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Baked Goods

Columbus Bakery

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on July 28, 2011

Columbus Bakery TorontoColumbus Bakery is full of baked goods I can't pronounce. Having recently mastered the correct elocution of the word "alfajor" (don't let that 'J' fool you), I walked into Columbus Bakery on Dufferin near Lawrence Avenue with a false sense of confidence. Yes, I spotted the alfajors ($1.50) right away, but then expanded by gaze to include the pastel de arequipe ($1.25), pandequeso ($3.00), and buñuelos ($1.00), and knew I needed a guide.

Columbus Bakery TorontoThat's when Carlos Muriel (Jr.) stepped in to show me through Columbus Bakery. "All of our recipes come from back home," he tells me as we stand amid the flurry of activity. "They're one hundred percent Colombian."

Columbus Bakery TorontoBut when Carlos and his family first took over the space back in 2003, the bakery was Italian. They decided to continue to bake the Italian offerings, while slowly integrating Colombian treats. "We wanted the transition to be slow," Carlos says. "The community was used to this as an Italian place."

But it's certainly not Italian anymore. The music is Colombian, the packaged cookies, crackers, coffees, and more behind the counter are straight from Colombia, and Carlos estimates that nearly 80 percent of the bakery's customers are Colombian. They come from all over the GTA to pick up or sit and enjoy the shop's freshly prepared breads, pastries, snacks, and sides, which are all--needless to say--Colombian.

Columbus Bakery TorontoCarlos explains that Colombian baked goods are distinct for their integration of guava, cheese (queso fresco), and Arequipe, which is made from slow-cooked condensed milk. The formula has been so successful for this strip mall bakery that Carlos and family have opened another Columbus Bakery at Jane and Wilson. "That one is more of an express shop," he notes.

Columbus Bakery TorontoBut here, patrons are taking their baskets of hot Colombian sausages, beef empanadas, and cans of Malta, and digging in at the tables or island seating. The space near the cash is organized chaos, with customers forming more of a huddle than a line. Though everyone seems in great spirits, and interestingly, seem to all know each other. I, of course, am the odd (wo)man out, but confidently ask for an buñuelo and empanada ($1 each) anyhow.

Columbus Bakery TorontoThe buñuelo is unlike anything I have ever tried before. It's the size of a small tennis ball, golden brown in colour, and made of corn flour dough that is kneaded in queso fresco. Carlos tells me it's colloquially known as a cheese ball, so I sort of expect some sort of cheese centre.

Instead, it's crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside, more of a cheese-infused bread with the slightest hint of sweetness. The empanada is more familiar to me, made here with yellow corn flour. The shell has a light crisp, and the beef/potato mixture has the perfect texture and flavour, though it would have been better served a little warmer. In any case, I leave not just with a few extra treats, but with a couple new pronunciations rolling off my tongue.

Columbus Bakery TorontoPhotos by Jesse Milns

Discussion

45 Comments

Mrs. Kollar / April 7, 2009 at 01:05 pm
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I wish to taste your delicious homemade bread.
Valentina and I are in school working hard and we are hungry.
Mike / July 11, 2009 at 10:33 am
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I went there one day that I was walking around in the area and an old lady who didn't speak much English was really rude when I tried to inquire about some of the stuff they were selling. I think these people should improve their customer service skills if they plan to continue in the business.
Andrew / December 28, 2009 at 02:29 pm
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Oh, come on Mike! That's totally unfair. You want to know something? They have been in business for a while and I don't think they are going away anytime soon!! Have you been there on the weekends? The bread and pastries are just to die for!
It seems to me that no one's English skills were going to be a match to your ridiculous predisposition to find something wrong about the place.
I highly recommend this bakery. You must visit it!
Julio / February 21, 2010 at 03:16 pm
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What is the matter with you Mike,is it because you don't speak Spanish that you should condamn the business in its totality...
My advise is that you learn how to speak Spanish Moron...
Monica / March 2, 2010 at 03:49 pm
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Everything here is Yummy =)

