Oh boy, this is long. As some of you know it started back a few months ago. Well, I'm finally done. Enjoy.
First, if you just want the list, skip to the bottom. I've arranged them in alphabetical order, but ranked them according to my unscientific rankings: *** for very good and worth the drive; ** good if you are in the neighborhood; and * not worth the visit. Second, I've mapped them all on a Google Map. This took some time, but hope it's helpful: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&...
Now, for the preamble, followed by list:
One thing I’ve learned though is that as much as I might try, this list isn’t totally comprehensive. It seems like every day I find another place worth exploring. But hopefully we can continue to add to this.
The good news is that you can find some great empanadas here in Westchester County, spanning varieties from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay. Not many places around the country can boast that kind of variety. In short, there are a lot of very good, very traditional, very diverse empanadas to be eaten in Westchester.
The biggest difference in quality from place to place was whether or not they made their empanadas on site, and whether you could easily order them freshly made. You simply can’t beat freshly made empanadas. Only a short amount of time separates great empanadas from mediocrity. So, of the places I’ve listed, only those who made them freshly (fried or baked) got three stars.
Now, I have to be totally honest. Looking back on all the places I tried, I’m still left wanting. It isn’t that I didn’t find very good empanadas here and there. I definitely did. But I still feel like we can do better. I guess I feel like I still haven’t found the absolute empanada nirvana here. Maybe nostalgic feelings of meals with many South American friends when I lived in Australia or the great food I’ve had in Buenos Aires creates a bar impossible to reach. Maybe I’m chasing something unattainable? But whatever the case, it’s good motivation for me to keep looking.
So, I hope you enjoy the list. And please, be sure to let me know if I’ve missed any places and your impressions of any of the ones you’ve already tried.
THE EMPANADA LIST:
Asi Es Columbia Bakery Restaurant [***]
172 N Main St
Port Chester, NY 10573
This little Colombian place offers two kinds of empanadas - beef and chicken. They are traditional Colombian empanadas, made with corn flour, giving them a toothsome, dark yellow pastry dough. Both chicken and beef empanadas are fried and filled with both meat and potatoes. And the potatoes are more plentiful than the meat - which is fine by me. The chicken empanadas are round and cylindrical - shaped kind of like a fedora - while the beef are crescent shaped. The chicken had been sitting under a heat lamp but, surprisingly, still maintained a fresh, tender crust. The beef were fried to order and were outstanding. They come with a wonderful vinegary salsa that really cuts the grease of the fried empanadas.
Chapines Deli Gourmet [**]
17 Armonk Rd
Mt Kisco, NY 10549
This tiny, 2-table deli offers empanadas only early in the day. And even then, it’s not a guarantee that they’ll have them in that day. But if they do, and if you can get them fresh, they are good. These are very different from either the southern South American varieties (Argentine, Chilean or Uruguayan). They are larger, flatter and fried. Hand made and around $2 each. The chicken is very good, while the bean one is very different… in fact, it’s what I imagine an empanada would have been like in pre-Columbian times. Corn masa filled with nothing but refried beans. No adornments. No other filling. In fact, it’s a lot like a pupusa de frijoles, but drier. Good for the experience.
El Rincon Paisa [*]
132 North Main St.,
Port Chester, NY
This is a tiny, tiny place situated underneath the old “Rudy’s Express” sign and consists of a narrow galley with a bar for seating. They speak no English and serve a very small local clientele. They serve Colombian-style empanadas - meat, potatoes in a fried corn-flour crust. They are average. But with Asi es Colombia just a quick walk up the road, it’s not worth the stop if you are just looking for empanadas.
Inca y Gaucho [***]
173 Westchester Ave
Port Chester, NY 10573
This half Peruvian, half Argentine restaurant offers four different kinds of empanadas: beef, chicken, spinach and cheese, and ham and cheese. They only offer them fried, but they are made to order resulting in a perfect golden light, flaky crust. The beef is very traditional, ground beef and olives (though no egg). Very flavorful with a strong olive flavor. The chicken empanada was filled with shredded chicken, but a little dry and quite boring. The ham and cheese is exactly as you’d imagine ham with melted cheese to be. And finally, the spinach was good if you are a spinach lover.
Little Paraguay Deli [**]
23 Harrison Blvd
West Harrison, NY 10604
This tiny, off the beaten path deli has the biggest variety of any place I tried not named MED. They serve at least five different types of empanadas - carne (ground beef), Chileno (beef chunks), ham & cheese, chicken and choclo - all at $2 each. The carne empanada is very flavorful. It’s fried and filled with the standard ground beef with hard-boiled egg. The Chileno is made with chunks of very tender beef and two kinds of olives. My favorite though, was the choclo, very similar to a humitas empanada, it’s filled with corn kernels and a creamy sauce. Very good. The chicken empanada was very dry and I would definitely avoid the ham & cheese empanada, which seemed to be more like spam ground up with cheese. Not my cup of tea. But the others are good and worth the visit.
