Asian bakeries have grown in popularity in LA over the past few years with imported franchises like Taiwan’s 85° and Korean Paris Baguette popping up in neighborhoods that would have seemed unlikely just a few years ago (yes, Century City mall, looking at you). But it’s not really surprising why they’ve been successful, there’s something universally appealing about the Asian bakery format with rows and rows of sweet and savory buns waiting to be added to your tray.
That said, there are so many other talented Asian bakers and pastry chefs throughout LA making everything from traditional breads and European-inspired pastries to innovative cakes. We spoke with owners about their backstories, running their businesses over the past year, and their visions for the future. Below, you’ll get to know the people behind some of our favorite Asian-owned bakeries across the city, and what to order when you visit
With Warm Welcome is a community organization that amplifies and humanizes Asian American chefs, restaurateurs, and founders by producing podcasts, crafting meaningful experiences, and collaborating with artists. It’s become ever more apparent that we need to find ways to advocate for Asian-owned small businesses as they’ve been the hardest hit during the pandemic. In partnership with The Infatuation, we’re spotlighting some of our favorite Asian-owned businesses to support now and forever.
Founded in 1938 just two blocks from its current location in Chinatown, Phoenix Bakery is currently run by the second and third generation of the Chan family. Co-owner Ken Chan said the success of the business has been generations of customers bringing their children to the bakery, sometimes driving hours for their cakes and pastries. Over the decades, they’ve had to remake themselves by engaging with newer generations as demographics have shifted. Chan said Chinatown has changed a lot especially in recent years, as developers outside of the community have come in, and Phoenix Bakery has started to cast a wider net as a result. The pandemic also taught them to adapt and be more efficient in the store, and Chan hopes by summer they’ll be able to have a celebration thanking customers for supporting them over the past year. Be sure to stop by, buy yourself some cake, and wish them a happy 83rd.
Order this: Strawberry cream cake, almond cookies, and sugar butterflies are all great places to start.
Amandine was originally founded in 2002 by a Japanese man who came to the US to study and saw a niche for Japanese French-style patisserie inspired by his parents’ bakery. Seven years ago, current owner Derek Chang took over the ivy-covered Brentwood storefront, growing the business and the menu to where it is today. Though the pastry case usually empties out by late morning, there are generally still plenty of cakes and tarts available well into the evening, along with an extensive all-day menu so you can have breakfast at night and pasta or a burger in the morning. Due to the pandemic, they had to permanently close their Gardena location, but Chang feels lucky to have the support of his staff and family to keep the business alive and the food top quality throughout the past year. Having worked in restaurants since he moved to the US from Korea as a teenager, he thinks of the industry as his destiny and hopes to continue with more locations in the future.
Order this: And almond croissant, tarte citron, or delice au chocolat.
Anyone who’s ever existed west of the 405 knows that DK’s is the place to go for donuts, no matter what hour of the day. They’ve been serving Santa Monica for 40 years, but their legacy extends further into the history of Cambodian-owned donut shops that have shaped LA. Current owner Mayly Tao said Ted Ngoy, aka “The Donut King,” is her uncle, and when her parents came to the US as refugees from Cambodia, her dad’s entire family was in the donut business. DK’s was one of the last locations left when her parents took it over and throughout the years, they built it up from the classics, becoming a neighborhood favorite. After attending college, Tao came back to LA and was inspired to rebrand the store with a new logo and packaging, and by expanding the menu to 120 different items. They lost a lot of wholesale clients at the start of the pandemic, but with local support, DK’s was able to not only stay open but also give back to the community with initiatives like Lunchboxes For Love, which delivered to essential workers at local hospitals. They also turned the shop into a mini-market to provide 24-hour access to essential products and offered free delivery for customers over 65.
Order this: #onuts (aka croissant donuts) that come in many flavors, or the original ube donut.
If you know B Sweet, you know Chef Barb Batiste. She opened the shop in April 2009, but her love of baking started as a kid - watching her mom make Filipino desserts, she’d bake chocolate chip cookies and other American desserts that she’d share with all the neighbors in her building. Early on in her career, Batiste worked at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica as a pastry chef. But still nostalgic for the homemade desserts of her childhood, she started selling her chocolate chip banana bread to local businesses, which led to her starting B Sweet as a catering company. The brick-and-mortar in Sawtelle has been operating as pick up and delivery-only for the past year, and she said she’s been lucky to continue her catering business with clients like the Dodgers. Even with her success over the years, the face-to-face connection with her customers is still what she looks forward to most, and being able to have people gather at her shop safely once more. Until then, keep ordering ahead for pick up, or snag some sweets online that can be shipped nationwide.
Order this: Any of their various bread puddings (Chef Barb’s favorite is the red velvet).
