Cheers: Empanadas are a flavorful Latin American treat

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Many cultures and regions have their own version of savory stuffed pastry or dumpling: pierogi, pasties, samosas, ravioli, etc. One of my favorites, and possibly the most unsung in this area, is the empanada.

This Spanish turnover is popular in Latin America and Europe and is usually presented as a circle of dough folded over a filling of seasoned meat or cheese and then fried or baked.

The same week I was researching where to get these satisfying pockets locally, I happened across Conchy’s empanadas. The catering and pop-up business serves the toasty treats Saturday nights at the Ghost Light bar inside the Planet Ant Hall at 2314 Caniff in Hamtramck.

Conchy’s founder Christian Guevara named his business after his mother, Consuelo; her nickname is Conchy. He says empanadas were an important dish to his mother when she was growing up in Puerto Rico.

“Empanadas were the food of choice for a family of seven when affordability and convenience was key,” said Guevara, who says empanadas embody “convenience and versatility.” “Growing up, she would always make them for us and tell stories about Puerto Rico and all the adversity she encountered coming to the U.S. to raise my siblings and me.”

Guevara, who is 27 and founded his business in 2015, uses a dough recipe that produces a thin, crispy shell that is not too heavy.

Conchy’s currently offers chicken, beef, cheese pizza and pepperoni pizza fillings ($2.50-$3), and Guevara is working on additional recipes for shrimp, vegetarian and sweet empanadas.

Find Conchy’s online at facebook.com/conchysempanadas or call (313) 676-8580.

At Dominican restaurant El Caribeño, 8065 Vernor in Detroit, the empanadas are filled with shredded chicken, seasoned beef, cheese or egg. Each are just $2, or get a “completa empanada” that has beef, chicken and cheese all stuffed between two dough circles instead of one circle folded over — a bargain at $4.

El Caribeño, which has been open more than a year, also serves the Dominican dish mofongo. Plantains are mashed with spices in a mortar and pestle and then served with a choice of protein like shrimp, fish, pork or chicken.

The dine in or carryout spot is open Tues.-Sun. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Call (313) 728-6764.

In Troy, El Guanaco serves Mexican and El Salvadorian food in a clean, modest diner at 1710 Livernois. They are priced criminally low at $1.59 each. These have a denser dough and are more golden brown.

Fillings include chicken, ground beef, marinated pork, cheese, beans or potato. You can mix and match, too. Chicken with cheese and beef with potato come recommended.

El Guanaco also serves pupusas, an El Salvadorian dish of soft corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and/or meat, and served with fermented cabbage and a spicy sauce.

El Guanaco, which is open until 10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and 5 p.m. on Sun., also has a bakery and taqueria at 139 W. 14 Mile in Clawson.

For the Cuban version of empanadas, visit Vincente’s at 1250 Library in downtown Detroit. This white-tablecloth nightlife spot serves them as an appetizer ($9) with your choice of ground chicken or beef. These have shells fried golden brown similar to El Guanaco and are served with a spicy tomato and cilantro dipping sauce.

Deliciously brief

■The AAA Michigan has released its 2017 list of Four Diamond restaurants. Birmingham’s Rugby Grille and Detroit’s Iridescence have maintained their status as a Four Diamond restaurant since 2001. Cafe Cortina in Farmington Hills has held the honor since 2003, and Cygnus 27 in Grand Rapids since 2004. Grosse Pointe’s Marais was also listed, and has been since 2014.

■It’s only fitting that restaurateur Sandy Levine’s Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails (15 E. Kirby in Detroit) sold more of the French liqueur than any other bar or restaurant in the United States last year. If you visit and can only get one cocktail, choose the Last Word, a Detroit-born cocktail made with gin and green Chartreuse.


(313) 222-2402

Twitter: @melodybaetens