Pandemic couldn’t stop this Mexican bakery in eastern Lawrence from dream of making pan, sweet treats and more
photo by: Chad Lawhorn
Pan — the Spanish word for “bread” — is a big part of the relatively new Mexican bakery and restaurant at 19th and Haskell.
Pandemic, the English word for “oh #%@!!!” — is a big part of how the small business came to be.
Javier Angeles and Lucia Cano — owners of Angeles Panaderia — both were in the restaurant industry when the pandemic struck the Lawrence area. Angeles ended up losing his job at a local Asian restaurant that closed as business dried up. Cano worked for a major fast-food chain that survived the pandemic, but the new environment created plenty of difficulties.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty was that the pandemic had killed a dream. Angeles came to America from Mexico in 2001, and had long wanted to open his own restaurant here.
“We had this idea before, but when the pandemic came, it killed my idea,” he said. “I said it wasn’t possible.”
But as the pandemic progressed — and as Angeles made ends meet by working at the cafeteria at Lawrence Memorial Hospital — the idea of opening his own business kept coming back to him. The pandemic didn’t end up being the dream-killer, but rather the fire that hardened the steel.
He started refining the idea more in his mind. He thought back to his youth in Mexico where his father was a baker. Cano’s family members in Mexico were store owners who sold, among other items, popular street food. Angeles Panaderia — located in the shopping center at the southeast corner of 19th Street and Haskell Avenue — is rooted in both families’ traditions.
The combination has been a winner in the best sense of the word.
“We are happy now,” Angeles said.
Customers seem to be happy too, the couple said. Pan dulce — Spanish for sweet bread — has a way of doing that.
A key feature of Angeles Panaderia, which had a soft opening late last year, is a wall of bakery cases. The couple have about 25 different bakery recipes they can make on any given day. Plenty of them are sweet, but in a way that is different than many American sweet dishes, Angeles said.
“People say it is a soft sweet,” Angeles said. “One is really different than the others. We don’t use any chemicals either.”
The shop, though, does use some fillings for its pastries that are less common in more traditional American bakeries. Guava is a popular filling for the items the bakery produces. So is pineapple, and it also features cajeta, a Mexican-style of caramel. The bakery, though, also offers more traditional offerings like strawberry or Bavarian cream filled pastries, but sometimes will try add a hint of a Latino flavor profile. For example, on the day I was there, the Bavarian cream pastry had toasted coconut on top.
The shop, of course, also bases its food on what Angeles and Cano grew up with in Mexico. That means the shop’s popular churros — twisted, crispy cinnamon sticks — are going to be like the kind you would get in a Mexican neighborhood store rather than the type you’ll buy at Disneyland.
“Our style is homemade, typical Mexican recipes,” Angeles said.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World
In addition to the sweet pastries, the bakery also produces traditional Mexican table bread, which is used in the making of tortas, the Mexican equivalent of a sandwich. Look for the signature element of that bread to be a crispy, outer edge that provides the sandwich some crunch.
Fillings for the sandwiches include a variety of stewed beef and pork offerings, some boiled for up to three hours to get it sufficiently tender. But you might be surprised that one of the most traditional tortas features something more American sounding — ham and cheese, but done in a way that is not going to evoke the sandwich that ended up in your school lunch box.
There are a few menu items that aren’t really bakery-based at the shop. Traditional tamales and birria-style tacos are a couple of the more popular items, but something called chilaquiles give those dishes stiff competition as the top customer favorite, Angeles said.
You could say that chilaquiles are kind of like nachos (and you could get kicked out of a Mexican kitchen, as well). The dish definitely involves chips and cheese. But the crispy tortilla chips aren’t just scattered on a plate. Rather they get soaked in a bubbling sauce of red and green chilis, a meat of your choice is added topside, and then come the mounds of cheese that melt naturally from the warmth of the dish. Angeles, when describing the dish to me, made it sound like it ended there, but Cano jumped in with an important addition.
“Huevos go on top,” she said. That’s right, the whole dish gets topped with eggs, which means you certainly can eat it for breakfast, if you so choose.
Some do choose. Angeles Panaderia is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, which is a lot of work, but also rewarding, the couple said.
“People come and they are so excited to find a real Mexican shop here,” Angeles said.