Every morning, except Monday, Jose Flores and Jazmin Hernandez fill the display case of the Panadería Jazmin with an eye-catching selection of at least 25 types of pan dulce. In September, the couple opened their Mt. Lebanon bakery, likely the first panaderia in the Pittsburgh area, after selling their sweet treats at farmers markets across the area for nearly three years.
“You can see all the beautiful breads, all the different flavors. Everything looks so nice together, ”says Flores as he refills the suitcase at lunchtime.
There are conchas, the fluffy, shell-shaped bread that is characteristic of Mexican bakeries; crispy, ear-shaped and crunchy orejas; croissant-like bigote dusted with sugar; empanadas de fruta filled with jelly; soft, braided Trenza and for Dia de los Muertos Pan de Muerto with orange blossom scent. In addition to the stacks of pan dulce, there are a few hearty breads like bolillo and baguette. Even with my face covered, I found the flavors of sugar, warm wheat, cinnamon, cocoa, and anise intoxicating as I pushed open the glass divider to stack my selections on a serving tray.
Flores and Hernandez are from near Toluca, Mexico, where Hernandez’s family has run a bakery for nearly 40 years. In 2017, Flores caught the itchiness of baking at home while preparing Cubiletes de Queso (the sweet and savory mini cheesecakes can be found on the far left in the Panadería Jazmin exhibition). To better learn the pandulce’s craft, he worked in the family bakery and some shops in Toluca. Then Flores and Hernandez ran a specialty bakery in their hometown for about a year before emigrating to the United States. They were visiting a sister in North Carolina and an uncle in California, but it was a stop to see a friend in Pittsburgh who convinced them they wanted to stay here. “We just loved it here,” says Flores.
Everything in the showcase is freshly prepared every day – the duo bake and usually start at 2 a.m. Some pastries, such as palmera and sweet empanadas, are made from laminated dough.
Flores and Hernandez have more than 60 varieties of pan dulce in their repertoire – most of them come from the traditional panadería cannon, but some are family recipes and they work on their own creations. I’ve tried nine of these so far and I’m hungry for more.
And don’t overlook these bolillos; These buns are some of the best breads I’ve eaten in Pittsburgh for pressed and toasted sandwiches.
300 Beverly Road, Mt. Lebanon; 421 / 207-8457, instagram.com/panaderiajazminpgh
What do you get when a restaurant with “hamburger” in its name is a roast chicken? An affordable reef on different variations of crispy, crunchy and crunchy poultry.
The Squirrel Hill restaurant’s signature dish – a spicy crispy thigh burger – is a great example of why this is an exciting opening. The sandwich consists of a juicy and well-seasoned chicken thigh that is breaded twice in wheat flour, fried to jagged perfection and served with shredded lettuce and a white garlic sauce in a soft sesame bun. It’s a pretty dreamy take on a fast food fried chicken sandwich, especially when added to one of the optional sauces.
98K Hamburger is the fifth storefront of a New York City-based chain and the first location outside of Brooklyn and Queens. The fact that the outpost is in Squirrel Hill reinforces the notion that in recent years the neighborhood has become one of the most exciting neighborhoods outside of New York and the San Francisco Bay Area for Chinese cuisine in the United States. Over the past year or so, the neighborhood has added Yue Bai Wei, Jian’s Kitchen, Dogbai Rice Noodle, and Tsaocaa to an already established list of regional and pan-Chinese restaurants (including four Pittsburgh Magazine Best Restaurants).
Franchise co-owner Selina Zheng says her aunt, co-owner Xiaoban Zheng, wanted to open a 98K in Pittsburgh after eating at one of the New York locations.
“The flavors reminded her of some of her favorite fast food restaurants in China,” says Zheng. “There weren’t any Chinese-style fast food restaurants around here. So we thought we could open it. “
The Zhengs met with 98K owner Junhao Li, who was visiting Pittsburgh and agreed that the city showed promise as an outpost of his small chain. They then spent a training period in New York, where they developed a menu for the Pittsburgh location (every 98K has slightly different menus).
