The Mexican concha roll taste test, round two

An assortment of sweet bread from the Casita del Pan in Coyoacán, Mexico City

Earlier this week, while pondering the ethereal concha roll (why is perfection so out of reach?), I suddenly had an epiphany. Why am I limiting myself? I could be searching for the best bakery, while I’m searching for the best concha. The best bisquet. The best cuernito. The best… pan de muerto.

Yeah.

The list might be longer than I thought. I’m gonna need a bigger pair of pants.

Suddenly fueled up about having a purpose in life, I hit the streets on Tuesday with a taxi driver I like, Memo. We hit seven bakeries in three hours, and finished at my friend Julie’s house for the final taste-test.

Did anyone best Bondy, La Reina de la Concha? You’ll have to find out.

First Stop: Pastelería Suiza, 7 Parque Espana, Col. Condesa

Pasteleria Suiza in Colonia Condesa, Mexico City

The good: Suiza leans on the semi-fancy side, with trays of cream-frosted cakes, pastries with cherries on top, pies, cookies arranged in pretty cellophane packages, and even chocolate Dia de los Muertos skulls. Out of the sweet bread, I picked a pan de muerto and a muffin stuffed with cheese.

The bad: When I asked for the conchas, an employee told me they’d be coming out of the oven en “un rato.” I said, How long? She got snippy and said, “It isn’t a question of how long. They’ll be out soon.” Ooookay lady. Turns out they weren’t coming out until later that afternoon, so I didn’t get to try one.

Pan de Muerto and a cheese-filled muffin from Pastelería Suiza in Col. Condesa, Mexico City

Overall concha score: N/A
Overall bakery score: 2.5 out of 5. The pan de muerto, while it looked good, was flavorless, like eating fuzz. Somehow the muffin managed to have no personality either, despite being stuffed with cheese.

Second stop: Pastelería La Gran Via, Amsterdam 288, esq. con Sonora, Col. Condesa

Pasteleria La Gran Via in Col. Condesa, Mexico City

The good: Even smaller than Suiza, you pretty much choose bread or bread here. I asked the employee about the conchas, and she said they’d just come out of the oven at 9:30. I arrived at 10:30 and bought a concha and a cuernito.

The bad: You can’t buy a chocolate skull here, but who cares.

(As an aside, I was so enamored of the somewhat-lumpy concha, I forgot to take a picture of the cuernito.)

A fresh-baked concha roll from Pastelería La Gran Via in Col. Condesa, Mexico City

Overall concha score: 3.5. Gran Via’s conchas had a dense, sweet crumb that actually tasted like something. (Butter, maybe?) Julie’s take: “I would actually eat this.”
Overall bakery score: 3.5 stars. I’d go back, if I wanted to pick up some special sweet bread for friends. The cuernito was light and buttery too. Mmmm.

Third stop: La Casa del Pan, Avda. Mexico 25, Col. Coyoacán

Casa del Pan, a cafe and bakery in Coyoacan, Mexico City

The good: Oh god, I adored this place. (Sorry I didn’t get closer — felt extremely conspicuous with my camera.) They had a neat little bohemian logo, and tables spilled out over the sidewalk. Inside the tiny cafe area, the bread — most of it whole-wheat! — sat comfortably in linen-lined baskets. I wanted to buy everything, but I picked a cuernito stuffed with blackberries and cheese, a whole-wheat bisquet and a whole-wheat chocolate concha. Willfully ignored the whole-wheat sweet potato empanadas.

The bad: When we got back to Julie’s house to try the concha, we discovered… it was odd. Like, chewy. And cinnamony. Props to Casa del Pan for creating a whole-wheat concha, but this thing was a whole other species. And the cuernito was stuffed with plain old cream cheese. I’d hoped for something thicker, like what’s inside a danish.

A whole wheat concha from the Casa del Pan in Coyoacán, Mexico City

A blackberry and cream-cheese filled cuernito from Casa del Pan in Coyoacan, Mexico City

Overall concha score: 3.5 for creativity. If we are talking true concha compatibility, probably 2. Julie’s take: “This would dip well with coffee, and not fall apart.” And it’s less calories.
Overall bakery score: 4.5, just because I dig their style, and the whole-wheat thing. I’m a hippie, I admit it.

Fourth stop: La Casita del Pan, Miguel Angel Quevedo 951, before Division del Norte and in front of the Office Max, Col. Coyoacán

La Casita del Pan in Coyoacán, Mexico City

The good: A super friendly employee patiently explained to me what I was buying: A “vela de novia,” or pastry tube stuffed with cheese; a “delicia,” or cookie filled with butter and slathered in chocolate on one side; a pan de muerto (I knew what that was) and a concha.