Paula / April 29, 2010 at 11:26 pm
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The best of the best....a little piece of Colombia pastries...completely delicious..i love it
JL / July 8, 2010 at 11:10 am
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Julio.. it seems to me that 'Mike' just expressed an opinion based on his personal experience. His allegation is balanced.
No need to offend the guy (unless you know him and this is all a joke) and certainly no need to tell someone that he should learn to speak our language in his own country, specially when you cannot even write it properly yourself.
Mike: this bakery is really good and those who serve it are generally most pleasant, like most Colombias are.
josh / July 21, 2010 at 02:58 pm
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mike is crazy the guys there r the best and really cool there always happy and listing to great music i think these guys should open more sites around the city toronto needs better places like columbus bakery its original and yummy great work for the owners and hope to see u guys in more sites in the coming years
carlos / November 24, 2010 at 06:41 pm
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why you guys pick on mike so much?
why don't you guys show how nice we Colombians are and show our culture to the English community and stop attacking them
remember we are in his country this is not Colombia
sophia / January 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm
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as I am a born-in-Toronto canadian resident, I feel the way Mike feels- frustrated- I welcome all the diversity and different cultures to our city, but I too would like to try different foods and the language barrier presents a challenge. If people want to increase their business outside the scope of their culture-ENGLISH IS A MUST! like Carlos said this is "his country"- i'm headin to the store this week and I better get service in english!!!!
Isa / February 9, 2011 at 06:32 pm
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@ Mike - you can't really expect a senior that came from another country to know a lot of english. English is a VERY complicated language to learn. It would be the same if you were to learn Spanish, but it will take you a while to get a hang of it, as there are many slangs and words and no spanish country has the exact same word for things.

@ Sophia - Yes, you got a point in regards to English is a must, but the business has been there for quite a while and mostly spanish clients come in.

I may no be colombian, but I appreciate the fine pastries this bakery has. It is a bit of a culture shock when you go in the store as everything is in Spanish, yet the treats you get there are nice and different from other places.
AGDA / February 26, 2011 at 07:36 am
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I know that everything there is in Spanish, and i also know that if you don't speak Spanish the people there would explain to you whatever you want to know about their products, if you ask nicely.
HI Sophia thanks for welcoming other cultures to your city. I was just wondering if you visited the bakery yet...if you have not, i would like that you get to deal with the rude old lady, and that in the store there isn't anybody that speaks English.
If this happens can you please share your experience...
Mike sorry you got to deal with an old rude lady. Can you be more explanatory of how was this lady rude with you? Thanks

PS please speak slow, loud, and clear and do not start touching the pastries with your bare hands. Good Luck and i hope you enjoy the good pastries


Andrew replying to a comment from Mike / March 29, 2011 at 06:48 am
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How do you know if she was rude or no if you do not speak Spanish? Different cultures have different customer service; however, I am sure you are wrong. Always guys are working there.

Shirley / May 24, 2011 at 09:24 pm
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The food is delicious and the prices too, but the guys there used to be friendlier before they have changed. They don't greet you the same way they did before. I know for experience.
Shannon / July 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm
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I am so excited to go to this bakery for the first time tonight. My husband is from Colombia and his co-worker from Windsor recommended it and said it was worth the drive.

As for the "speak English" comment... most Canadians immigrated from other countries. That's what makes Canada so special! Do you speak English AND French??? Why not?! Let's celebrate our diversity be happy we have a little piece of Colombia right here in our home town!
Tania / July 28, 2011 at 11:20 am
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I heard they opened a second location. Any idea where it is?
Shannon / July 28, 2011 at 11:36 am
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Just to follow up with my last post... went to Colombus and the food was AMAZING! My fav's were the empanadas and the aji (pronounced "ah-hee" for the non-Spanish speaking people, like myself). They did not have bunuelos which was too bad!

In regards to the service, you have to understand the culture which is very social and relaxed. It you don't step up and start talking, they will most likely keep chatting away to whoever is there. And I do suggest bringing a Spanish speaking friend for the first time to figure out what you like and how to pronounce it. I did feel like I stepped out of Canada which was kind of neat but also a little uncomfortable as I didn't know what anyone was saying, although everyone including the customers seemed friendly. Two thumbs up and I can't wait to go there again!
qwerty / July 28, 2011 at 11:58 am
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As someone in the customer service industry, sometimes it is the customers who start out rude. It is our job to help you out, but not to take your disrespect. Please reflect on your own actions first and how you may be coming off to others. They may just be reacting to your own rude behaviour. If I had my own shop and a disrespectful customer came in, I would give them the cold shoulder too. Their business isn't worth the abuse.

I have been to Columbus before and other shops where English is not the dominant language and they have always been very welcoming. Some people get really uncomfortable in new situations.
meTEH replying to a comment from Andrew / July 28, 2011 at 12:08 pm
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yeah.... it's so unfair that these people moved here and coulnt be bothered to learn the fucking language of the country... and to then act up in arms when someone in all liklihood FROM the country they immigrated to tries to investigate what is probably delicious baked goods.

but now they dont get or deserve mike or my money

customer service goes a long way, and so does respect.

unless you want to go back to columbia you better gentrify yourselves
Kat / July 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm
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This looks delicious!
Robyn - Great reviews lately, really appreciate that you've been going 'off the beaten path', relatively speaking anyways.
Martinez / July 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm
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Is there BIG difference between walking in to this establishment and any other establishment, in say... China Town? Little India? C'mon people, we are living in the 21st century, in an extremely culturaly diverse country, emrbace it!

