Empanadas likely came to Spain and Portugal via the Arabs in the first century. They then migrated to South America. And, lucky for us, they’ve continued the journey and now appear on several menus around New York City. Herewith, our five favorite restaurants for empanadas. By Jessica Allen.
The owner brought his mother from Venezuela to oversee the kitchen in this bright, cheery restaurant—and, every time we eat here, we wonder why he ever left home. The draw here might be the arepas (arepera means “place that sells arepas, and Guacuco is the name of the beach where the owner was born). Nevertheless, the empanadas are equally outstanding. Try the cazón (shredded fish), ham and cheese, or vegetarian (toasted coconut, plantains, black beans, jalapeno, and spices).
This restaurant on the Upper West Side, has a fun back story: the chef/owner of Land Thai Kitchen so enjoyed his sous chef’s family meals that he decided to open a new restaurant to serve them. Heartwarming, right? Indeed. Among the standouts on Chef Pedro Hernandez Perez’s menu are the vegetable empanadas, stuffed with leeks, corn, epazote, collard greens, and pumpkin. They’re served as an appetizer at dinner, so you might consider making a meal by ordering two or three plates.
Empanada Mama offers more than 40 empanadas, from wheat flour to oven baked wheat flour to corn flour to dessert, from shredded chicken with sofrito sauce and red peppers to Greek sausage pie to rice and beans to hot dog and cheddar cheese (the so-called Americano) to tuna and jalapeno to figs, caramel, and cheese. To wash it all down, try the house-made salpicón, a fruit punch made from melon, bananas, grapes, watermelon, and apples. It’s especially refreshing during summer’s doggiest days.
An oldie but a goodie. Since 1975, Ruben’s has put out 12 or so types of empanadas, sweet and savory fillings snuggly nestled in a whole wheat crust. Choices include the traditional (shrimp, rice and beans, spicy chicken, and corn and pimentos) and the less so (spicy tofu, veggie chili, Western [a breakfast empanada stuffed with scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, and cheese). The Argentine sausage is a fan favorite: ground beef, onion, and pork in a red wine sauce. And get a guava and cheese empanada for dessert.
The first Argentinian bakery in Manhattan was opened in 2013 by Debora Caprov, who longed for the flavors and atmosphere of home. This Upper East Side restaurant serves sweet treats like liquor flan and ricotta squares, churros and other baked goods, Argentinian ice cream, coffee, sandwiches, and empanadas; delicious, flavorful, wonderful empanadas. Options include drunken chicken (in which the poultry has been braised with beer); flank steak, mushrooms, and shallots; and dates, leeks, pancetta, and goat cheese.