From the outside, a passerby would not expect to find a warm, welcoming panaderia in the rugged strip mall on Bristol Street and Civic Center Drive. Inside there are tables and chairs waiting for you to sit and relax.
The glass display cases are filled with sweet vanilla and chocolate conchas, smiley-face galletas, strawberry besos, jalapeño cream cheese-filled bolillos, and more. Occasionally, champurrado, silky flan and delightful tres leches cake slices are available too. Nothing is made with dairy or eggs.
Vegan by Victoria’s is an animal-free pop-up inside of Victoria Bakery, one of Santa Ana’s many Mexican panaderias. Panadero Earvin Lopez creates all-vegan versions of classic Latino pastries.
“Being vegan means positivity, kindness and a better way of living, especially for the Hispanic community,” Lopez said.
Lopez, 23, started Vegan by Victoria’s five months ago inside Victoria Bakery, which is owned by his sister who specializes in custom cakes. Unsatisfied with his warehouse job, he decided to pursue what he enjoys doing, which is bake. Since he grew up in a family of bakers, he already knew the recipes.
“I just veganized them,” Lopez said.
The conchas and cuernitos are soft, squishy and sweet with the texture of a dinner roll. There are also health benefits since vegan bread contains no cholesterol and has less sugar than traditional pan dulce.
Lopez, who once weighed over 300 pounds, decided to follow the vegan path two years ago in order to lead a healthier lifestyle. Along with his weight, other health issues resolved themselves after he changed his diet.
“I used to get really bad migraines, but I’ve had no migraines since I turned vegan,” Lopez said.
Lopez is just one of a dozen young Mexican food vendors in the region who are gaining popularity for their take on Mexican favorites. Earlier this month, Lopez hosted his first animal-free pop-up in the back parking lot of his shop. He was inspired by a friend, the owner of Ontario-based MexVegana, who is experienced in leading her own pop-ups. The turn out was so good that he is hoping to present another pop-up in May.
“It’s empowering to share a message of compassion. We want to make a difference in our community, we want to help our people,” Vegatino’s owner Carol Paniagua said.
Vegan by Victoria’s is located at 709 N Bristol St, Santa Ana. Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, closed Sunday. Follow on Instagram @veganbyvictorias.