Restaurant News & Reviews

The 12 best places to get your hands on an empanada

The Buffalo Chicken Empanada and Beef Empanada are popular items on the menu on the Spanglish food truck.
The Buffalo Chicken Empanada and Beef Empanada are popular items on the menu on the Spanglish food truck. jleonard@newsobserver.com

A monthly roundup of ethnic eats, counter service chow and other tasty bargains. This month’s mission: get our hands on some empanadas.

Given the portable nature of these Latin American street food-inspired hand pies, it comes as no surprise that they’re a popular food truck offering.

Calavera

444-101 S. Blount St., Raleigh

919-617-1661

calaveraempanadas.com

Get your hands on this: A dozen variations on the empanada theme, from traditional chicken tinga to Piggly Wiggly (slow-smoked Carolina-style pulled pork). Plenty of vegetarian choices, too, including tequila-marinated poblanos with Duranguense melting cheese. Empanadas are reasonably priced at $4 a pop, but the excellent tequila selection can drive up the tab in a hurry.

Empanada Factory

2010-406 S. Main St., Wake Forest

984-235-4239

theempanadafactorywf.com

Get your hands on this: The motherlode of empanada selections – over 40 to choose from, from Camaron Diablo (jerk shrimp with pineapples and jalapeños) to Philly Cheesesteak. For breakfast, how about El Paisa (fried pork belly, egg and Colombian sausage)? Dessert? Romeo & Juliet (guava and cream cheese) is a match made in heaven.

Esperanza

370-180 E. Main St., Carrboro

919-617-1674

esperanzanc.com

Get your hands on this: Baked empanadas with your choice of a dozen fillings, from grilled peach and chorizo to Southern collard kimchi with shredded chicken. For dessert, how about the nutella- and banana-filled King of Kong? Like Calavera, the restaurant that Esperanza spun off from (though the two are no longer affiliated), an impressive tequila selection can nudge the dial out of the Cheap Eats range.

Fuzzy’s Empanadas

Food truck

fuzzysempanadas.com or Twitter (@fuzzysempanadas) for location.

Get your hands on this: The Fuzzy, with a picadillo-inspired filling of ground beef, peppers, cilantro, tomatoes and Spanish olives, is my favorite. But I wouldn’t say no to the Triple P (pork sausage, ham and chorizo). For dessert, grab the apple-raisin-walnut empanada if it’s available.

Taqueria La Vaquita

2700 Chapel Hill Road, Durham

919-402-0209

lavaquitanc.com

Get your hands on this: Authentic Mexican empanadas, with taqueria-style fillings including carne asada, pollo, barbacoa and al pastor. Note: La Vaquita is a small shop with a takeout window, no indoor seating.

Lucha Tigre

746 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill

919-904-7326

luchatigre.com

Get your hands on this: A Latin-Asian fusion take on empanadas translates to hand pies with names like General Chicken, Roasted Poblano Corn, Red Curry Chicken, Shiitake & Queso, and Asian Pulled Pork. The empanadas are a bargain ($3.50 last time I checked), but if you’re looking for a cheap meal, you’ll need to resist the siren call of the bar’s specialty tequila and sake selections.

Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas

112 W. Main St., Durham

984-439-8702

lunarotisserie.com

Get your hands on this: Blackened chicken with Yukon gold potatoes and roasted peppers; pork carnitas with caramelized onions, hominy and collards; and a vegetarian medley of quinoa, black beans, corn and pepper jack – a few of the ways Luna wraps its motto (“South American / American South”) in a baked pastry crust.

Makus Empanadas

1125-304 N.C. 54, Durham

919-390-7525

makusempanadas.com

Get your hands on this: Baked, braided-crust empanadas with your choice of 10 fillings (11 if you count the Empadog, a hot dog wrapped in empanada dough), from bacon and cheese to pork chimichurri to sweet corn (one of three vegetarian options). Grab a couple of homemade dulce de leche cookies for dessert.

Morfa Empanadas

Food truck

facebook.com/morfaempanadas or Twitter (@morfaempanadas) for location

Get your hands on this: “Argentinean-inspired” baked empanadas – among the three or four options are typically offered, you might find organic spinach and cheese, a moderately spicy beef picadillo, and dulce de leche.

Sarah’s Empanadas

5410 N.C. 55, Durham

919-544-2441

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Get your hands on this: Sarah’s, the grande dame of empanada purveyors in the Triangle, has been baking traditional Bolivian-style hand pies with a variety of filling options since 1988. Try the spinach and cheese, or the gently spiced beef.

Spanglish

Food truck

eatspanglish.com or Twitter (@eatspanglish) for location

Get your hands on this: Abuela’s chicken, filled with a homespun stew of chicken, carrots and potatoes, if you’re in a mood for comfort food. If you’re feeling feisty, on the other hand, go with the Pork-U-Pineapple – which, true to the truck’s “Puerto Rican food with Southern charm” motto, features Eastern N.C.-style barbecue.

Vinos Finos

8450-110 Honeycutt Road, Raleigh

919-747-9233

vinosfinosypicadas.com

Get your hands on this: House-made Argentinean-style empanadas (beef, corn and cheese, duck confit and sweet potato) are a deal at three for $10, and the excellent mostly South American selection of wines is so reasonably priced, you might even splurge on a glass or two.

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