Sweet Heart of the Mission

En Español

Just a couple of years ago when wheat prices had escalated, and competition on 24th street had increased, the son of the founding father of La Victoria Bakery and Kitchen, one of the Mission District’s oldest businesses, talked about closing down.

Today,  thanks to an if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them-business move,  that seems unlikely.  To survive, Jaime Maldonado  started renting out his kitchen and holding community events including the hipster street cart scene that joins his Saturday afternoon Sweet Corazón de la Mission (Sweet Heart of the Mission).

Food cart vendors gather at La Victoria offering dishes like Argentinean empanadas, Oaxacan mole, sushi, gumbo, vegan dishes, African American style barbecue, Jewish and Jamaican food, and sometimes innovative creations like duck confit chilaquiles with a quail egg.

“I always said I want to work somewhere where I feel good, proud and comfortable, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” said Maldonado adding that La Victoria wants to keep its Latin feeling but also appeal to the newcomers.

While the Mission District is still nearly 50 percent Latino an increasing number of young professionals – white, Latino and South Asian – have moved in and embraced the food culture of local, experimental and healthy.

“Last week we had a really interesting crowd, pretty diverse, a lot of families, a lot of couples,” said composer and musician Joan Cerqueiro who plays at La Victoria.

Anita Shih, who with her boyfriend Justin Williams started the Ninja Pie Cart to make some extra money was there. Once a week Shih and Williams cook together and sell small versions of chicken and spinach mushroom potpies at $5 and $4.  “We look for spots where people hang around like parks,” she said.

By word of mouth from another cart vendor they heard of Sweet Corazón de la Mission and joined in.  “It has been fun, they have really good musicians,” said Williams also mentioning, “We haven’t lost any money,” referring to the unpredictable customers’ attendance.

Sweet Corazon attracts new as well as old residents.

Mission neighborhood residents Robin and Jon Worona live only few blocks away from La Victoria.  After walking by several times they started taking baked goods and tamales home.  Last Saturday night they ate inside and tried the vegetarian sopes and spinach empanadas.

Margaret Ysselstein  said that when she lived in the Mission neighborhood during the 70s she bought pan dulce there.

At that time, La Victoria first opened in 1951 by Maldonado’s father Gabriel, had already been serving the Latino community for 21 years.

Maldonado, who grew up working in the bakery, worked with his father and took over the business in 1992.  Not much had been done to the bakery in years and the young Maldonado decided to renovate.  The project took 15 years and when he was finished, there was new competition on the block.

When Mission Loc@l talked to him last time in October 2008, he wondered if he could survive.  “I’m broke,” he said back then.  Nowadays, however, he feels differently.

If he were to sell, “People would say, ‘How could you that [to the community]?,’” he said.  But “if instead of La Victoria, Starbucks opens tomorrow the same people would be buying a $5 cup of coffee,” he added.

Besides Saturday’ events the bakery offers Soul Cocina Suppers on Thursdays.  Every week a different chef creates a la carte menu that offers dishes from $7 to $14.

“If you want these places to exist you have to make a conscious effort to go there,” said Maldonado.  Small businesses, he said, need the community support to stay afloat.

La Victoria Bakery is open everyday of the week.

Address: 2937 24th Street

Hours: M-F 6am-9pm and S-S 7am-9pm

Filed under: Food, Front Page

9 Comments

  1. Manuel Chavez Sr.

    Congratulations on your very well written article. It feels good too.

  2. Back in the 70s, La Victoria Restaurant on Alabama Street was a favorite for us SF Mime Troupers and other artists in the community. The best way was to enter on 24th Street go through the bakery store and past the sweet odors of the ovens and into the restaurant. What a wonderful revival!

  3. Victor

    Viva La Victoria!! Fun music and good food… I like the sopes!

  4. veronica Herrea

    Growing up I lived on the Peninsula and remember taking Sunday afternoon drives with my family into the city just to buy pan dulce at la Victoria. There was no good local panaderias. You could even walk into the back and pick your own fresh bread still on the trays.

  5. bb

    Jaime and La Victoria are such assets to the community. When my daughter was going to Buena Vista Elementary, La Victoria would welcome dozens of groups of kids into the kitchen to see how “Dia de los Muertos” pan dulce is made. They probably still do this.

  6. pch

    Great story – I love La Victoria and used to go there a lot when I lived at 25th x York.

  7. artifact

    How come no one mentioned the old ladies who used to do all the cooking and serving at the restaurant? La Victoria was special and inexpensive. They served no alcohol but were happy to have you bring Dos Equis or Bohemias in from the bakery/liquor store across the street. After dinner, the pastries up front, then a walk down 24th. An excellent inexpensive authentic rewarding memorable experience every time.

  8. luchagrande

    We took a group of neighborhood youth that are a part of the PODER youth organizer team and we were treated to a great bread baking session with Danny Grabiner Paz from Sour Flour who is baking out of La VIctoria when the ovens aren’t firing up pan dulce. Then while there we met up with Manuel Godino who runs Venga Empanadas. He hooked us up with an assortment of delicious corn, cheese, chicken, and spinach emapanadas. Most of us were raised in the neighborhood from Mexican & Central American backgrounds so we had never eaten a South American emapanada or baked our own sourdough bread. I like how La Victoria is making ends meet while providing some much needed support to micro-enterprise businesses. It would be great to see other businesses do likewise and provide this resource to families struggling in the neighborhood or to the immgrant street vendors who don’t have access to the new-found street food resurgence.

  9. alex gomez

    I am proud that Jaime is keepimg his family bussiness around for the mission neighborhood i grew up on bernal heights alabama st i use to walked to 24st la victoria and also across street pan duce store that bake fresh pan duce now times had change i hope the mission be a thing of the past that would be ashame.

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