When Francisco Aparicio and his wife Patty decided to buy the aging La Mascota Bakery on Whittier Boulevard in Boyle Heights last December, the skepticism within the community was strong. La Mascota has a deeply embedded history in the area — one dating back nearly 65 years, and spreading across multiple generations of the Salcedo family. There was outrage and fear when the restaurant went up for sale last year, and whoever took up the mantle of La Mascota would be in for an uphill battle.
But Aparicio was quick to tell customers, even the one who showed up with their eyes narrowed and arms crossed, that he wouldn’t be changing the things they already loved about the place — the tamales, the pan dulce, the early morning hours, or many of the employees who have been making food from scratch there for more than two decades. Instead, he’d focus on highlighting its history, while planning for the future.
A breakfast situation that’s changing the hearts and stomachs of Boyle Heights
Nearly three full months in, and that’s exactly what’s happening. Gone are the dingy floor and haphazard assemblage of pan dulce cases. Now La Mascota is full of dark woods, fresh pastries, lots of new seating, and a breakfast situation that’s changing the hearts (and stomachs) of Boyle Heights.
The entire place has been given an eye-catching paint job and been laid throughout with decorative tile, and one of the two Aparicios are likely to be your very first point of contact through the door, handing out samples of their new cemitas or recommending a particular pastele for the day. There's a dedicated barista in one corner, pulling shots of morning espresso alongside horchata lattes and inexpensive drip coffee for the masses.
Relieved municipal workers can still pick up their favorite morning treat starting at 5 a.m., and weekend foot traffic is still diverting regularly in through the glass doors. There’s also nothing on the menu boards (those are new, too) that crosses the $6 threshold, which means customers can get those 16 ounce cups of Gaviña coffee for just a couple of bucks, and hefty morning tortas for around $5 out the door.
The key difference with La Mascota today: the food is simply better
And here’s the key difference with La Mascota today: the food is simply better. Yes, the tamale recipe remains the same and the conchas still fly off the baking sheets as soon as they emerge from the oven, but the innovations that the Aparicios have found are making a difference here, and just about everyone from the community can tell.
School teachers mix with young families at the small tables inside, while Patty hands out samples of cafe con leche and a new generation of young La Mascota worker pulls dough or bags of pan dulce. Waves of kids come in after school for inexpensive cemitas, while the morning huevos divorciados torta — a two-egg beast of cheese, salsa, and avocado that’s layered between fresh bread — makes a sloppy mess of some construction workers in the corner.
[Huevos divorciados torta at La Mascota]
The Aparicios are used to this kind of thing, having quietly run Cuban bakery favorite Gigi’s in Historic Filipinotown for years. Mostly, they just want to serve, whether that’s cubano sandwiches or pan dulce or Gaviña coffee that’s roasted locally in Vernon. And that’s the unifying factor between the La Mascota of old and the La Mascota of today: the community continues to come first.
La Mascota Bakery
2715 Whittier Blvd.
Boyle Heights, CA
Open daily 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.