Lastly- I am pretty sure the owners of this place are doing just fine with their current clientele (believe me, I am Colombian), and I don't think that a language barrier is going to come between their success.
Shannon / July 28, 2011 at 01:41 pm
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I agree! Culteral diversity is a beautiful thing! I think that uncomfortableness is something we all have to get over (including myself). For me I would feel "uncomfortable" if someone said something to me in another language (no matter where) and I would stand there with a clueless look on my face. Just an honest reality. It's all about love people and acceptance of others and ourselves. Wait, what is this blog about??? Oh ya, the food here and service are GREAT!
Aydin replying to a comment from meTEH / July 28, 2011 at 04:16 pm
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If you're going to criticize other people who don't "learn the language", you may want to look into doing the same. No offense, but when you post something that is filled with that many typos, your point about language won't be taken seriously.

That being said, I can't help but feel that if you're going to open a business in this city, it's not too much to ask that you have the minimum language requirements to sell your wares in the language that the vast majority of Torontonians speak. You don't need to be perfectly fluent, but you should be able to serve the goods you sell. It's just good business sense.

And Shannon, your "Do you speak English AND French??? Why not?!" comment is baffling at best. This is a Toronto blog. We're talking about a business that is trying to survive in this city, not out-of-date language laws that exist only to pacify Quebecers. In Toronto, French is the ELEVENTH most spoken first language. Between Tamil and Urdu. English is the most spoken first language (about 2.7 million people). Next on the list is Italian - less than 200,000 Torontonians' first language.

Again, as un-P.C. as it may read, I don't think Mike is asking for too much. In a business where you make and sell goods, there are many roles to give your employees. The person whose role it is to speak to customers should be able to communicate in the language that the overwhelming majority of potential customers speak.
Vi / July 28, 2011 at 05:04 pm
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What are the things in the top photo? They look amazingly delicious! I want a whole tray!!! Too bad this place is so far from where I live...
Kelly B / July 29, 2011 at 05:19 pm
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May I make a modest suggestion to folks who get outraged at the idea of bakery staff not speaking English? Relax - it's just a bakery. I regularly try out bakeries where I don't speak the language well. If I can't get English explanations then I just buy a few items that look good and try them. The worst that can happen is that you spend $1.50 on something that tastes boring (this advice doesn't apply to people with egg allergies).
I understand that some people prefer to be served in English in Canada. That's a pretty legitimate expectation (when you're not in Quebec) for things like education, government services, etc., but maybe it's a bit overreaching to say that all bakeries must provide English explanations? Sure you can choose not to give them your business but there's no reason to get offended and say they shouldn't be allowed to operate.
So, back to the review - when we go to this place on Saturdays it's usually so full that I don't want to hold up the line by asking questions. We usually look like the odd ones out but it's not hostile or anything and also kind of fun. The sausages are greasy and delicious. And I want to know what those things in the top photo are called too!
Matt / August 4, 2011 at 12:41 pm
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I've been to Colombus with my girlfriend and it was a great experience. Now having been to Colombia, I can vouch for an earlier comment that it certainly does feel like stepping out of Canada for a while. It's a large part of the charm of the place. If they spoke perfect English, it wouldn't be as much fun!

Anyway, I have coeliac's so I can't vouch for many of the baked goods, but I have to say that the "chicharron" (deep fried pork rind) is amazing. Also be sure to try the "aji", a cilantro based hot sauce with your empanada. The foods I could eat were all wonderful and it's no surprise to me to read that they are doing well.

I wish them well and wholeheartedly recommend this establishment.
Vane / September 24, 2011 at 12:56 pm
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The delicious goodies from the first picture above are called Milhojas (pronounced meel-ohas, singular: meel-hoja). “Mil” actually means "thousand" and “hojas” means "pages". The name describes them perfectly, since they are thin bread layers stacked on top of one another with cream filling in between each layer. Oh! And to top it all, you have the arequipe covering! (arequipe= milky caramel paste... really good!!!!) Have a try!!
Other of my favorite snacks from back home are: Pandebono, Pandeyuca, and of course Empanadas! I recommend all of these and if you like the cheesy taste, try Pandebono for sure, they sell it there and its mouthwatering!
Have fun!!
Vane / September 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm
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Oops.. just noticed: singular its pronounced "Meel-oha"! Sorry I got a weird spanglish mix up... hehehe
Natalie / October 4, 2011 at 05:44 pm
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If I want to pick up an abundance of empanadas, should i call and pre-order them or do you think they'd have enough just ready to grab. I want about 4 doz?
niyazmandi،tiraxtur،barsa،gol / November 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm
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I could not agree with you more..
Carolyn / January 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm
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Thank you Vane, for your explanations and recommendations. Instead of complaining from both sides of this language issues, I think Vane is setting a great example by recommending something, giving the correct pronunciation and describing what the product tastes/is made up of!

