By Datia Rosenberg
Any town in Mexico will always have a panaderia, no matter what.
It is a cultural ritual to have coffee and sweet bread everyday for breakfast, a simple, quick, easy and delicious tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years.
Even though wheat was not native to Mexico, it was quickly introduced into the gastronomy after the Spaniards during the conquest and French immigrants brought their wheat and made their bread (brioche in particular was a big influence).
Last week, this tradition arrived in Urbana at the retail complex known as “Five Points” — the first Mexican specialty bakery in the area.
Berenice and Mauricio Contreras are quite well known in the community because they own and run La Mixteca, an authentic Mexican restaurant in Urbana, that offers an ample menu of typical and unique dishes that are not easy to find. La Mixteca is located a few doors away from the bakery.
Mauricio arrived in Champaign-Urbana 21 years ago and Bere 19 years ago.
She mentioned recently: “Our main motivation to open this ‘PANADERIA’ was the Hispanic community and since everyone loves bread we wanted to help bring it closer and really fresh to everyone since most of the people would have to go to Chicago or Indiana to bring the pan dulce” (sweet bread).
“We wanted to bring a little corner of our land.”
It is as simple as it gets — trays and serving tongs, two display cabinets full of different sweet breads, as well as bolillos and teleras which are similar to a hoagie or a bun, but crispier; they are used to make tortas.
There are a couple of couches and a nice little table for those who want to sit and enjoy their concha (brioche style of bread covered with a crispy sweet and buttery crust) with some coffee or champurrado (thick and creamy hot spiced chocolate beverage made with masa/tortilla dough).
As a native Mexican who recently immigrated to the United States, I can tell you this place is worth a visit. Beware: You might get hooked and come weekly; you will certainly feel the warm and cozy atmosphere and enjoy a full sensory experience (the smell is amazing, and multiple colors and textures distinguish these breads).
IF YOU GO: Panaderia San Miguel Bakery
WHAT: Mexican sweet pastries and bread. There is no set menu yet. Most pastries cost around $2 apiece.
WHERE: Panaderia San Miguel is located at 510 N. Cunningham Ave., Suite 11, in Urbana. Closest major intersection: corner of University and Cunningham, aka Five Points.
PARKING? Ample parking is available.
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily