An empanada tour of Miami

 

Multi-national South Florida is empanada country. We've picked nine spots to sample these half-moon shaped bits of heaven.

Empanada
Baked or fried, with meat or con guava, South Florida's empanadas are half-moons of heaven. Photo: Linda Bladholm
 

By Paula Nino

The empanada: cheap, filling, comforting and oh, so tasty. If only they scored higher on the healthy scale, these stuffed little dough pockets would be the perfect snack. But don't let your conscience stop you. In Miami, it's hard to not indulge in these popular South American treats-baked or fried, small or large, soft or crispy. Here, we map out a crawl of some Miami's best empanada eateries. Snack away:

Moises Bakery
Owned by a Venezuelan-raised Portuguese family, this North Beach bakery is an ideal place to start your jaunt, especially if you're new to empanadas. Argentinean, Colombian, Chilean or Venezuelan, you'll find them all here. Order one of each to share with your friends to try several tastes of South America at once. If you must pick just one, try the Venezuelan, available with beef or chicken. Served fried, the dough is almost like that of an arepa - a corn patty - and the filling of shredded beef or chicken is nice and juicy. Just be prepared for some drips when you bite. ($1.25 - $2.75)
7310 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-868-0548

Take a detour: If you're up for Argentinean empanadas, which are baked, stroll to the nearby Buenos Aires Bakery or keep heading south to the next stop. 7134 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-861-7887.

Panizza Bistro
Before leaving the beach for the mainland, hit this Argentinean bistro on Lincoln Road (in the quieter area west of Alton). A cozy café with a European coffee house feel, Panizza offers a wide array of tasty baked goods, from quiches to pastries of all kinds. But you're here for the golden-baked empanadas, which make a terrific afternoon snack coupled with a steaming café con leche. Choices here include spinach, ham and cheese, beef, chicken, corn and tuna. If it's not too hot, sit outside on the sidewalk and gawk at the Lincoln Road crowd while you munch. ($1.80-$2.00)
1229 Lincoln Road, South Beach; 305-695-8800

La Moon Restaurant
Make a quick pit stop at this Colombian gourmet/fast food restaurant off of Brickell to pick up some traditional beef-and-potato-filled Colombian empanadas and get on your way. Hearty and crispy, these babies will satisfy your hunger at any time of the day - or night (La Moon stays open late on weekends). To eat in truly Colombian style, add a little lime juice and La Moon's homemade aji - hot sauce - before each bite. These fried little darlings are served piping hot, so don't rush into your first bite. Your palate will thank you later. ($1.25)
144 SW 8th St., Miami; 305-860-6209

Karlo Bakery
This small and friendly Cuban corner bakery along bustling Coral Way is a treat to visit. Stroll in on a weekend afternoon and you may run the risk of an empty empanada case, so make arrive early for the best selection. Warning: the variety of croquetas here may tempt you to deviate from the empanadas, but remember, you're on a mission. Take your pick of traditional fried Cuban empanadas with chicken or beef and enjoy while you talk weather with Karlo's friendly clientele. ($1.25)
1242 Coral Way, Miami; 305-858-1080

Sergio's
This Cuban restaurant on Coral Way, well-known for its sandwiches and other Cuban classics, produces empanadas for hearty eaters. Large and plump, these empanadas are a meal neatly packaged in fried dough, so try to come here on an empty stomach. The dough is nice and crisp and the chicken and beef fillings are just right - not too soupy, not too dry, just full of rich flavor. If you're driving by, consider picking up some of these goodies to go. ($1.60)
3252 Coral Way, Miami; 305-529-0047

La Estancia Argentina
Transport yourself to Buenos Aires at this gourmet Argentinean supermarket. Among their ample selection of wines, imported beers, meats, cheeses and prepared foods, you'll find authentic baked Argentinean empanadas. Choose from a variety of fillings and take them to go or eat at the market's rustic dining tables after you shop. Fillings here include spinach and ricotta, chicken, chicken and spinach, tuna (shaped like a fish), beef, and ham and cheese. Stick to the traditional ham and cheese, beef or chicken and you won't be disappointed. ($1.40)
4425 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables; 305-445-3933
17870 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura; 305-932-6477

El Tejadito 2
The long drive out to this West Dade restaurant will seem worthwhile once you bite into a crisp, fried Colombian empanada. Not for the figure- and carb-obsessed, these empanadas are authentic Colombian; for natives, the fillings of shredded beef and potato taste of pure comfort. Be glad if you don't live nearby, since eating too many of these will surely result in some extra pounds. But who's counting calories when the snacks are so good? ($1.23)
10546 SW 8th St., Miami; 305-223-9290

Sabores Chilenos
End your empanada journey at this cramped little Chilean food store tucked inside a Chilean restaurant of the same name. Larger than most South American empanadas, the Chilean version looks like a square baked dough envelope and holds fillings that tend to be more soupy than their counterparts, but still flavorful and hearty. Choose from seafood, beef, chicken and queso de hoja - a white South American cheese. The chicken and cheese fillings are probably your best bet. Note: The place is tucked away in a back corner of a shopping plaza so don't abandon hope if at first it seems like you're in the wrong place. ($1.25 - $2.25)
10760 West Flagler St., Miami; 305-554-4484

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