New bakery offers a taste of home to Salvadoriansby Ambar Espinoza, Minnesota Public Radio
A new bakery in St. Paul is bringing a taste of El Salvador to the Twin Cities. For some, that's a taste of home. As the Latino population in Minnesota continues to grow, different small populations of Latin Americans are developing specialty businesses.
St. Paul, Minn. — Quesadillas are a staple in many homes in El Salvador. Adults have them with coffee, and children have them with milk.
Yet, it's not the kind of quesadilla you're probably thinking about. For Salvadorians, a quesadilla is like a buttery pound cake, made with cheese, sour cream, rice and milk.
It's a taste that Marlene Rodriguez from El Salvador craved after moving to the United States.
"When I first came here and I went to a bakery, I asked for a quesadilla. They sent me to a restaurant, right? Because they thought I was asking for food," says Marlene Rodriguez.
Rodriguez and her daughter are selecting a number of goodies from what's believed to be Minnesota's first Salvadorian bakery. It opened in St. Paul almost three weeks ago.
Oscar and Dolores Murcia own the bakery. It's called Guanaco Bakery and Cafe. "Guanaco" is slang for Salvadorian.
The Murcias have been in the baking business for many years, having started in El Salvador. They know there's only a few thousand Salvadorians living in Minnesota. But Oscar hopes everyone will taste and enjoy their pastries.
"In my business plan, I said I wanted the whole world to eat my bread," says Murcia. "I know the way my pastries look will attract people. It's something new that Minnesota hasn't had. My pastries come in different shapes, with lots of color and lots of presentation."
Murcia says the best way to the stomach isn't just through the mouth, but also through the eyes.
For the few Salvadorians who do live in the Twin Cities, the bakery offers familiar flavors from their homeland. Oscar Machado lives in Red Wing now. He says he's pined for Salvadorian pastries since he left his country.
"We always like to taste 'our roots.' We're used to tasting what is ours," says Machado. "I've been here for eight years and I've really missed a place where I could buy and eat products from my country. With time, you really do miss that taste."
Now, Machado plans to commute frequently from Red Wing to St. Paul just to buy Salvadorian bread.
A number of Twin Cities businesses do sell Salvadorian food. But it's sold along side Mexican goods. Mexican pastries are easy to find in the Twin Cities. But the people working at Guanaco Bakery say by combining two styles, you lose what's special to each country's cuisine.
Mariano Bernal bakes at the Salvadorian bakery. He learned his trade growing up in Mexico. He says Mexican and Salvadorian pastries are quite distinct.
"Mexican bread is different because it's not as detailed. The Salvadorian pastries are more detailed and decorative," says Bernal. "Salvadorian bread requires more labor. It's just made differently. For example, some Salvadorian pastries are made with bananas, and in Mexico, they aren't. They each have different tastes."
Bernal says there are great Mexican pastries in the Twin Cities. But everyone's taste is different and people tend to choose the taste that best reminds them of home.
(The Guanaco Bakery and Cafe is located at 849 East 7th St., St. Paul, MN 55106. Phone 651-776-3320)
- Morning Edition, 07/04/2006, 6:25 a.m.