An Empanada Lover’s Guide to Westchester County
This is an always changing list. Please submit your additions in the comments. The places below are listed alphabetically, but I’ve ranked them in the following (totally scientific) way:
*** = very good and worth the trek
** = good if you are in the area
* = not worth the trip
Asi Es Colombia Bakery Restaurant [***]
172 N Main St
Port Chester, NY 10573
Asi Es Colombia has been my go-to Colombian restaurant and bakery in Port Chester for a number of years now, but it took this expedition to actually try their empanadas. I’m glad I did. They offer traditional Colombian empanadas – either beef or chicken – made with corn flour resulting in a toothsome, dark yellow crust. Both chicken and beef empanadas are fried and filled with meat and potatoes. The potatoes are more plentiful than the meat – which is fine by me. The chicken empanadas are round and cylindrical – shaped not unlike a fedora – while the beef are crescent shaped. The chicken empanada had been sitting under a heat lamp but, surprisingly, still maintained a fresh, tender crust. The beef empanadas were fried to order and were, simply, outstanding. Asi es Colombia serves their empanadas with a wonderful vinegary salsa that cuts the grease of the fried empanadas.
Aqui es Santa Fe [***]
30 Broad St
Port Chester, NY
Aqui es Santa Fe is literally a stone throw from the Port Chester train station. A small, but very attractively decorated luncheonette, Santa Fe offers a small, rotating menu of Colombian meals – from arepas to homey sopas to full meals. And, importantly for this list, they offer empanadas too. At only $1 each, they are the cheapest on this list. They are quite small, not much larger than a Chinese dumpling, but at two to an order, they are perfect. Santa Fe offers two kinds – chicken or beef – both filled with potatoes. The dough is corn based, like all other Colombian ones I’ve had in these parts. They have a very pale color, but are fried to order ensuring they are crisp, fresh and wonderful. Served with a nice vinegary salsa that cuts the grease, they are a wonderful appetizer or snack to go.
Chapines Deli Gourmet [**]
17 Armonk Rd
Mt Kisco, NY 10549
Chapines Deli is a 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 the southern well-known South American varieties of Argentine, Chilean or Uruguay. The chicken empanada is a 5-inch flat semi circle, made from corn flour, and fried to a dark golden yellow and resembled any number of other empanadas in taste. The bean empanada, however, is quite different to any other empanada I tried. In fact, they are what I imagine an empanada might have been like in pre-Columbian times. Nothing but a corn masa dough filled with plain refried black beans, then flattened and cooked on a dry griddle. The bean empanada came with no other adornments or filling. In fact, it’s a lot like a pupusa de frijoles, but drier. Good for the experience, but I can’t say I’m rushing to go back for more.
CRV Deli Salteñeria[**]
106 Westchester Avenue,
Port Chester, NY
CRV Deli Salteñeria is the only Bolivian restaurant I’m aware of in Westchester. As such, I don’t have much of a direct comparison from which to judge their empanadas (called salteñas in Bolivia). Regardless, they offer a distinctly different variety from of empanadas than all the others I tried. They have two kinds, beef and chicken, and are made by the owner’s mother. They’ll reheat them for you in a toaster oven. It takes about 5 minutes, but it’s infinitely better than having them reheated in the microwave.
The dough of the empanada is a deep yellow color. But unlike Colombian empanadas that get their color from the corn flour, these are made with normal wheat flour. However, the addition of a tiny amount of Bolivian red chile gives the empanadas a distinctly yellow color. I couldn’t detect any discernable flavor from the chile. The texture and consistency of the dough is different too. Instead of being flaky, it’s soft and moist. And the filling is very different too. Both the beef and chicken empanadas are very juicy inside, with a savory-sweet gravy holding it all together. The chicken is made with very small pieces of chicken and hard boiled egg encased, while the beef is made with small chunks of tender beef, not ground beef like most other empanadas.
The flavor of the filling is very different to every other empanada I’ve tried lately. Like many things I try for the first time, I’m a little undecided on how much I liked them or not. I definitely need to go back and do some more testing. But one thing was sure, the combination of the rich soft dough, and juicy, savory-sweet filling, made these very homey. I’m guessing these are the ultimate comfort food in Bolivia.
