Colombian Bakeries Delight the Palate of Union City

Amparo Arango, from Medellín, showing a tray with some of the sweets served in Noches de Colombia, where she works. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Amparo Arango, from Medellín, showing a tray with some of the sweets served in Noches de Colombia, where she works. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Many agree: Colombian sweets are especially delicious and the favorite even for the most demanding Hispanic palates. These pastries are in high demand on special occasions, but even day to day, there are many residents who go to restaurants and pastry shops with a Colombian accent to start off their morning right with a traditional pandebono to go with the first coffee of the day.

As a daily ritual, Óscar goes to El Carretero at 3500 Bergenline Ave. in Union City, New Jersey, an area where it is easy to smell the aroma of a freshly baked bun. “I come here almost every morning to have my coffee and my pandebono, which is a small and very tasty little bun. The Colombian bread has quite a reputation and on this street alone there are at least seven or eight well-known stores that sell it.”

Of course, this Union City resident is from Caldas, so his weakness is justified by the love for his homeland. What will the rest of the residents think?

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

The most popular pastry on a day to day basis is the pandebono. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

The most popular pastry on a day to day basis is the pandebono. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

“Here we serve sweet and savory dishes, but the most popular item is the pandebono. Our clientele is mainly Hispanic, many from Central America, but we see people from all over because everyone loves Colombian food, whether they are Latino or not. The restaurant fills up in the middle of the day and many come to have the bandeja paisa for lunch,” says Carmen Bonilla, from El Salvador, while she continues to work at the El Carretero restaurant.

 

But people crave a little pastry, a cake, or an empanada at all hours of the day. That’s why Colombian bakeries – where you’ll always hear a trickle of music with cumbias or vallenatos – are always full of customers.

“The Hispanic people here never stop coming in. We have people who come seven days a week and they’re not just Colombians, of course. All Latinos like our traditional food,” says Vanesa Palacio, who is from Pereira and works at El Maizalito.

Variety, quality, and quantity

Buñuelos at El Carretero (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Buñuelos at El Carretero (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

But what is so special about these Colombian sweets? No one better than a regular customer to explain why one always ends up giving in to the temptation of these pastries, be it a pandebono, a pan de queso (cheese bread), a buñuelo, or a cambray empanada. 

“People eat the pandebono a lot because it is practical, small, and flavorful… and the cheese is so delicious! But I come every day and I see that the cambray empanada is also quite popular. I am from El Salvador and though I love the food from my country, I recognize that Colombian food is of good quality. Before I ordered a little sweet treat with my morning coffee every day. Now I’m on a diet, hahaha. Oh, how I miss it!” explained Elisabeth Resinos, who has been living in New Jersey for 13 years.

A tray with pan de queso (cheese bread), a typical Colombian pastry. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

A tray with pan de queso (cheese bread), a typical Colombian pastry. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

But they don’t just win people over with their flavor. Variety also plays an important role. Vanesa explained the “technical” aspects of the kitchen. “You have a lot to choose from because there are different cakes, prepared in different ways – some baked, others fried – with varying ingredients. Additionally, in Colombia, we serve large portions of food and people like this.”

 

A restaurant with the most popular bakery is Noches de Colombia, which has several storefronts and franchises (also under the name Noches) across the avenue.

Cheese and cambray empanada from Noches Antojitos, at 7523 Bergenline Ave., North Bergen. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Cheese and cambray empanada from Noches Antojitos, at 7523 Bergenline Ave., North Bergen. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

“I have a theory as to why people like Colombian food in general and the little pastries from this country in particular: it is often said that Colombians are very caring people and this draws people in. The good character of Colombian society must also be part of the success because people from all over come here to have their cambray and cheese empanada or pandebono as part of their day to day routine,” said Amparo Arango, from Medellín, who has been working at Noches de Colombia on Bergenline and 49th Street for a year.

Whether it be because of the Colombians’ friendly nature, the tasty ingredients in their sweets, or their mindful and varied cuisine, the truth is that the buns, cakes, and empanada from this country have made their way onto the tables – and stomachs – of locals and foreigners alike. And thanks to them, even the most gluttonous have the opportunity to travel to Colombia… with just one bite.

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