The first time I ever had empanadas was in a Spanish class I took in my freshman year of college. On the last day of class, my Argentinean professor was going to bring us empanadas. She gave us three choices: chicken, beef, or membrillo. Most people ordered one or two; I ordered all three. My classmates seemed to think this was quite funny--to this day, I have no idea why. Little did they (or I) know back then that my obsession with trying new foods would only get stronger with time. It's one of those moments that I look back on now and can see clearly that being a food critic is what I was meant to do.
Empanada's Place is bright and airy, with white walls, white lace tablecloths, large windows, high ceilings, fresh flowers on the tables, and large potted trees. Framed photographs and posters celebrate Argentinean tango, and a large display of yellow and red bags of yerba mate (a smoky flavored caffeinated tea native to and popular in much of South America) entertain the eyes while you wait for your food. At around 1:30 on a sunny Saturday afternoon, most of the ten or so tables are empty. The restaurant feels homey and serene, making me wish that I had brought a book with me and hadn't ordered my food to go.
Once your empanadas arrive, you won't need any other entertainment. The bubbly-skinned dough is crisp on the outside, soft and thick on the inside, melding with the ingredients of your choice: cheese and onion, ricotta and mushrooms, ground beef, egg and raisin. For once, the vegetarian side of the menu is as long as the meat-eater side.
Cheese and onion and criolla empanadas
I enjoyed all three of my choices. The onions in the cheese and onion empanada are soft enough to be unoffensive. The criolla filling reminded me of chili--ground beef in a greasy red sauce--but sweeter. The raisins were was a mystery, though: I only counted one in the entire empanada. The ricotta and mushroom was probably my favorite, but I'll probably try all new flavors next time. If you pay attention, you'll notice that the edges of each empanada look different--probably so the restaurant staff can tell them apart. It's a nice detail that lends a handmade touch to the food.
Ricotta and mushroom empanada, far right
Empanadas are only $2.75 each, so you can try as many as you want without breaking the bank. And they even have a parking lot! The lot is off of Sawtelle, and looks like apartment parking, but it really is for the nearby businesses.
If you've been to Empanada's Place, how was your experience? Leave a comment!
3811 Sawtelle Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066
Empanada's Place Menu