Any other suggestions or recommendations?
achat de backlink / January 25, 2012 at 10:17 pm
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Might be the greatest writing yet.
anuntul / January 30, 2012 at 11:50 am
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At least some bloggers can write. Thank you for this article!
seks / February 2, 2012 at 02:23 pm
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What an all 'round amazingly written piece..
christian alexis rivera replying to a comment from sophia / February 23, 2012 at 07:06 pm
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hello my name is christian rivera such, I'm from Colombia and wanted to know if the bakery bakery columbus currently in that place ... and also would like to be able to reach you through facebook which is the easiest way to contact, I want us to contact because I want to go to canada and would like to tell me what life is like in that country and working facilities there, here t leave my facebook to send me the application of Christian friends Alexis R, find me on facebook so I hope with all my heart to answer me and send me the application to facebook, it is very important to me, many thanks.
christian alexis rivera replying to a comment from sophia / February 23, 2012 at 07:06 pm
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hello my name is christian rivera such, I'm from Colombia and wanted to know if the bakery bakery columbus currently in that place ... and also would like to be able to reach you through facebook which is the easiest way to contact, I want us to contact because I want to go to canada and would like to tell me what life is like in that country and working facilities there, here t leave my facebook to send me the application of Christian friends Alexis R, find me on facebook so I hope with all my heart to answer me and send me the application to facebook, it is very important to me, many thanks.
Business Plan / February 24, 2012 at 07:21 am
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This makes perfect sense to anyone!!!
sentences in spanish / March 6, 2012 at 08:03 pm
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It truly is interesting. Prompt, where I can
locate much more data on this question?
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Thank god some bloggers can write. Thanks for this read!!!
airport car service sydney / March 31, 2012 at 05:13 am
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Your exactly right with this piece!
Caro / April 27, 2012 at 06:17 pm
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More recommendations:

Arepa is a corn flour tortilla that is baked on either side. Put some arequipe (the caramel stuff) on it, or butter and queso fresco (fresh cheese) and it's delicious.

Arepas de Chocolo (corn arepas) are golden, and have a coarser density than the regular arepas. Both type of arepas are amazing, and usually come packaged. In the morning, I put cheese and scrambled egg with avocado on top. Amazing.

Chorizo (sausage) con Aji (a-hee) is good stuff.

Bunuelos (buyn-weh-los) are the round cheese balls, they're my absolute fave. Vane made some really good suggestions with the pandequeso (cheese bread) and pandeyuca (yuca bread).

Look also for orejas (o-rehas) which are crunchy baked pastries shaped like ears and dusted with coarse sugar, churros (deep fried pastry sticks coated with sugar), and if they have any, bowls of manjarblanco (man-har-blanco) which is a soft, creamy fudge-like caramel. To die for on top of any pastry.

A bottle of Pony Malta mixed with a glass of milk, or a cafe con leche to wash it down, and you'll feel right at home.

Enjoy!
Caro / April 27, 2012 at 06:28 pm
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Oh! How could I forget... Bocadillos (boca-di-yo). In the 6th photo down, at the right bottom corner you can see small green, white and yellow boxes. Inside are individually packaged bocadillos, which are a sweet guava paste treat. They are great on their own, or if you want to be legit, buy a packaged box of mazamorra (masa-mora) (same photo, 3rd shelf down on the left - white box with the Colombian colours on the front) which is a corn/maize based pudding, which you boil for a while (very simple recipe on the box). Cut up some bocadillo and throw it in with a splash of milk while it's hot, and it's one of my favourite things on the planet.

Obleas, which are also in the same photo to the left and up from the bocadillos, are very thin wafers. Spread a thin layer of arequipe and put another one on top to make an oblea sandwich. Delicious.
john replying to a comment from sophia / August 10, 2012 at 06:48 pm
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u better get service in English who told u can tell them what to do if dont wanna then they dont
Natalia / December 2, 2012 at 05:48 pm
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There's a new place called el cafetal on st Clair and Oakwoos area. It's Mexican and Colombian. Service is good, not pricy like this place And everything is soo fresh.
catalina / December 19, 2013 at 11:47 pm
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well I'm Colombian and I don't thinks that bakery is wowww , maybe in Toronto , but I still think is ok not woow

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