South-of-the-border treats for the south-of-the-river crowd
Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, Fri., Aug. 19, 2011
Panaderia Chuy801 E. William Cannon #125, 445-9128
After attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Jesus "Chuy" Guevara baked at Central Market in Houston and at the original Mandola's before opening his own business in early 2009. The first Panaderia Chuy was a resounding success not only because neighbors rely on Guevara's traditional pastries and breads but also thanks to a brisk wholesale business. Earlier this spring, the successful entrepreneur opened a second branch to the delight of Far South Austin residents like me.
Do not let the bakery tag fool you; this emporium is much more than that. In fact, it'll take a few visits before you're able to sample everything Chuy has to offer. From the moment you enter, your senses are overwhelmed by the sights and smells of the best assortment of authentic Mexican pan dulce and the best bolillos in the city. A stand-alone shelf holds flaky, savory empanadas filled with picadillo, tinga, ham and cheese, chicken in mole, and other classic fillings, as well as nice, big kolaches. At the refrigerated counter, customers drool over the jewellike gelatinas and other classic desserts and cakes: choco-flan (rich flan over a layer of chocolate cake), tres leches, strawberry cream, and tuxedo (chocolate ganache over layers of cake and cream) sold whole or by the slice. Don't miss the homemade gelato in standard flavors plus hard-to-find Mexican faves like guanabana, pineapple, guava, mamey, coconut chocolate, and lemon.
Chuy also serves outstanding antojitos for a taste of authentic Mexican street food. Order at the counter and take them to go, or eat them in the clean, no-frills dining area. Quesadillas ($2.50) come with a variety of fillings; all are encased in organic blue-corn masa and prepared to order, dressed with green or red salsa, grated queso fresco, and a drizzle of crema Mexicana. The specialty tacos are served traditionally: open-faced on four small, lightly fried corn tortillas and covered in melted white cheese, with three homemade salsas and lime wedges as accompaniment.
Breakfast tacos are also available, as is a kids' menu. Of course, the man who makes the best bolillos in town also makes the best tortas, ranging from simple (ham and cheese, chorizo and egg, steak, etc.) to masterpieces like the Chilanga, piled high with milanesa, chorizo, ham, and steak. All tortas come with tomato, avocado, refried beans, onion, and pickled jalapeños. Wash it all down with a homemade agua fresca in one of five daily flavors, or choose from a selection of Mexican bottled sodas. Thanks to Panaderia Chuy, I have a new cure for homesickness in my neighborhood.