According to Vanarin Kuch, founder and owner of Koffeteria, people have come into his East Downtown cafe just to take a picture with his Hot Cheeto croissant. But let me specify: They don't buy the pastry, they just take a picture of the fire-emoji-level croissant as it sits behind the case.
As Koffeteria opened, the Hot Cheeto croissant got its share of press, and if you eat it, you may be surprised that inside is a thick and rich portion of nacho cheese. After experiencing the initial shock of seeing a cheesy creek spill from your croissant, you'll realize that you can now dip the pastry into the cheese. Then you'll realize the actual croissant is delicious. Seriously, everything here is good.
Kuch, whose resumé includes a stint at Tiny Boxwoods and an appearance on Top Chef: Just Desserts, says no matter what he's creating, he strives for consistency.
"When you get a Hot Cheeto croissant, I want everyone to have the exact same experience," he says. "As long as we're consistent on our end, we're doing good."
If you want to step away from the hype machine and enjoy a pastry that speaks to that consistency and execution, try Kuch's pistachio baklava croissant.
Baklava is typically structured like an office building: a couple stories of nuts, honey, and syrup smashed in between flaky floor and ceiling. But Kuch's version isn't that. He packs together layers of feathery croissant dough in a wave-like formation inspired by, surprisingly, the finger waves black women create in their hair.
"I had finished watching a few hours of YouTube videos about finger waves and really wanted to translate that into pastries," says Kuch. Pull apart each honey-soaked layer with your fingers to reveal the pistachios tucked into crevices and lining the walls.
I had some of the Hot Cheeto croissant, some of the pho kolache, and a honey-fied version of a kouign-amann called Queen Bee, and all were outstanding, but the baklava croissant is staying with me the longest. It's a special pastry pulling together disparate ideas in the most delicious way.
I can't wait to return. Koffeteria is airy and playful with a white backdrop and handsome mid-century furniture, plus colorful art designed to be conversation pieces. The vibe isn't serious, and Kuch's pastries don't look serious at first blush. But truly, these creations are on another level.