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

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All photos by Laine Doss
Richard Hales and Vanessa Paz teamed to form The Baketress
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. 

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Apple Pies wait for their turn in 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.

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Vanessa "Baketress" Paz tempts Richard Hales with ther whoopie pies.
Sakaya 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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Chocolate chip cookie pies
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Pumpkin whoopie pie with miso glaze and bacon crumbles
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Plum filled doughnut ready to be glazed.
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Pear almond bar with pecans in the background
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Direct from Brooklyn - graffiti lamps by artist Donna Brady
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Those whoopie pies look tasty, and so does Vanessa!

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