Flatiron Lunch: Pan de Sal Serves Up Awesome Filipino Bakery Fare

Have you been craving delicious Filipino baked goods lately? Have you been scouring New York for hard-to-find Philippine pastries and rice desserts to no avail? No? Just me?  Pan de Sal, a sister restaurant/bakery to Grill 21 popped up on the corner of 21st + 2nd not too long ago (okay, maybe a year or so, but it takes a while to get to these things when you don’t work in the area). The bakery’s name sake, pan de sal, is a sweet-ish bread from the Philippines and one of my favorite childhood breakfasts, so it has been high on my list of places to check out for a while.

The first thing you notice when you walk in are the cakes, pastries, and other baked goods piled high all over the place. There are a couple of refrigerated cases with fruit salads, parfaits, and chocolate mousses, but that’s not what I was here for. For my meal, I ordered two of the pan de sal sandwiches listed on the menu, the chicken adobo and the spicy sardine ($2.50 apiece). At the last second, I also grabbed a mini empanada from the pile sitting on a plate next to the register ($2.25).

These sandwiches are small, so you’re defnitely going to need two or three for a decent sized lunch, but at $2.50 a pop it’s still pretty reasonable. I found the chicken adobo to be dry, which is pretty inexcusable so I’m hoping I caught it on a bad day. The flavors were decent and the pan de sal was fresh, fluffy, and delicious. The spicy sardine sandwich was tasty and moist without being too sardine-y, I would order this one again. The empanada was a definte skip. The girl at the counter told me it was beef, but the filling ended up being a flavorless chicken and vegetable mixture, and the empanada had clearly been frozen not so long ago.

The menu lists several lunch specials, including adobo plates, that all come in at $12.50, out of ML range, which is confusing because the Grill 21 lunch specials appear to all be $8. There are a few sandwiches listed, but they all seemed like pretty generic deli options. The real gems are the desserts:

On the left we have hopia, a puff pastry filled with sweet black bean paste. On the right, we have suman, sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf served with a sweet coconut dipping sauce. Inside it looks like this:

Heaven.

Bottom line, the lunch options are pretty limited in our price range, so Pan de Sal is probably best suited for those looking for a merienda (Tagalog for ‘snack’) while stocking up on hard to find Philippine baked goods.

Pan de Sal, 245 E. 21st St (At 2nd Ave), 212-228-8273

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