The bad: The concha tasted like a hamburger bun. Nice and fluffy, but not meant to exist on its own.

An assortment of sweet bread from the Casita del Pan in Coyoacán, Mexico City

Overall concha score: 2.5
Overall bakery score: 3, with maybe an extra half-star for the surprisingly stunning pan de muerto. It was thick, orangey, moist. I want to buy all my PDMs here.

Fifth Stop: Pastelería Elizondo, 963 Ejército Nacional, Col. Polanco

Pasteleria Elizondo, a chain of bakeries in Mexico City. (This one's in Polanco.)

The good: This place is huge, and one of those spots where bakery-porn lovers want to spend two hours. (Yes, I wanted to spend two hours there.) Row after row of pan dulce, cakes, bolillos and doughnuts stretched across the store. They even had a case full of gelatin creatures, in various animal shapes. I bought a ladrillo, which I think is some type of molasses cake, frosted in chocolate; a concha and a pan de muerto.

The bad: Lovin’ the chocolate on the ladrillo, but the cake itself was so boring, I could have practically fallen asleep. What about some spices up in here? Ever heard of clove? Cinnamon? The concha was okay. The topping had the right crunch. Julie: “Above average, but not amazing.”

A concha, ladrillo and pan de muerto from Pastelería Elizondo in Polanco, Mexico City

Overall concha score: 3 stars
Overall bakery score: 3 stars. The pan de muerto was amazingly soft, and I wanted to lay my head against it. Too bad it had a weird, slick-butter aftertaste.

Sixth stop: Saks, Lamartine 526, esq. con Campos Eliseos, Col. Polanco

Bread and pastries from Saks, a restaurant in Col. Polanco, Mexico City

The good: Friends have recommended Saks’ conchas, but I wasn’t sure if the place offered sweet bread to-go, since it’s a restaurant. Luckily, the friendly hostess showed me to the back counter, where rows of sweet bread rested on baking sheets. Julie raved about the corn muffins, so we picked two of those, a sugary twisty thing covered in nuts, and a concha to go.

The bad: Back at Julie’s, we tried the concha first, and part of me wanted to spit it out. (Sorry, I’m juvenile.) The topping hinted of something I’d clean the floors with. I think there was anise in there somewhere, but I didn’t want to take another bite to figure it out.

An assortment of pastries from Saks, a restaurant in Col. Polanco, Mexico City. The corn muffins rule.

Overall concha score: 2. (Julie gave it 1.5.)
Overall bakery score: I don’t necessarily know on this one. The sugary twisty thing had a strange smoky, meaty taste (Julie said: “This tastes like Totinos sausage pizza”), but the corn muffins rocked. It was like corn pudding in a muffin shape — spongey, hefty, and intensely corn-y.

Here’s one more photo, because you seriously have to see.

A corn muffin from Saks restaurant in Col. Polanco, Mexico City

Seventh and last stop: Da Silva, Oscar Wilde 12, in the Centro de Polanco, Col. Polanco

DaSilva, a stylish bakery in Col. Polanco, Mexico City

The good: DaSilva is a sophisticated, French-inspired bakery boutique. Women with Tori Burch shoes shop here. (I saw one.) They’ve got all kinds of crusty artisan breads, and baguettes, pretzels, macarons, chocolates. And conchas.

The bad: The space is the size of a Polanco mansion’s walk-in closet, so be careful where you wield those tongs.

A concha from DaSilva, a bakery in Col. Polanco, Mexico City

Overall concha score: 4. The topping was unusually crunchy, almost cracker-crunchy. I liked it. And it had a light, subtle taste. It’s didn’t bop you over the head with the fact that it’s made with butter. Actually, if this was French-made concha, I’m sure it was bored with this entire, banal contest. I’m sure it sighed and said, “Here I am. Love me or not. It’s your choice.” We chose love.

Overall bakery score: 4.5. I adore stylish bakeries. Whenever I get some faux Tori shoes, I am so going here. (Or next time I want some really good, crusty bread. And a pretzel.)

Overall Rankings

Best concha out of the places visited: By a sliver, DaSilva; 2nd place, Pastelería La Gran Via
Honorable mention for creativity: Casa Del Pan
Best bakery: DaSilva by a hair, then Casa Del Pan
Not visited today, but still the winner of them all: Bondy, Galileo 38, Col. Polanco

Pics of the two winning conchas, who are clearly exhausted after such a long day:

A concha from Pastelería La Gran Via, left, leans on a concha from DaSilva. Both are bakeries in Mexico City.

Ok, so help me, you guys. Where should I go for round 3? You know this ain’t over.

