mortar location off Broadway with a full-blown bakery and an expansion later, a cafe complete with breakfast and lunchtime fare.
Still, the relatively new to SA brothers had plenty to learn about their new clientele.
"Every location is different. The first thing we learned is the lunch culture here is very important," David said. "In Mexico you take lunch at 2 or 3, here it's at 11. Now it's our busiest time of the day."
A solid menu of value-friendly and plain-delicious offerings helps. Tweaks included renaming the popular Cuban torta to the Mexican Cubana, which edits the original recipe al estilo Mexicano, with more meats and a cilantro mayo. Even baking times were adjusted to please San Anto palates (though David's preference is to bake his loaves a little darker).
And adjustments will be made to their new location, which will officially open its doors on June 9 inside the former home of short-lived Toscana Ristorante. Already menu items have been added including a chocolate sourdough French toast topped with berries; and a new kamut loaf will join the birotes, teleras, and croissants as a sandwich option.
Their latest addition: beer and wine. So, yes, you'll be able to enjoy a mimosa or two with your breakfast tortas.
The second location was a study in patience. Opening a 6,000-square-foot restaurant in a historic building is far from easy (see most of the homes currently being rehabilitated at Yanaguana Garden as an example). Jose, the older brother, mentioned the design for La Panadería's downtown location revolved around the kitchen's venthood.
"There's tenants right now, you just can't build through apartments," Jose said.
Design also played into production. The oven is center stage from the order counter, as is the kitchen, where the additional space means chicken breast will replace deli-style chicken in sandwiches and salads and newcomer pepitos (think open-faced tortas) will be available for dinner with choice of al pastor, beef milanesa, carnitas, mole poblano, steak and vegetarian options. The prep-room, where the croissants are laminated and blocks of butter are woven into each loaf sits in a cooler, air conditioned portion of the kitchen that includes large windows so passersby and customers can check in on the action.
Clayton & Little Architects, which tackled the restaurant's blueprints, to serve a multi-purpose experience where diners are there for a quick bite before a show at The Majestic on date night or trying to decompress after a long shift at the neighboring Nix.
The Friendship Table at La Panadería.
Still, the added space gives the Cacéres room to make groups happy.
"We looked at tickets that came in at the Broadway location and big parties are key," Jose said.
That means La Panadería will easily accommodate hordes of brunchers. There's the 16-seater "Friendship Table" that anchors the front portion of the dining room, and a round "Family Table" that seats six to eight diners.
La Panadería isn't just for large parties: smaller tabletops also fill the space along with bar seating for those just hoping to grab a quick lunch (there's even a separate espresso station equipped with a cherry red Slayer where downtowners can zip in and out for a morning, afternoon or evening pick-me-up.
More sophisticated treats are on the way in due time as a new menu of tarts and desserts join the pan dulce in cases. The brothers brought in Parisian Amaury Guichon, a pastry consultant out of Las Vegas to help land on new, elaborately decorated goodies.
But the heart of La Panadería will always be its pan dulce.
"This wasn't an accident. It's the outcome of 30, 40 years of hard work by me, my brothers, my mother Josefina," Jose said.