Every time I pass through Johnson City, I stop at the Dixie Quick Stop.
I don’t go for the gas, although sometimes I do fill the tank. I go for the little Mexican bakery tucked inside the worn-out Valero station at 500 U.S. 281. It sells the best pan dulce, or Mexican sweet bread, this side of the Rio Grande.
I discovered it six or seven years ago on a fluke. While gassing up, I noticed a sign on a support pillar beneath the awning over the gas pumps. “Bakery Inside” is all it said, and that’s all the prompting I needed.
Racks of pink, yellow, and golden-brown pastries fill cases nestled between displays of Pabst Blue Ribbon and bags of Fritos. Customers grab a pair of tongs and bag up what they want, then tell the clerk behind the counter what they’ve got.
The price never seems to be the same, but it’s always a bargain.
My favorite? The little hojarascas. They’re shaped like mini hockey pucks and taste like butter and cinnamon had a love child. My husband loves the long dough twists. I also love the big sugar cookies, especially the ones with a dollop of strawberry jam pressed into the center. There’s something I can only describe as two palm-sized bowls of yellow cake sealed together with a layer of red jam that makes me swoon.
I dropped by yesterday, on my way to stay at a cabin in Fredericksburg. I left with a bag of about a dozen pastries for less than $10.