Pancho's Bakery is a godsend. By way of explanation, here are four main reasons why I love this place:
1. It's simple.
I know exactly what I'll find on the inside because it says so on the outside: Mexican Bread. I seriously find the idea of a straight-up bread bakery enticing, and kudos to Pancho's because it takes confidence to build a business around one simple item. There are about a dozen baskets full of fresh bread, mostly sweet and of slight variation. Many items involve cinnamon or marmalade. We bag vanilla conchas (which also come in chocolate), cinnamon buns and orejas (something we've never tried before). On our way out, I notice (in the nick of time!) a handmade sign taped to the counter listing tamales and chorizo. These items are stashed in a freezer and out of sight (so as not to disrupt the bread coherence?) and I feel relieved to have noticed them, and yet burdened at the same time because I'm going to have to make an additional purchase and I'm out of cash.
2. The service is charming.
We get our tamales for free. I try to pay for them with a credit card but Pancho's only accepts debit (and cash). I guess we clearly appear disappointed at the idea of leaving the tamales behind, because the young guy behind the counter says it's okay and hands us the bag of tamales on the house. I'm not saying it takes a freebie for the service to be good, but it sure doesn't hurt. There's a definite language barrier between him and us, but we manage to glean minimal info: His family is from Michoacan where they have plenty of Pancho's Bakeries (est. 1927). Pancho is the founder and this young man's father. Everything is baked on site and the place has been up and running (in Toronto) for about two months now, supplying Mexican food joints around the city including La Tortilleria.
3. Bang for your buck.
This place has offerings that hover around a dollar. There are even a few pastries for forty-five cents. This pleases me because it means that Pancho's Bakery is doing something right and getting a lot of business (you can't make a living off of forty-five cent pastries in less you're selling a lot of them, I imagine). It also pleases me because it means I can purchase a pastry for forty-five cents, which feel like a miracle because it's not 1958. The conchas are a buck fifty, tax included. The tamales are two bucks each and it looks like a lot of work has gone into them, certainly handcrafted.
4. It's delicious.
The day I go to Pancho's is the day I eat too much. The vanilla conchas are gigantic. They should probably be split between friends or enjoyed over time, but I put one away on my own in twenty minutes. That gloriously fresh, sweet and soft Mexican bread gives me a stomachache for a short while (because, really, it should be split between friends or enjoyed over time). I warm up the tamales a couple hours later but can find no one to share them with, so I finish them on my own. But I have no regrets. They're comforting, with ever-so-gently-spiced pork and chicken mole.