Although the Pittsburgh restaurant has a smaller menu than the New York locations, there is still plenty to see on the first visits. I suggest starting with one of the sandwiches. From there, look at parts of bones like wings and legs; crispy and juicy, exactly what you want from a piece of roast chicken. I loved the subtle seasoning on the Szechuan chicken fillet and the crust on the Salt & Crispy Chicken, which is also dusted with potato starch before frying.
The pages could use some work. On my first visit, the french fries tasted as if they had only been blanched and had not been given a necessary second deep-frying time to crispy before serving; They were marginally better on my next visit, but while the chicken towered over other fast food restaurants in town, the fries still wouldn’t pull out of the bottom third. Another side, macaroni and cheese, was adorable lunch. I’d love to see a veg option that goes beyond just a garden salad (vegetarian, you won’t share my enthusiasm for 98K).
And yes … there is a hamburger on the menu. It’s a pretty good one too. The beef patty has a denser mouthfeel than a standard-edition American fast food burger. Still, it’s pretty flavorful and with lettuce, mayonnaise, American cheese, and a surprisingly perfect slice of tomato (no guarantee we’ll go past tomato season) I’d prefer it to most fast food chains.
The nice thing is that almost everything is affordable (all sandwiches and wraps, for example, are less than $ 10). In fact, the best way to navigate the menu is to jump, and see what you love. There are also different meal sets and mix and match options. All in all, it’s an exciting addition to my favorite Pittsburgh restaurant.
5867 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412 / 258-1280, 98k-hamburger.business.site
takō bakery square
Last week the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group opened their newest restaurant, Täkō Bakery Square. It may be a spin-off of the popular Täkō that opened downtown in 2014, but it’s a very different restaurant from the original.
Bakery Square is much more airy than its atmospheric counterpart in the city center – it is more than 5,000 square meters high with a jungle of (natural and plastic) indoor plants, warm wood tones and gleaming white walls. The service is quick and casual. Go to the counter in the back right of the restaurant, place your order, have a seat and you will receive a text message when it is time to collect your food from the assigned storage room. It’s a bit impersonal, but it keeps things moving, especially in times of low-staffed restaurants.
When I visited on Saturday evening, the energy was high.
The significantly expanded menu of the takō Bakery Square includes a large selection of starters, tacos, tortas, a huge bowl to make yourself and desserts (for comparison: the Downtown location currently has nine tacos and two desserts on the menu).
Build-Your-own-Bowls feels like a marked departure from the hip, cool downtown eatery built around Mexican-Japanese fusion tacos, but they’re a smart pick for Bakery Square. You start by choosing a base of grains, vegetables or rice, choose a main ingredient from a list that includes carnitas, chorizo and maitake mushrooms, add served vegetables like charred carrots with guajillo vinaigrette and adobo-marinated pastor Add cauliflower with a selection of cheeses, toppings, dressings and crisps. I had mine with grains (a nice mix of chickpeas, farro, quinoa, and amaranth), seasoned rotisserie chicken, and loads of side dishes, and found the whole bowl to be an absolutely delicious feel-good meal (enough for two, really.).
I also loved the texture and layered flavors of my Torta Milanese. The sandwich consisted of a crispy pork chop, black bean hummus, sriracha aioli, red cabbage, pickled jalapeño, coriander, and pickled red onions, all in a squeezed roll; I look forward to trying the other two torta offerings on the menu.
As in all RDRG establishments, the bar program at tekō Bakery Square is well done. In fact, with its great cocktail, margarita, mezcal, and tequila lists, this is where you’ll find most of the similarities to Downtown Täkō.
Even on a busy opening weekend, everything went smoothly. That’s partly because it’s a system-oriented restaurant group that has known how to build a stable workflow for a decade. But this is also an all-hands-on-deck-for-everything opening, with top chefs from all of the RDRG restaurants in the kitchen and partners Tolga Sevdik and Kevin Kelley huddling in front of the house.
I hope the quality of the cuisine and the service will be maintained when everyone goes back to their respective restaurant. If they can do that, Täkō Bakery Square will seem like a strong addition to Pittsburgh’s fast-casual eateries.
120 Bakery Square Blvd., Larimer; 412 / 866-8256, takobksq.com