If you frequent coffee shops around the city, then you’ve likely had a Sugarbloom pastry (this place is essentially LA’s original ghost bakery). While most small food businesses start off with retail and then expand into wholesale, Sugarbloom did the opposite. In fact, owner/pastry chef Sharon Wang said the past year has given her the opportunity to return to Sugarbloom’s roots. With the wholesale business, Wang focused on classic pastries, but selling directly to customers has allowed her to bring back some more unconventional treats, like the kimchi and SPAM musubi croissant, which was inspired over a dinner of Korean army stew. Born in Taiwan and raised in Arcadia, Wang had a career in interactive design before enrolling in a weeklong discovery program at the Culinary Institute of America. After a decade working in the Thomas Keller empire, she started making pastries for a friend’s coffee shop in 2012. Soon after, Stumptown reached out to her to supply pastries for their Arts District shop, and the rest is delicious history.
Order this: White miso kouign amann or a kimchi SPAM musubi croissant.
Businesses along Sunset Blvd come and go like the seasons, but one spot that has stayed defiantly consistent is United Bread And Pastry. Andrea De Guzman and her husband opened the Filipino bakery in 1984, and over the years, they’ve built a strong customer base as the neighborhood has changed around them. Today, it’s the only Filipino bakery left as many other Filipino-owned businesses have closed or moved. But even as new bakeries like Tartine open up down the street, they’ve fared well despite the competition. Since they own the building, United has been able to survive during the past year, and while a lot of people have offered to purchase the property, De Guzman said she plans to pass it to her youngest son and continue to serve the neighborhood for years to come.
Order this: Pork siopao and hopia.
Everything changed for Edlyne Nicolas after her salted earl grey honey pie won best in show at the KCRW pie contest. Before that, the Filipino-American bakery owner had worked as an elementary school teacher. But wanting to explore a career in food, she started baking at the (now closed) Bright Spot in Echo Park. After receiving her culinary certificate, she began teaching culinary arts at Cerritos College while baking pies on the side. But when the pandemic hit, she stopped teaching and taking orders. So when the owner of Amboy in Chinatown reached out to her, she started making pies for the burger shop instead. Since October, she’s been selling pies from a small kiosk, but hopes to open a brick-and-mortar soon. The salted earl grey honey is still the most popular item on her ever-changing menu, which includes pies inspired by Filipino flavors, as well as renditions of classic American desserts. Stop by often to try them all.
Order this: Obviously the salted earl grey honey pie.
Echo Park has changed a lot since 1980, but Kien Giang Bakery (aka KG Bakery) has maintained its presence on Echo Park Blvd for the past 41 years. The Hyunh family, who still run the business today, came to the US in the 1970s when, according to daughter Jennifer, there were fewer Asians and little access to Asian food in the northern suburbs. Her grandparents would make pastries and cakes out of their home, and they decided to move to Echo Park to be closer to Chinatown’s markets where they’d sell their cakes. With the bulk of their business coming from custom cake orders, the bakery took a big hit at the start of the pandemic as parties and weddings were canceled. Hyunh said they had to shut down twice in the past year, but as it becomes safer to gather, she hopes they’ll be able to focus on what they do best: helping serve all kinds of celebrations, from cakes for quinceñeras to traditional pastries for Asian holidays.
Order this: A custom cake, Vietnamese sandwiches, or mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Roji Bakery began as a small bakery in Kumamoto, Japan in 2006. The owner, Mr. Tokunaga, met his future business partner, Japanese-American owner Mr. Shin, and decided to collaborate on a bakery in LA, which opened in September 2019. Shin said they felt inclined to formulate the business to fit in with American culture and curate a menu with more American-influenced pastries. But over time, they realized the nostalgic comfort of their classic Japanese baked goods was starting to translate. While Asian customers were taken back to their childhoods with the curry pan and milk loaves, non-Asian customers loved trying different flavors like black sesame and matcha. With this, Shin said they felt more confident in staying authentic to their roots while also putting their own spins on classic pastries. When they first opened, they relied on passers-by to discover the shop, but when the pandemic hit, Shin used social media to promote the business. Through the virtual food community, they’ve gained a lot of traction in La Brea, and hope to continue developing those relationships both digitally and in person.
Order this: The milk loaf and a few croissants.
For any Asian American that grew up in the SGV (or those of us who grew up taking regular pilgrimages to the 626), JJ Bakery brings back comforting memories of freshly baked bread lining the shelves and the familiar mix of Chinese and English. Long before 85° landed on this side of the Pacific, JJ was serving a plethora of Taiwanese bakery classics: a combination of Chinese and Japanese-influenced sweet and savory single-portion breads waiting to be picked up with tongs. They also have a selection of cookies (more like crisp European biscuits than the chewier American versions), as well as fluffy sponge cakes that come in various flavors, forms, and colors (think everything from swiss roll by the slice to ones shaped like a piece of watermelon). Cakes are sold whole and by the slice, each decorated with an abundance of fruits and chocolate, and are staples at any Asian American celebration. While the franchise locations vary, many serve traditional Taiwanese breakfasts, pastries, and bentos too.
Order this: A mix of taro bread, cream-filled cupcakes, sesame pockets, and youtiao.