Category Archives: empanadas

Del Campo’s Burn Book

Their menu, that is — pretty much everything at Del Campo (777 I (Eye) Street, Chinatown) is burnt or smoked, from the meats to the bar snacks to the desserts. Even the sliced lemon garnishing various drinks has been blackened.  They would probably smoke you, if you asked nicely.

And it’s all good, if you like that kind of thing, which Mrs. Me and I do.  Cocktails are tasty, but it’s the smoked-chili-powder-peanuts that are most addictive, compelling you to keep the drinks coming.  If you order the right amount and combination of meats, they come out sizzling on a huge wooden board, a great presentation we saw all around us; we somehow managed to order an array that called for a metal grill pan instead of the wood.  Next time.  Still, the asado assortment was delicious, led by a tender lamb shank whose bone we were practically sucking by the end.  We also liked the “teres major” steak and sausages.  Empanadas were above average but not as good as the best we had in Argentina a few years ago.  Still, by DC standards they are excellent, though not any better than the best of Panas.

Friendly service, our server masterfully put up with our slightly obnoxious challenging enthusiastic party, and the bartenders were smooooth.  Nice decor.   A little pricey for what you get, maybe.  Overall a good experience, we would go back, arriving early enough to hang at the bar pre-dinner to chow on chili peanuts and burnt lemon drinks, and we would work with our server to ensure giant sizzling wood block asado presentation.  Also might get the Peruvian chicken, that’s supposed to be excellent. Many options in the burn book…

Panas Revisited

This time with Mrs. Me and friends (including an Argentine) in tow, back I went to Panas Gourmet Empanadas (2029 P, just off Dupont Circle) (previous review here).  Our Argentina native wasn’t sure about the authenticity of the empanadas’ appearance, but he thought the taste was about right — though he ate only the Smoked Eggplant, which isn’t exactly traditional.  We also tried the CubaNovo (roast pork, onions, cilantro, lime), good but heavy cilantro, like the chimi sauce is heavy on the oregano — very tasty if you like that kind of thing.

You have to choose carefully at Panas. Some offerings, like the Carne and CubaNovo, are really good, but others are underwhelming, like the bland Tamal (five filling ingredients listed, none but corn detectable) and weird BrieArt (brie, mushrooms, artichoke). I hear the dulce de leche is great, but they were out when we were there.

Panas is small and was very busy (good for them) and it’s kind of distracting to sit at a table (if you’re lucky enough to get one of the few tables) constantly surrounded by people waiting loudly in line. Clearly has already become a popular place, overall a welcome addition to the Dupont area.

More Gallery Place Empanadas, By Default

Turns out there is a woman selling chimichangas (and cookies) in a tent across from the empanada tent at 9th and F (tomorrow is the last day for the holiday tent city). But when I went chimichanga-foraging around noon, she was gone. All her food was there, but she wasn’t; someone said she might be parking her car.  Bad timing, for a food vendor to disappear during lunch rush!  So I walked ten feet and ate empanadas instead: one spinach, one Jamaican beef patty  (“mild” said the sign, truthfully; could use more kick), both okay but not as good as the chorizo. Now, what to do about this unresolved chimichanga craving?

Holiday Empanadas

Every December springs (winters?) anew a row of tents selling Christmas baubles along F Street between 7th and 9th streets, on the south sidewalk of the Portrait Gallery, and every year the corner tent at 9th and F sells food. Last year it was Korean. This year it is empanadas (plus a couple other options, maybe), and they’re pretty good: thick flaky golden masa pastries stuffed with a variety of filling options, I tried chorizo and it was tasty though it seemed more like ground beef than chorizo. Other choices include chicken, I think spinach, a few others. $4 a pop seemed high at first but they’re big, easily twice as big as the ones you get at most empanaderias, and so a reasonable value. Not a bad way to keep a hand or two warm as you wander the rest of the block.

El Patio Patio (Rockville)

Just one “Patio”, actually, in Argentine cafe El Patio (12303 Twinbrook Pkwy), but thanks to Sponjetta’s earwormy turn on America’s Got Talent, we can’t stop doubling up on the patio, patio.

Some of us also couldn’t stop from tripling up on the baked empanadas, which were good not great based on four-person consensus; my humita (corn) empanada was almost cold and not nearly as creamily delicious as the version from La Brigada in San Telmo. Chicken and beef were more successful, and the only fried option, beef-olive-raisin-egg stuffed “Tucumana” was excellent. To compare with other local empanaderias: based on small sample size, El Patio and Panas are pretty comparable, though El Patio is a little cheaper; Wheaton’s Caramelo Bakery’s empanadas are a little heavier but also good, and we don’t talk about Julia’s.  [Previous Argentina empanada roundup here.]

