La Monarca (click here for address and info)
East LA, Santa Monica, Pasadena
Owner Ricardo Cervantes offers up a flavorful collection of traditional pan dulces with a decidedly LA-twist: they’re free of lard and preservatives. There're a few unusual-but-still-delicious items (like the guava and cream cheese croissants), but the classics (like the crumbly, powdered-sugar-covered wedding cookies) are kinda why you go.
La Mascota Bakery (click here for address and info)
A Boyle Heights icon, La Mascata bakery has been around for decades, and they know what they’re doing. Their bolillos and pan dulce are always fresh, and their tamales (both savory and sweet) are unrivaled. Of all the panaderias listed, La Mascata is ideal for that pan dulce novice who’s looking for an authentic, but also welcoming, culinary experience. Come early (like, before-8am-early) if you want your conchas to be as fresh as possible.
Stefan A. Slater is a freelance writer from LA, who covers everything from surfing to comic book culture, and has written for Huck, Surfermag.com, and Angeleno magazine. And yes, he firmly believes that one can never eat too many conchas. You can check out more of his work at stefanaslater.com.