Finally, my empanada expedition is complete (sort of)

After more than two months of stringing together lunch hours and stealing away for random “errands” as much as possible, I feel I’ve finally tried enough places to put together a somewhat comprehensive guide to empanadas in Westchester County. 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. So rather than putting up a new blog post every time I find a new place, I’ve instead created a whole new page that can be updated at will. Here it is: The Empanada Lover’s Guide to Westchester County, complete with a detailed description of every place I tried, ranked by one, two or three stars, as well as a color-coded Google map showing all the locations.

My hope is that as I – or any of you – find new places I’ll continue to update this list. Just leave comments here or on that page if you have any suggestions, additions or edits. Your input will make it much more complete.

So, head over to that page to check out the complete list.

On this post I just want to share some overall impressions. First, 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 great empanadas here and there. 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 in Australia and 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.


A Chau Deli in NYC closing

Sadly, it looks like A Chau Deli in NYC’s Chinatown, is closing it’s doors due to high rent. A Chau has been my reliable banh mi provider for a few years now, so this is a big bummer for me. Luckily Baoguette is only a few blocks from work, but even still, this isn’t a positive improvement for the state of the banh mi in NYC.

I think it’s time for an all out banh mi showdown in NYC. First I’ve got to write up my Westchester Empanada report though…


Omar Restaurant (Comida Peruana Omar) in Stamford

 

This little Peruvian restaurant is in the same space formerly occupied by Rolando’s Tacos, which closed back in 2004 (sniff), and then Al’s Texas Chili, which closed in 2007-ish (hooray). Sitting next door to the Guatemalan Antojitos Chapines and just up the hill from the Mexican Casa Villa, it forms a nice trifecta of Latin food in this little corner of Stamford.

Ever since it opened about a year ago, I’ve been meaning to stop in and see how it fares compared with some of the other Peruvian places in Stamford. I decided to try the Peruvian standard, Lomo Saltado ($7) and was very impressed. The beef was freshly cooked, served piping hot with the usual stir-fried onions and tomatoes, topped with fresh cilantro, all sitting atop a huge mound of rice and french fries. Overall, this lomo saltado was quite good. A bit salty, but certainly up to par with any other lomo saltado in Stamford. Oh, and don’t fret when they bring you a red ketchup bottle. It’s actually filled with that wonderful spicy green aji sauce.

The restaurant has English menus, which is good because as far as I can tell, the staff speaks none. But the nice older lady manning the counter was very attentive and endearingly sweet. I’d like to go back and try all the other options on their menus, which seems to cover all the usual Peruvian suspects (Lomo saltado, pollo saltado, papas a la huancaina, caldo de gallina, pollo ala brasa, etc., etc….).

Definitely worth a return visit.


Homemade empanadas

After two-months of hunting for the best empanadas in Westchester County, I am finally ready to type up all my notes and put together my report. However, in the meantime, I’d just like to state that I’m pretty proud my own homemade empanadas would hold up really well compared to the best around:

homemade empanadas


At the top of my to-do list

I’ve been on a Port Chester binge lately. And in delving deeper into PC goodness, I’ve been tripping over some new places that I’m dying to try. If only I didn’t have pesky work (or limited cash), I’d try them today. But in the meantime, here are the three places now at the top of my to do list:

  1. Rancho Grande, 8 Poningo Street, Port Chester, NY
    This is a little Mexican place that always seems so lonely I feel guilty not going in and trying it out. Every time I pass by, one of the owners is peering out the window like a puppy dog waiting for an owner. If for no other reason than to absolve myself of guilt, I need to try this place.
  2. Aqui es Santa Fe Cafe, 32 Broad Street, Port Chester, NY 10573 (914) 305 1060
    IMG00008-20081204-1323
    I wrote up more about this place here on Chowhound, but, briefly, it’s a nice, cozy little place for which I’m holding out a lot of promise.
  3. Keylee’s Restaurant, 11 Pearl St., Port Chester, NY
    Keylee's Guatemalteco Restaurant
    I snapped this photo as a friend and I drove down to Rinconcito Migueleño. I have no idea how long this has been around, but any place that references “guatemalteco” food is worth noticing. I’m hoping for some great hand-made tortillas. Here’s hoping.

So many places, so little time…