El Patio has much more than empanadas, though, and while I’m not sure how I feel about eggs making an appearance in seemingly every dish, the quality overall is good, and the value is terrific, with many tasty and filling items around $3 and most empanadas less than half that. Even many of the large platters were in the $10-13 range. Quiche/Spanish omelete is layers of ham, cheese, egg, tomato, and flaky homemade crust; the one with sausage and potatoes (and egg!) looked even better than my solid ham and cheese. Medialuna rellena, also with ham, cheese, and egg (!!), was deemed only okay. Lots of choices of empanadas, quiches, sandwiches, platters, and many things we didn’t order looked and smelled good as they were delivered to other tables (in particular I noted potato salad, something Milanese, and a sausage sandwich appetizer as future possibilities — the sausage sandwich strangely appeared to include no egg whatsoever) (all the egg makes me think of this).

We didn’t have room for dessert but friends got a couple of items to go, including some fab-looking rolled-up caramel-in-phyllo dough. The medialuna (croissant) in the aforementioned rellena was a normal, large croissant, but El Patio also has smaller medialunas, the kind that addicted us on our Argentina visit, and those are as likely as anything else to bring us back to EP soon.

Overall, a good lunch. Parking is tricky, EP’s little lot was full (because EP was full — it’s not a big place but tables are almost uncomfortably close together, in authentic Argentine style, and boy were they packing in the customers! Doing a great business, which I am always glad to see) but you can use the main lot for the L-shaped strip mall; EP is at one end, so park in front of Urban BBQ/Gilly’s.  We’ll be back to El Patio, Patio…

Panas Gourmet Empanadas

Flashy new empanadaria off Dupont Circle, between the old and new Pizza Paradiso locations, Panas (2029 P Street) doesn’t stand out much from the street, but is almost startlingly modern inside, not exactly a cozy atmosphere. Welcome to the world of fast-food empanadas I guess. Their self-described “Latin Fusion gourmet empanadas” are worth a visit, though. I tried only two on my first visit, and while the chipotle steak was average, the carne was exactly like the ones we ate in Argentina, same shape and size and texture, same savory ground beef with eggs, olives, peppers, and spices. Not on the level of Azafran (beware Flash and music upon loading), but as good as any other.  I could eat one of these carne empanadas just about daily, but I’m looking forward to trying others, especially the CubaNovo and tamal.  Mrs. Me has her eye on the dulce de leche dessert empanada.

Panas offers four dipping sauces, which are completely superfluous for the carne, but I thought the mild chimi sauce, replete with garlic and (overwhelmingly) oregano, improved the chipotle steak. The aji sauce has a slight kick but is essentially mayo. Empanadas are available by the dozen, and combos (with drink and plantain chips) are an okay deal. We have a Groupon, so we’ll be back soon.

Tres Leches, Pizza, Carnies

We tried the tres leches cake (successfully distinguishing it from flan this time — Mrs. Me is better about desserts than I am) from Caramelo Bakery (11301 Georgia) and it was good, not great, consistency was right but they added unnecessary strawberry jelly layers. Looked like birthday cake.  We also ate more of their excellent empanadas.

Meanwhile, everyone seems to like Pacci’s Neapolitan Pizza (8113 Georgia) in Silver Spring. We will get there eventually.

Also there’s carny food at the Wheaton Mall’s “Westfield Carnival” through July 4. Just don’t eat too many corn dogs before you get on the Tilt-o-Whirl.

Julia’s Empanadas: No Mas, Por Favor

I have been wanting to try Julia’s Empanadas (four locations in DC, I visited 1221 Connecticut) ever since returning from this summer’s excursion to Empanadaville Argentina. Alas, today’s lunch excursion to Julia’s was disappointing.  I tried the Saltenas (chicken), Jamaican-style (beef), and spinach (creamed). All three were heavy and bland, dull pastry, goopy filling. Very little flavor.  They would have ranked no higher than Carrefour in my Argentine empanada ratings, and maybe even below El Palenque (which were mostly cheese, not normally involved in South American empanadas, so it’s almost an unfair comparison, except their pastry was so doughy…).

One problem is that Julia’s empanadas are too big; if they cut the size in half, put some lard in the pastry, maybe a little more salt, and make the fillings spicier and less goopy, they could have a winner. On the other hand, that’s asking a lot.

Julia’s also has soups and salads, and the potato salad was the big winner of the day. More of a vegetable salad, very fine dice, potatoes and peas and celery and bell pepper and pickle. A nice balance of savory and tang, good vinegar level.  A touch of cilantro.  They have beet salad too, but I didn’t try that. If I were to go back — I am not likely to do so under my own power — I would get a couple of salads and a soup.