I'm always complaining about the so-called authentic Mexican food in DFW. Even worse is the lack of pan dulce -- Mexican sweet bread with mysterious origins deep-rooted in European culture.
Considering that we live in a state that leans up against Latin America, you'd think we'd have the best of anything Mexican, but it's quite the opposite. It's more of a cuisine collective of knockoffs and poseurs, with restaurateurs slapping "authentic" on everything, including their company logo.
Humbly, the folks at Marquez Bakery and Tortilla Factory in Arlington make no such claims. Even their website does little to showcase the fact that they're both a restaurant and bakery with an extensive selection of pan dulce.
If your knowledge of pan dulce is nonexistent, here's all you need to know: Despite its name, it's not overly sweet; it's made without preservatives; and it's unbelievably cheap and highly addictive.
At Marquez Bakery, aficionados can grade its authenticity by its sprightly, sugary scent -- an aroma unique to the pastries.
From soft and chewy to firm and crispy, there's a broad range of flavors and textures to choose from. Behind sliding glass doors are racks holding the famous and artistically designed conchas (egg-based bread in the shape of a shell), cuernos de azucar (sugar horns), empanadas, orejas (a flaky pastry in the shape of an ear) and various flavors of galletas (cookies). Almost every pastry is shaped like the object it is meant to represent.
My favorites are the fluffy conchas and the small, sugary cuernos. A dozen of each could feed a small pueblo for a week. And of the more than 20 types of pastries available, nearly all are less than 12 pesos ($1).
The culinary craft of the Marquez family doesn't stop at the bakery. There's also an adjoining restaurant, complete with burritos ($1.50 each), gorditas ($1.99), enchilada and taco entrees ($5.99-$6.99) and tortas ($3.99). Customize your dish with barbacoa, chicharrón, chorizo, fajita beef or chicken, grilled pork, or ground beef.
The flautas and burritos were simple, but impressive. The shredded meat in each was hot and tender, and the fried exterior of the flautas was crispy without being overly greasy. The flour tortillas wrapping each burrito were soft and warm, with a nostalgic quality synonymous with my childhood kitchen in Mexico.
Even if you don't go to one of their storefronts, you've likely tried something from their kitchen. Their products end up at many local restaurants in DFW.
I won't call the Marquez's operation the Holy Grail of authenticity just yet, but so far, it's the closest. Behind mounds of dough and playfully tasty baked goods are true purveyors of Mexican modesty.