Esau Rodriguez Sr. yearned for a better life for his family. After opening Rodriguez Bakery & Restaurant, he began serving pastries he grew up making in Mexico, and in the process, achieved his dream.
It is just after 1 p.m., and the glass case previously brimming with a selection of delectable pan dulce items has dwindled considerably to two trays.
A middle-aged man walks in. He is promptly greeted and asked if he wants the regular. He nods and walks over to the case where he seems to ogle the remaining pastries. A few minutes later, he has a doggy bag filled with sweet Mexican bread in his hand. As he heads towards the door, he spots Esau Rodriguez Jr., the manager, and strikes up a conversation before going on his merry way.
Customers have been flocking to Rodriguez Bakery & Restaurant since its launch September 2009. Offering home-cooked foods that have captured the palates of Mexicans for centuries, it has become a go-to destination for casual dining.
“It was something my parents wanted to do for the family— start a business in order to achieve the American Dream,” Rodriguez Jr., 27, says. “They wanted to start something together and had hopes for a better future.”
His father, Esau Rodriguez Sr., is a second-generation baker. He learned the craft from his father, who began working at a bakery at age 9 in Mexico, and has been baking every since. “My dad took the same career, and he started working at 14. He has been doing it all his life.”
It is his dad’s much-loved recipes that are credited for the dozens of freshly-made, mouth-watering breads and pastries that customers crave. The golden brown orejitas are light, crispy treats that satisfies any sweet tooth with the perfect dose of cinnamon and sugar. For a richer option, sweet white rolls are stuffed with creamy Bavarian filling and blanketed with white icing and chopped pecans.
Rodriguez Jr.’s mother, Maria, is in charge of the classic Mexican cooking diners have come to expect. In the wintertime, the restaurant is swamped with orders of her steamy and hearty menudo. Rodriguez Jr. says they sell almost 400 pounds of the soup during the season.
“Within our family, she is definitely the best cook,” he says. “There is something about eating my mom’s cooking that has that extra ingredient that can’t be replicated.”
Since the beginning, the restaurant has expanded solely by word-of-mouth and the happenstance of customers finding their pan dulce at area grocery and convenience stores. Rodriguez Jr. attributes his family’s success and continual growth to the neighborhood-friendly location, the community’s support, the fresh foods they serve, and the customer service they are known for.
“Sometimes, we have customers who will sit for hours at a time,” he says.” We like that. We’ve grown friendships with a lot of people around here.”