By Jaime Joyce
April 22, 2016
Before sunrise on weekdays, minivans ferrying laborers from Brooklyn to New Jersey make a pit stop at Don Paco López Panadería, a Mexican bakery on Fourth Avenue near 47th Street, in Sunset Park. “They come in, get coffee and bread, tortas and tamales, then get back in the van,” Miguel López said of his customers. A nibble for breakfast; something more substantial for lunch. The morning rush lasts from 5:30 to 9. On weekends, the rush never seems to end. Customers survey the rows of sweet buns — pan dulce — arrayed in the bountiful display case, selecting their favorites with tongs and taking their trays to the counter. At 10:30 a.m. on a recent Sunday, Mr. López’s father, Francisco López, known as Paco, the store’s 83-year-old owner, counted and bagged the fresh-baked rolls and pastries.“All the bread, my father taught me how to make it,” the elder Mr. López said in Spanish. As a child, he apprenticed under his father at the family bakery in Acatlán, in the state of Puebla. His father’s recipes, written on a poster-size sheet of plastic-wrapped cardboard, are mounted above a wooden baker’s table at the Brooklyn store.Each day the bakery turns out about 2,000 rolls, muffins, doughnuts and so on. The most popular items are conchas, lightly sweetened buns topped with a sugar paste and stamped to look like seashells.
BFor Three Kings Day, in January, the bakery makes Rosca de Reyes, a ring-shaped pastry decorated with candied fruits, figs, orange peel and acitrón, a crystallized cactus. Thalía Sodi, a Mexican pop star, is a fan. In a video posted on the bakery’s Facebook page, she squeals with delight while showing off a box of the holiday bread, which Mr. López says she orders every year.Sign up for the New York Today Newsletter Each morning, get the latest on New York businesses, arts, sports, dining, style and more. Get it sent to your inbox. This summer, the bakery has its 25th anniversary. When it opened, the López family sold just three things: canned jalapeños, tortillas and bread. “We had a pizza oven and a mixer, that’s all,” said Mr. López, 48. Four years later, they bought the narrow barbershop next door and expanded the business to include prepared foods. (A second location, opened in East Harlem in 2000, offers a wider menu.)It was on this side of the shop that Mr. López, one of eight siblings who help run the enterprise, took orders, from a line that was 12 people deep by 11 a.m. Another dozen or so squeezed onto the stools along the marigold-colored counter. A romantic ballad by the Mexican singer José José played as ticket numbers were called out in Spanish and receipts were handed over the counter for food. Oscar Ramirez, 34, and his wife, Alejandra, 33, waited for a quesadilla. Their sons, Oscar Jr., 13, and Brandon, 11, had already set to work on their tortas, Mexican sandwiches layered with chicken, cheese and avocado. “They’re good guys,” Mr. Ramirez, a construction worker, said of the proprietors. “They talk to everybody as soon as you come in. ‘Good morning. What do you like?’” Julio Trujillo shared the sentiment. “Every Sunday, I come here,” he said. As usual, he had ordered a huarache, a crisp tortilla shell topped with beans, red and green sauce, and salty cotija cheese. “It’s done the same way my mom does when I was a kid,” said Mr. Trujillo, 42. To drink, he ordered champurrado, a steamy blend of blue corn, brown sugar and cinnamon. “When I drink it,” Mr. Trujillo said, “it brings my mind back to Mexico.”A version of this article appears in print on April 24, 2016, Section MB, Page 3 of the New York edition with the headline: 2,000 Ways to Say ‘Buenos Días’.