You can tell me the entryway floor mat at Mama Ines Mexican Bakery’s flagship Lafayette location is just a place to shake off snow. What I believe: It’s a pillow to cushion your jaw dropping upon the sight you behold.
A supersized sugar shack with station after station of delectable selections, Mama Ines’s Sagamore Parkway spot is a mecca for delicious morning, mid-afternoon or, for insomniac sweet teeth, midnight snacks. (The space may suggest a full-service, sit-down spot, but Mama Ines is takeout only. All the more room for a litany of from-scratch baked goods.)
“People assume we’ve got maybe 20 or 30 different items. But they walk in and see it’s more like 100,” says Rosa Gaeta Cornejo, who has owned Mama Ines in Lafayette for 19 years – three of those at the flagship location. (She also operates a satellite Lafayette shop and two Indianapolis locations.)
Of her inspiration, Gaeta Cornejo says simply that the market needed a Mexican bakery and she needed a business. Although pan dulce (sweet breads) and Calaveras de azucar (sugar skulls) or pan de Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead bread) are a hit with her Hispanic clientele, she’s proud to see audiences of all backgrounds enjoying conchas, tres leches (three-milk) cake, churros, custom-ordered cakes, tamales and more.
Although not a Mexican restaurant per se, Mama Ines’s tamales – seasoned meat wrapped in cornmeal and then steamed in corn husks – are a necessity. Served fresh daily as they last or available refrigerated, they’re available from mild all the way up to, as Gaeta Cornejo calls it, diabólico, which she says “might make you cry.” Those stopping short of diabólico will still find a textured, flavorful heat in the green sauce.
“At first (people) might suffer from the spiciness, but then they become addicted,” Gaeta Cornejo says.
The bakery is, of course, Mama Ines’s main attraction, with most items available for less than $1 each. Where to start? Grab a platter, a pair of tongs and start picking.
Filled with the perfect amount of cream, their churros (a cinnamon-sweetened stick of dough) will, quite frankly, erase most memories of your favorite filled doughnuts. The Mexican wedding cookie is a crumbly, sugar-dusted delight. You’ll savor slices of marshmallow-soft tres leches cake. There are umpteen flavors of empanadas (folded, filled pastries) from which to choose – apple, strawberry, pumpkin and guava, to name a few. Ditto the conchas (cookie-crusted sweet rolls shaped like conch shells). Curious about something? Unsure of its taste? Gaeta Cornejo and her staff are happy to guide you.
Best of all, you can enjoy numerous treats without blowing your budget. Two tamales, eight pastries and a cup of hot chocolate (recommended to dip pastries in after warming them at home) cost just more than $13 – plenty with which to fill your jaw once you’ve scooped it back up.
518 Sagamore Parkway N.
3107 Builder Dr., Suite 15
(765) 446-2629 (Sagamore Parkway location)
Individual items range from under $1 to ~$3.
Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015.
Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.