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.