Pan Dulce or Doughnut? East L.A. bakery satisfies your craving for both with Payasos

Payasos at El Gallo | Tom Chavez, TLC Realty/Instagram

By Valentina Silva

Open since 1949, El Gallo Bakery is an East L.A. tradition. Mention the famed panaderia to anyone who grew up in the neighborhood, and you’re sure to hear one word over and over: “payaso.” If you’ve ever had a Payaso, you understand why, and if you haven’t, you need to learn stat. The perfect marriage between pan dulce and a doughnut, Payasos (“clown” in Spanish) are cheery pink-frosted buns that stand out—visually and flavor wise—even among the rows and rows of beautiful sweet breads and cookies that El Gallo puts out everyday.

The Payaso’s texture is pitch perfect. Made with egg dough, the baked bread has a dense, yet soft and moist, consistency similar to a concha or an elote. Overpowering sweetness is a hallmark of mediocre pan dulce in this writer’s opinion, but Payasos (and pretty much all of El Gallo’s offerings) don’t have that problem. The bun, itself, is subtle—it’s sweet, of course, but you taste eggy bread (think: challah bread if you’re not all that familiar with pan dulce) more than sugar. You also taste cinnamon, which is crushed not ground, so flecks of the spice punctuate each bite, making it an ideal match for a good cup of coffee.

Because sweetness doesn’t override the flavor of the bun, the contrast of the sugary frosting takes the Payaso into heavenly territory. While definitely reminiscent of a pink doughnut, its complexity and lightness make it much, much, much more satisfying. Plus, it’s so dang cute.

If you want to try one, go early because Payasos, which will set you back a mere 75 cents, are best when freshly baked and they go fast.


El Gallo Bakery
4546 East Cesar E Chavez Ave.
Los Angeles, 90022

Valentina Silva writes about food and restaurants. You can also find Valentina’s reviews and stories on her blog, Eastside Food Bites.


  1. East LA cronut! Quick, call the food patent lawyers.

  2. Now that’s the kind of payaso I like (the human kind me dan miedo)! yummmy

  3. The Gallo has good stuff, but it’s expensive compared to other Mexican bakeries and everything is behind the counter so you can’t pick the stuff yourself via the traditional tray and tongs. I don’t like that.

    I much prefer the La Fama bakery down the street and around the corner close to the 60 fwy.

  4. Wanna bee Angeleno

    Eastsider pickin up some for-real east side cred!!

  5. I live in East LA and never hear anyone talk about payasos, what a strange exaggeration. Especially considering you mention things that are actually heard a hundred times a day here like conche, elote, and pan dulce.

    Payasos are terrible anyway, I’ve tried El Gallo a couple times and always been disappointed. They have the most bland flavorless pan dulce and galletas in East LA and somehow charge more for it. I don’t even know who frequents them, the same people who go to Cities and people from outside the neighborhood who read free advertising like this I guess.

    I agree with X-Man, La Fama is just around the corner and better in every way, selection, flavor, and price,. It’s one of the best bakeries in East LA.

    • I grew up in East LA and I love payasos. They’re a great childhood memory for me and my aunts and uncles who grew up here, too. The writer said if you mention El Gallo to anyone who grew up on the eastside, they’d bring up payasos. Not just any ‘old Eastsider. There are a lot of good bakeries in ELA. Relax. Everything doesn’t have to be an argument.

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