More portable than a PB&J, less messy than pizza, the empanada may be the perfect to-go meal. The savory Argentine pastries pack a taste wallop in a palm-sized package. Now Burbank has a new empanada outlet to supply picnics, trips to the park and I-just-can't-cook-tonight dinners.
World Empanadas opened in May on Victory Boulevard, and the kitchen has already worked out any new-business kinks. The take-out-only kitchen is snuggled next to a liquor store and situated on a street of tire shops, car-repair joints and rental-car outlets. But oh, what comes out of that kitchen.
Chef Matt Hirtz, a 2010 graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and onetime line cook at Granvillle Cafe, is the power behind the pastries.
The dough of the pastries is perfectly done, light but not too flaky. The fillings range from slightly bland to knock-your-socks-off spicy. The chicken empanada contains breast meat, potatoes, bell peppers, garlic and onions. We liked the kick of the Santa Fe chicken empanada with breast meat, corn, black beans, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and a nice bite of cayenne. A favorite is the ham and cheese, with a creamy sauce that bursts with the taste of mozzarella, Parmesan and cheddar, with a smattering of jalapeños to bring up the heat. The corn empanadas contained tender whole kernels with onions and a hint of garlic, with a slightly floury Parmesan cream sauce.
The spinach empanada is filled with fresh sautéed greens and mozzarella, with hints of lemon and garlic. This was the only empanada that needed the accompanying salsas. The beef pastry is full of flavorful sautéed ground beef, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, with tangy green olives and lemon peeking through. My favorite was the spicy potato empanada, chunks of the tender tubers and a spice mix to clear the sinuses. The only problem with empanadas is you don't know which one you've got until you open one up.
The empanadas come with several salsas, which you can also buy in larger quantities. The vinegary chimichurri greatly enhanced the spinach empanada. I'm planning to head back for the quite spicy garlic and serrano salsa to keep at home for my own cooking.
Sides include pasta salad, dotted with crispy sautéed garlic and tossed in chimichurri, and a small Caesar salad with a tart, creamy dressing, fresh Parmesan and croutons. The sides are just fine, but in a choice between ordering a side and ordering one more empanada, the pastry is going to win out every time.
And, there's always the choice to order more dessert. How many liquor-store-adjacent kitchens serve up mouth-watering dulce de leche crepes? Topped with a crust of caramelized sugar and lighter than clouds whipped cream, the paper-thin crepes hold a smear of sweet, creamy milk-based caramel. We were left wishing we'd ordered far more of these.
At $6.75, the lunch special of three empanadas and pasta salad is a great deal. But for my hungry crew, I'm always going to go for the dozen empanadas for $25. And we learned our lesson about dessert: Everybody gets their own order of crepes.
REBECCA BRYANT is a Los Angeles-based writer whose work has appeared in Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, Caribbean Travel & Life and other publications.
World Empanadas, 529 S. Victory Blvd. Burbank; (818) 934-1820. Side dishes, $1.75 to $2.25; empanadas, $2.35 each; dessert, $4.