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Bolillos or birotes in SD?

After a trip to Tlaquepaque and going through the small bolillo stash I brought over, I'm once again in the hunt for good (or at least passable) bolillos (or as my family calls them, birotes.) I've tried both Panchitas' and on a recommendation drove to La Espiga de Oro in National City. Both were just plain bad. Any other places that chowhounds believe I should try?

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  1. Well, oddly enough, I feel some of the better ones come from the supermarkets. Northgate being #1 and Pancho Villa being #2. Then again, I don't know what specifically makes a fabulous bolillo (althought I know good bread and good French-style rolls when I see them), so if I just posted a bunch of blasphemy, let me know. I love a good bolillo and will follow the scent of a freshly baked one anywhere.

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    Pancho Villa's
    3245 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

    11 Replies
    1. re: geekyfoodie

      You did not post a bunch of blasphemy :-).

      The bolillos at both Northgate and Pancho Villa are really good. I like Pancho Villas a bit better than Northgate's but they're both worthy. The crumb inside is a bit airier and fluffier than a bolillo in Mexico, but the flavor profile and crusty outside is pretty right on. I've eaten more than my share of bolillos and birotes in many parts of Mexico and both Northgate and Pancho Villa are good.

      Bolillos are baked continually throughout the day at Northgate and go into the self-serve bins still warm. The aroma is enough to make you weep. Northgate also makes whole wheat bilillos, which I haven't tried.

      1. re: DiningDiva

        Whew... good to know, DD!

        PV seems to bake them throughout the day, too, as I've been there a few times when they're refilling the bins. That smell makes me want to dive into the bin. PV is where I've been buying my bolillos lately and, when they're still warm with a little butter, they're amazing.

        1. re: geekyfoodie

          Take a bolillo and cut it in half. Scoop out a little of the bread out of the bottom half to make a boat. Put some slices of your favorite cheese in the well you've just made and put both halves into a preheated oven. While the bread is heating, scramble a couple of eggs. Put the eggs over the melted cheese, give it a good hit of a chipotle based salsa, but the top on and eat. I do this with bolilllos from Pancho Villa on Sundays and it's great. You can, of course, add sauteed veggies and/or your favorite breakfast meat. A smear of refritos under the cheese is also fab, for a great breakfast torta.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            Drooling on my keyboard never looks good at work. :) I'll definitely give that a try. I've been melting cheese over fresh tomato slices and adding some fresh herbs for a quick sandwich during lunch. I've also been known to inhale one, with no garnish, on the trip home from Pancho Villa. I should probably add that I live less than a mile from PV.

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            Pancho Villa's
            3245 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

            1. re: geekyfoodie

              I like Pancho Villa a lot. It's closer to me than Northgate and parking is easier. I've gotten their tortillas and masa, both of which are pretty decent.

      2. re: geekyfoodie

        I second the recommendation for Northgate's bolillos...they're great. When I was there shoppers would stand around the bins waiting for them to come out of the oven. Once they were in the acrylic bin people would grab them like sharks in a feeding frenzy.

        1. re: nileg

          Great. Have some places to try now. Northgate, Pancho Villa, Foodland and Panaderia Guadalajara (that's a serious name to live up to!) - Thank you.

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          Panaderia Guadalajara
          613 N Sanborn Rd, Salinas, CA 93905

          Pancho Villa's
          3245 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

        2. re: geekyfoodie

          Haven't had much beyond Panchita's and La Espiga de Oro, so I'm all up for the bolillo hunt. I'll give both a try and perhaps report back. I keep telling myself that bolillos cannot be that difficult to bake with a crusty exterior, but maybe I'm naive in the ways of bread baking in SD. Thank you :)

          1. re: logovo

            I don't think the crusty exterior is the issue. My biggest complaint is that the interior is too soft and airy with not enough resistence in the chew. I think the interior should be a bit denser. Sometimes it seems to me that the bolillos here have a nice crusty exterior but tend to be like Wonder Bread inside.

            For a torta you need to be looking for a telera, which is similar to the bolillo except it's a bit smaller and flatter with 3 distinct depressions on the top. Northgate has teleras, I've never seen them at Pancho Villa.

            If you go to Northgate check out the rest of their bakery items. I've had several of their specialty cakes (usually the ones with fruit) at work functions and for a bakery cake they are really quite good. Their pan de muertos is excellent. Not so wild about their wall of cookies and pan dulces, Panchitas are better.

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            Pancho Villa's
            3245 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

            1. re: DiningDiva

              Thank you for the info, specially for the pan de muerto tip. I have to go in there today on my way to work.

              While teleras are definitely the bread for tortas, I like to make mine with chewy birotes. Just a thing from how I would eat them growing up.

              1. re: logovo

                Totally understand, birotes make a great sandwich :-)

        3. I get mine at Foodland right out of the oven..they are good but I'm not really a 'bolillo connoisseur'..
          7 small for $1..how great is that!
          They also make these bread things stuffed with cheese and cheese/ham and talk about making you weep..it is so frigging good and I will have it on the weekend served warm with scrambled eggs and chicken sausage and it's a huge favorite and way better than the wheat/rye toast/english muffin route.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Beach Chick

            OK, so I must obviously try Foodland. Now, they sound, from what people have said, that they're not as crsuty as I would like, but I must try and see if I can make myself a proper torta. Thank you!

          2. I know the feeling! In fact I have some frozen stil that some friends brought back recently.

            You need to check out Panaderia Guadalajara in National City. They are the best by far and I have tried in San Diego finding fascimiles of what I had in that city.
            See:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/550931

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            Panaderia Guadalajara
            2401 Highland Ave, National City, CA 91950

            1 Reply
            1. re: kare_raisu

              Thank you! I should have brought back enough to freeze! Even if they got dry I could have still made some damn good bread pudding out of them. I've found bolillos here closer to dinner rolls than crusty real bolillos, but it can't be hard to at least get some hearthy crust. We had all these artisan bakeries around!