Panadería Cuscatleca in Pico Union makes traditional pan dulces, hot breakfasts, and other baked goods from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala (along with plenty of vegan-friendly options). The family-owned spot is best known for their not-so-vegan but beautifully golden brown quesadillas–a Salvadoran pound cake that’s super light, semi-sweet, and mildly salty from the recipe’s parmesan cheese, which really helps bring out the cake’s sweetness before you aggressively dunk it in your 8am coffee. Plant-based visitors can instead enjoy the vegan semita de piña, which is a soft square cake with a flaky top and a sweet pineapple filling, or a plate of all-corn tamales that get gently fried and then plated with silky refried beans and a vegan Salvadoran sour cream we’d happily drench anything in, sweet or savory.
Fried Corn Tamales
We strongly recommend sitting down for a Salvadoran breakfast here, which includes these steamed and subtly sweet corn tamales that are pan-fried for some extra crunch. While the plate’s frijoles are super creamy, they lack some necessary salt, but the Salvadoran cashew crema is decadent, tangy, and precisely what we want to dip our morning tamales in.
The quesadillas at this panadería nail the fine balance between sweet/savory and dry/moist that we look for. The rice flour’s mild sweetness pairs perfectly with the salty grated cheese that’s worked into the dough and creates a firm outer crust like a pound cake (without compromising the decadent inside).
Vegan Semita de Piña
Zero moisture is lost in these plant-based semitas, which come with a buttery crust and plenty of sugar sprinkled on top for sweetness and crunch. The pineapple compote filling is also a delicious combination of tart and sweet and brings even more moisture to the pastry’s golden brown layers.
Vegan Bean Torta
The not-so-interesting bean paste in this torta gets some help from the delicious cashew cream, avocado, and pickled jalapeños. But besides the kick of heat and brininess from the peppers, this torta kinda falls flat.