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20 Responses to “The Mexican concha roll taste test, round two”
  1. jcarmann

    *clap clap clap* bien hecho!! I fully support your assessments. And I think the moose napkins did a lovely job setting off the golden rolls. ;)

    The only thing I’d add is the importance of a refreshing mimosa if any of your readers attempt to emulate your taste test. Need to stay hydrated…!!

  2. Jesica

    I really need to try this Bondy concha to know what you’re looking for, after that I will give my opinion :-P

    Two popular bakeries that come to my mind: Bread & Co. and Panmex

    There’s a panadería in the Centro Histórico that you would absolutely love. I can’t remember the name, but it’s two floors and the second floor is all super kitsch birthday and quinceañera cakes… a beauty. Argh! I can’t remember the name now, but I’ll ask my aunt…

  3. Leslie Limon

    I enjoyed reading your reviews. I have friends that travel to el DF often, so I will be “recommending” some panaderias for them to visit! :D

    Anyway, in your quest to find the perfect concha, why not try making them yourself? I’m sure you’ll rate your Concha as the best!

  4. Jay C.

    BONDY STILL ON TOP!!!!

    I’m left breathless waiting to see if Bondy can be toppled. Meanwhile, do you know if Bondy will FedEx conchas to me in the States???

    • Lesley

      Not sure Jay… My guess is no. :-) But if I find out they do — or if I somehow get my hands on the secret recipe, and then whip up a batch myself — you will be receiving a package from me!

  5. Katie

    Love it! Although it’s really not fair for you to put this out here for all of us who are not in Mexico and do not have access to all this deliciousness. :-)

  6. alice

    I really like Superama’s Pan de Muerto.

  7. Ashley

    I am actually totally surprised you haven’t made your own conchas yet, mija… get on it! I expect a gluten-free version by my birthday at LEAST. ;)

  8. Don Cuevas

    Of course, you walked from one bakery to another, ¿verdad?

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

  9. Luis

    You should try Superama or Wal-Mart conchas (both are the same). They make two different kinds and the one I recommend has solid thick crunchy coating. You should also visit “El Cardenal” restaurant for breakfast. All their bread is so good, people wait in line for hours to get in. If you do, be sure to ask for some “nata” to go with your Concha.

  10. Fernando

    Based on an opinion published on this page: http://www.vinoypipirin.com/Cronicas_de_Vino_y_Pipirin/Welcome.html , one of the best conchas out there are the ones baked in Matisse in la Condesa, also you should try Panadería Segura in the downtown they have the BEST Pan de Muerto in the City.

    Regards,

    f

  11. Sarah Ruth

    Here is a list of pastelerias which may aid you in your search for perfect concha:

    http://www.guiasdf.com/numero-2009/pastelerias.html

    Happy hunting!

    • Lesley

      Thanks Sarah! Will have to print this out and take it with me for Round 3. :-)

  12. Lesley

    Thanks for the link, Sarah! Some of those looked awesome.

    And thanks Fernando and Luis for the suggestions, too. I think El Cardenal, Matisse, La Vienesa, Panmex, Ruta de Seda and (grudgingly) Superama are on my list for next time.

  13. Ana Tamez Kendrick

    The moose background is SO awesome. What is that?

    • Lesley

      They’re moose-printed paper napkins. :-)

  14. Jeremy

    Great article! I’ve been in DF for a month now, have visited half a dozen panaderias in Centro Historico and only now am I learning what all the different pasteries are called. Thanks for the entertaining lesson!

    I just ran into Bondy this afternoon for lunch (not knowing that they are known for baking) and was dazzled by their other food. I’ll have to swing by again for the sweet stuff. Thanks!

    • Lesley

      You’re welcome Jeremy! Glad you found the info helpful. Have you been to Ideal in the Centro? I haven’t tried their bread, but it’s super fun to just go and ogle all the cakes and pastries…

      • Jeremy

        Oh yeah, Ideal stopped me in my tracks one afternoon. I suddenly wished I had a reason to buy one of those massive cakes (or pies?) with glazed fruit piled on top. What a beautiful bakery.

        I’ll be in DF for another two weeks so I have plenty of time to explore the food culture here. Do you have any other interesting tidbits that you haven’t yet posted here?

      • Lesley

        Pretty much all my interesting tidbits are posted here. :-) I would highly recommend the Xochimilco market, if you haven’t been to any Mexican markets yet — it has a more indigenous bent than any other market I’ve been to, and the produce is extremely fresh. I’ll try to think of some other suggestions that I haven’t posted… I’m moving right now so my mind is full of a million things, but if I think of anything I’ll reply back!

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