Pastelería y Panadería La Ideal, 3/$1.00
Seattle's South Park neighborhood has always been something of an outlier. In the late 19th century the expansion of downtown Seattle pushed Italian immigrant George Colello off his original farm at what is now First and Jackson; Colello became one of the first of many farmers, mostly Italian and Japanese, to raised produce in South Park for sale at stalls in Pike Place Market.
Ironically, the area's industrialization during the 20th century left South Park dangerously polluted. Over the years the neighborhood has also struggled with crime and gentrification, and as if all that weren't enough, the bridge that had been South Park's most direct connection to the city since 1929 was closed in 2010 and its replacement is still under construction.
So it's both a wonder and no wonder at all that in 2007 master baker and Mexico City native Fernando Marquez Galicia looked around South Park and saw both a market and a need. As he told the Catch the Culture website, “South Park has lots of Latinos, lots of good people, and South Park needed a bakery.”
Today Pastelería y Panadería La Ideal is an aromatic neighborhood hotspot. The fresh-daily treats run the gamut from simple sweet breads (pan dulce) and pastries to fancy desserts. There's creamy caramel-topped flan, empanadas filled with fruit jams, jiggly gelatinas in colorful small cups, and pastel tres leches, a cake bathed in three kinds of milk (evaporated, condensed, and cream).
Conchas (above) are light buns topped with a soft sugar paste; before baking lines are stamped or raked into the paste, giving the bun a vaguely shell-like appearance. I also tried buns filled with custard (below left) and cream cheese (below right).
La Ideal is cash-only, but almost everything is between $0.50 and $1.00. So much about visiting South Park seems a little like traveling back in time--including the opportunity to gorge on fresh baked goods after spending only the small change scrounged from the floor of the car.