Sakaya Kitchen Downtown: A First Look Including Baked Halloween Whoopie Pie

Sakaya Kitchen's downtown restaurant is still being worked on, but owner Richard Hales let Short Order have a sneak peek at the location and, most importantly, the kitchen where Baketress Vanessa Paz is already busy working on items that both surprise and delight.

Sakaya Kitchen Downtown, located at 125 SE Third Avenue, will feature the same color scheme and large chalkboard menu as the original. Upscale tabletops had just arrived, ready to be installed. Graffiti-inspired lamps were designed by Brooklyn artist Donna Brady.

Two counters, one for lunch and one for baked goods and Panther coffee, will ease traffic. The main difference, however, is in the size of the kitchen.

The new kitchen is large enough to serve as headquarters for both Hales'

food truck prep and bakery for Paz's operations. We visited Paz, who

was happily creating fall-inspired baked goods for Vizcaya's Halloween

bash. She showed us racks of whoopie pie components and giant cookies

fresh out of the oven. 

Paz plans to do re-mixes of classic

desserts with only two rules - they must have a twist (like miso soy

glaze on the pumpkin whoopie pies) and they can't be cupcakes. Why no

cupcake love? A saturated market. Instead, Vanessa and her assistant,

Lourdes Figuroa, will concentrate on pies, cookies, whoopie pies,

snickerdoodles, dessert bars, and doughnuts.

Hales is giving The

Baketress lots of creative freedom with her menu. "I'm a control freak", he told

Short Order. "I have my hand in everything in my business. I did these

floors myself. But, if I'm going to grow, I have to allow people that

are strong and creative to have input."

Though Hales is known

for his Korean-inspired Asian fusion cuisine, the first business he ever

worked at was a Tampa bakery from 1991-96. "I've always wanted to get

back into baking. This is perfect timing", he said.


Kitchen Downtown is just about ready for its opening, with The Baketress

food truck following soon after. In the meantime, you can snag one of

Vanessa Paz's pies ala mode ($4.50) or giant cookies ($2) at Sakaya

Kitchen Midtown.

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