Tempe Bakery Offers Pork Buns, Pies for Pennies

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We grew up in New York, where ethnic bakeries were practically on every corner. When Mom showed up with a white bakery box in hand, wrapped neatly with a red-and-white striped string bow, we knew we were in for a treat. Creamy cannoli with chocolate chips. Raspberry jelly-laced rainbow layer cookies. Black-and-whites. As Rachael Ray would say, "Yum-o." 

So when we spotted a guy shaking a giant "Now Open" sign outside Donna's Bakery & Cafe near Elliot Rd. and Kyrene in Tempe last week, we had to take a peek. Inside were shelves and refrigerated cases crammed with homemade baked goods from Chinese pork buns to Tiramisu Mousse Cake. The best part is, everything's made from scratch in the bakery's back kitchen.       

The original Donna's opened in Portland, Oregon about four years ago, and is still there today. Owner Tony Yu and his wife Donna relocated to Arizona last year, and the couple decided to open a sister branch of their beloved bake shop in Tempe. Since it quietly opened in August, the cafe has gained a loyal following among the local business crowd who pop by for their inexpensive breakfast and lunch sandwich specials.

We spotted traditional European and American sweets such as apple strudel, croissants and lemon pound cake on the shelves at Donna's, but the real treats here are the Asian baked goods. They stock Chinese lotus cakes and dozens upon dozens of traditional filled buns in individually wrapped packages: pork sung, pineapple, curry beef and red bean, to name a few. Their deliciously sweet and savory coconut-taro bun, which we sampled, contains hand-peeled and mashed taro root.

The Japanese Style Bacon-Onion Bun and Taiwanese Raisin Custard Bun also sounded intriguing. How did Donna's come to represent such a broad range of cultures? "I was very lucky and I had an opportunity when I was in California to work together with people from Taiwan, Europe and Japan," Yu tells New Times. "So we exchanged experiences and learned from each other. That's how we have the different influences."  

Get a coffee-flavored cake for the price of a grande latte.

​We were shocked at how reasonable the prices are at Donna's. Since the infamous "Cupcake Boom" swept Arizona a few years ago, Phoenicians have gotten used to paying $3 for a single cupcake at other local bakeries. Here, you can buy an entire bag of mini cupcakes for half that price.

Cake slices run as little as $1.29 and an entire swiss roll or coffee cake is less than six bucks. "We want to make high-quality products at an affordable price," says Yu. "In that way, you can get more people to come in the door, and more repeat customers." Hopefully our New Year's resolution for 2010 won't be diet-related, because this place could become a habit.

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