Los Andes Bakery [**]
180 Valley St.
Sleepy Hollow, NY 10562
The only purely Chilean bakery of the bunch, Los Andes offers the traditional Empanada de Pino, as well as a plain cheese empanada. The empanada de pino is huge and filled with ground beef, onions, olives and hard boiled eggs. The filling is very moist with a nice sweetness to the mix. The crust is very different to most other places though. It’s not a normal short-crumb pastry dough. Rather, it’s quite bready. Though traditional, I’ve never been as big of a fan of this type of crust. The only other problem with Los Andes is that unless you go early in the morning, the empanadas will need to be reheated. Which means a microwave if you want to eat them there or an oven if you bring them home. The latter is the better option. If you are shopping for any sweets though, this is the place to go. An amazing array of beautiful Chilean pastries.
MED Empanadas [***]
1205 Pleasantville Road
Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510
Med, which only opened in late 2008, is the only stand alone empanada shop in Westchester County. In fact, it might be the only one in the tristate area outside of NYC. They offer around 30 different types of empanadas. The owner, from Uruguay, formerly owned a small chain of empanada stores in Montevideo.
The name MED seemed odd to me until I finally tried it. Clearly, they are trying to make empanadas cosmopolitan. Which, given the massive Mediterranean influences in South America, it makes a lot of sense. This point was brought home as soon as I tried their house special, “MED” empanada. A very large, round empanada filled with olives, cheese and spices that clearly hearken to Spain and Greece.
My favorites at MED though, are the more traditional South American empanadas. The Mendocino, a typical ground beef empanada with olives, is very good, as is the humita, filled with cheese and corn kernals. I also highly recommend the “rosetta” a nod to the Italian influences in South America, is filled with tomatos, basil and mozzarella. Excellent. My only complaint is that once my humita empanada was still partially frozen in the interior. Not appetizing. Otherwise, MED’s empanadas have been excellent.
Empanadas range from $3 to $4.50 and you have the choice of fried or baked for each variety. Just give yourself an extra 10 or 15 minutes if you want yours baked.
Misti Cafe Take Out [*]
100 N Main St
Port Chester, NY 10573
This tiny corner cafe, is the step-sister of the larger Pollo ala Brasa Misti restaurant two doors down. These were the least appetizing of all the empanadas I tried. The crust was chewy and stale. The fillings were dry and boring. I like this cafe for the rotisserie chicken. But don’t try the empanadas.
Panaderia Uruguaya Las Gemelas [**]
204 Westchester Ave
Port Chester, NY 10573
I want to love Panaderia Uruguaya’s empanadas. The problem is, they aren’t made on site, and thus they suffer. They offer three kinds: chicken, beef and cheese. The chicken and beef empanadas are baked, while their cheese is fried. Because they get their empanadas from a bakery in Queens, if you want to eat them there, they’ve got to be microwaved, killing the goodness of any crust. You are better off taking them home and reheating in an oven. The beef is standard - ground beef, olives, onions, and hard boiled egg. The chicken is quite good - stewed, shredded and filled with tomatoes - is the most moist chicken empanada I tried. Unfortunately, the microwaved crust negates a lot of the goodness…
Rinconcito Equatoriano [***]
150 N Main St
Port Chester, NY 10573
An old plastic sign with a boring exterior belies a vibrant attractive interior at this Ecuadorian restaurant. The walls are adorned in huge paintings of Ecuadorian celebrities - soccer players, tennis stars and even a few musicians. They speak no English, but have an English menu that one can navigate quite easily. They offer two different kinds of empanadas. Beef with corn filled in a corn flour pastry, and one made with green plantains. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the plantain variety last time I tried. But the beef empanada was excellent. In fact, it was probably the best single empanada I tried. It’s made to order and arrives as a small, perfectly shaped crescent deep fried to a deep yellow, almost orange color. The filling of ground beef with corn is moist and flavorful. At only $1.25, they are truly a steal. Order four and you’ve got a nice
Tango Grill [**]
128 E Post Rd
White Plains, NY 10601
Tango Grill is an Argentine steakhouse, but as an appetizer, they offer empanadas. They only offer beef empanadas, and two to an order. At $9 an order, they are the most expensive of any other choice, but considering it’s an expensive sit-down restaurant it’s not unexpected. As far as empanadas go, the crust is about as perfect as you can find: light, delicate and flaky. They are baked and filled with ground beef - no olives and no egg. The beef has a lot of flavor with a curry-like undertone. I was hoping for them to be a little more moist, but overall a good empanada. I wouldn’t recommend anyone going just for the empanadas since they gave me a bit of an awkward look when I asked for just empanadas to go. For take out, head to MED or Inca y Gaucho. But if you are going there for the full Argentine steakhouse experience, these make great appetizers.
193 Main St
Ossining, NY 10562
This is a very cute little Colombian coffee shop and bakery. They only offer one kind of empanada - beef with potatoes. Like other Colombian places, the empanadas are made with corn flour and fried. Unfortunately, they were a little too greasy for me, and, having needed to be reheated in a microwave, suffered from a chewier crust than I’d have wanted. If you can find them freshly out of the fryer, they would be much better.