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[Photos: Sara Markel-Gonzalez]

Pandebono is a sweet, salty, cheesy, irregularly shaped ball of warm doughy goodness. A bread made from corn flour, yuca flour, sugar, and cheese, these Colombian snacks are quite unique. Each baker has their own special recipe, with their own combination of ingredients. I found some with a sweet, subtle flavor and some with so much cheese I could smell them baking from down the block.

Join me this week as I seek pandebono across Queens, in a quest that took me on a journey by bus, by train, and just down the street.

La Gitana Panaderia

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The majority of pandebonos to be found in Queens are right outside my door in Jackson Heights, but I wanted to explore further afield as well. To begin my pandebono morning, I headed to what I thought was La Casa Del Pandebono on Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven—but another Colombian bakery has taken its place, La Gitana. My pandebono ($1.25) came out of the display case still warm. Mostly sweet, with a hint of salt, the bread had a nice contrast of crunchy crust and soft doughy inside. A slight cheese flavor, and a uniform size and color.

La Gitana Panaderia

90-12 Jamaica Avenue, Woodhaven Queens 11421 (map)

La Casa del Pan

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I walked in to La Casa del Pan in Astoria at exactly the right time, the pandebonos ($1.25) were about to come out of the oven. During the five minute wait, I sat at the counter with a Postobon soda, happily listening to the vallenato music wafting out from the kitchen. This bread, fresh from the oven, was darker in color than the previous one, was crustier on the outside, and the inside collapsed immediately with the first sweet bite. This is the texture that I am familiar with, and the best way to describe it is glutinous, almost gelatinous, similar to Japanese mochi. I bought two and ate one immediately. One of the two best pandebono I tried.

La Casa del Pan

38-02 Broadway, Astoria Queens (map)

Las Americas Bakery

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This pandebono ($1) was sweet and soft, light in color. Since it was served from the case, I heated it up in my toaster oven at home to coax out more flavor. Although it looked and smelled cheesy, it didn't have much cheese taste. The interior was much more bread-like, with large bubbles, and did not have the chewy consistency of most others.

Las Americas Bakery

40-30 82nd Street, Elmhurst Queens (map)

La Gata Golosa

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La Gata Golosa is a great bakery; I stop by for their empanadas often, as they have a fantastic sauce, and I love their arepas de choclo. Their pandebono ($1.00) was nice as well. Dark and crusty, then sweet and soft. Subtle cheese flavor.

La Gata Golosa

82-63 Broadway, Elmhurst Queens (map)

MiraCali II and La Abunduncia

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The next two, from bakeries a block away from each other on Roosevelt Avenue were quite similar in flavor, though the final product looked quite different.

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Both were sweet and soft, both had the same nice chewiness, and neither had much of a crust. At MiraCali, the pan came from a hot tray, and at La Abundancia, from the display case. Both tasty, and both cost $1.

MiraCali II

76-04 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights Queens (map)

La Abundancia

75-02 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights Queens (map)

La Delicia en Pandebono

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Incredibly cheesy, incredibly dense, these guys are to blame for the smell that haunts me daily on my walks home from the train. This is no ordinary bakery. There are always fresh, hot pandebonos ($1.25) at La Delicia; and since the place is named after them, you know they'll be good. The most unique of the bunch, these pandebonos were flat and round, and flecked with cheese throughout, with a crisp crust and a chewy interior. Salty with a sweet aftertaste, and a nice contrast of textures and flavors. Different than the others, but great.

La Delicia en Pandebono

40-23 82nd Street, Elmhurst Queens (map)

The Winner

The best balance of sweet and savory, with a lovely ratio of crisp to soft, was La Casa de Pan in Astoria. The winner for freshness, flavor, and sheer cheesiness is La Delicia in Elmhurst. But with so many Colombian bakeries in Jackson Heights alone—not to mention the rest of Queens—there is no end in sight for this search.

Where do you get your favorite pandebono?

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