El Rincon Paisa [*]
132 North Main St.,
Port Chester, NY
Quite frankly, I’m not sure entirely positive I know the real name of this restaurant. While the painted windows claim, “El Rincon Paisa,” the little restaurant sits beneath the old “Rudy’s Express.” Inside, it’s not much more than a narrow galley with bar 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. These empanadas are of average quality, but considering Asi es Colombia is just a quick walk up the road, it’s not worth the stop if you are just looking for the empanadas.
Inca y Gaucho [***]
173 Westchester Ave
Port Chester, NY 10573
Inca y Gaucho is a half Peruvian, half Argentine restaurant that offers four different kinds of empanadas: beef, chicken, spinach and cheese, and ham and cheese. They only offer only fried empanadas, but they are fried to order resulting in a perfect golden light, flaky crust. In fact, the crust on these empanadas may be the best of any fried versions I tried on my expedition. The beef empanada is very traditional, filled with ground beef and olives (though no egg). 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, with a very strong garlic flavor. But just a warning, you really need to be a spinach lover for these.
Little Paraguay Deli [**]
23 Harrison Blvd
West Harrison, NY 10604
Little Paraguay Deli is a tiny, off-the-beaten-path deli that 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 and cheese, chicken and choclo – all at $2 each. The carne empanada is very flavorful, fried and filled with the standard ground beef with hard-boiled egg. The Chileno empanada is baked, and made with chunks of very tender beef and two kinds of olives. My favorite though, was the choclo empanada, very similar to a humitas empanada, filled with corn kernels and a creamy sauce. Excellent. The chicken empanada, however, was dry and bland, consisting of nothing more than a big mass of shredded chicken. I would also avoid the ham and cheese empanada, which seemed to be more like ground spam and 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 beef, onions, olives and hard boiled eggs. The filling is very moist with a nice touch of sweetness. The crust is very different to the other empanadas in town – more bread-like than pastry. 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. And that short stint in the microwave reduces an otherwise excellent empanada to complete mediocrity. You are better off taking them home cold and reheating them in your oven. If you are in the market for Latin American sweets though, this is your place. Los Andes has an amazing – and beautiful – array of Chilean pastries that would satisfy even the most ravenous sweet tooth.
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 the provincial empanada decidedly cosmopolitan. 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 “bruschetta” a nod to the Italian influence in Argentina, is filled with tomatos, basil and mozzarella. Excellent. The spinach and goat cheese empanada is also excellent.
The only complaint I’ve ever had at MED was that once my fried humita empanada was still partially frozen in the interior. Not appetizing. Otherwise, MED’s empanadas are consistently excellent.
Empanadas range from $3 to $4.50 and you have the choice of fried or baked for each variety. You’ll need an extra 10 or 15 minutes if you want yours baked, but it’s worth it as the baked empanadas preserve the tenderness of the crust.
Misti Cafe Take Out [*]
100 N Main St
Port Chester, NY 10573
Misti Cafe is a tiny corner cafe and 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 and the fillings were dry and boring. I love this cafe for the rotisserie Peruvian chicken. But don’t try the empanadas.
Panaderia Uruguaya Las Gemelas [**]
204 Westchester Ave
Port Chester, NY 10573
I have always wanted to love Panaderia Uruguaya’s empanadas. After all, they look perfect in the glass case. The problem is, they don’t bake anything on site (they source their empanadas from a bakery in Queens) and thus their empanadas suffer from the microwave fate. As with Los Andes, you are better off taking the empanadas home and reheating them in your oven.
They offer three kinds of empanadas: chicken, beef and cheese. The chicken and beef empanadas are baked, while the cheese variety is fried. The beef is standard – ground beef, olives, onions, and hard boiled egg. The chicken is quite good – stewed, shredded and filled with tomatoes – and is the most moist of any 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 an vibrant and attractive interior at this Ecuadorian restaurant on the main strip in Port Chester. 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 may have been 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 meal for a cool $5. But my recommendation would be to grab a couple as an appetizer then try out some of the other Ecuadorian specialties.
Tango Grill [**]
128 E Post Rd
White Plains, NY 10601
Tango Grill is an Argentine steakhouse, but offer beef empanadas as an appetizer. At $9 for an order of two, they are by far the most expensive of all the places I tried. 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
Quimbaya 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, Quimbaya’s empanadas are a little too greasy for me, and, because they generally need to be reheated in a microwave, suffer from a chewier crust than would like. If you can order them freshly out of the fryer, they would be much better. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to predict when they will be freshly made and as such, haven’t been able to get them freshly made.