Empanada Madness: Best places in Chicago to get the classic turnovers

The humble turnover gets its 15 minutes

Empanadas

Chicago is having an empanada moment. The classic grab-and-go turnovers from Central and South America are suddenly everywhere—popping up not only as appetizers but also as the main event. Most empanadas are fried; fillings range from simple meat, cheese, or vegetables to tons of savory concoctions and desserty stuff. We tried them all and found particular pleasure lurking, warmly, within the following crusts.

PLACE 5411 EMPANADAS
312-972-5411

ORIGIN Argentina

ON THE MENU Five varieties, $2 each; minimum order 24

FAVES Ham and cheese, spinach and cheese, sweet onions

THE SCENE Your place (catering and delivery only)

EXTRA CREDIT Baked, not fried—more like large, fancy-pants hors d’oeuvres than fast food—each in a distinctive shape so you can tell them apart.

 

PLACE CHILAM BALAM
3023 N. Broadway; 773-296-6901

ORIGIN Mexico

ON THE MENU Two varieties: one savory, $7.95 for two; one sweet, $6.25 for three

FAVES Mushroom (braised mushrooms in pipian verde, two cheeses, epazote, roasted green chiles); PBJ (filled with crunchy peanut butter, dusted with cinnamon sugar, and served with black fig and Oaxacan chocolate dipping sauces)

THE SCENE Near-deafening subterranean full-service restaurant with menu of inventive and enjoyable Mexican small plates

EXTRA CREDIT This fun spot is BYO.

 

PLACE EL ÑANDÚ
2731 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-278-0900

ORIGIN Argentina

ON THE MENU Eight varieties, $2.50 each

FAVES Criolla (beef, red sweet peppers, onions, golden raisins, hard-boiled egg, spices), maiz (corn, green onions, red sweet peppers, hard-boiled egg, cheese, herbs)

THE SCENE Casual full-service restaurant with meatcentric menu, including tasty and tender entraña skirt steak ($19.95)

EXTRA CREDIT Names are stamped on each crust—in vegetable dye—to ID varieties.

 

PLACE LITO’S EMPANADAS
2566 N. Clark St.; 773-857-1337

ORIGIN Colombia

ON THE MENU Ten varieties, $2.09 to $2.49 each

FAVES Champion chicken (chicken, cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions), beef (ground beef, olives, raisins, potatoes, tomatoes, onions), choco-banana (Nutella, banana)

THE SCENE Bare-bones: takeout, delivery, or five window seats

EXTRA CREDIT All Lito’s serves is empanadas, and lots of them. Love the house-made hot sauce (green chiles, onion, cilantro).

 

PLACE MACONDO COLOMBIAN COFFEE AND EMPANADAS
2965 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-698-6867

ORIGIN Colombia

ON THE MENU Nine varieties plus specials, $2.49 for two

FAVES Queso chipotle (mozzarella with spicy sauce), queso con bocadillo (mozzarella with guava paste), arequipe con banana (dulce de leche with banana)

THE SCENE Upbeat, informal, laptop-friendly hangout

EXTRA CREDIT Really good coffee; gluten-free empanadas; early hours (opens at 8 a.m. daily).

 

PLACE TASTE OF BRASIL
906 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park; 708-383-3550

ORIGIN Brazil

ON THE MENU Three empanadas, $1.80 each; pie-shaped empadinhas, $1.68 each

FAVES Beef empanada (best eaten fresh from the fryer), heart of palm empadinha; both are snack-size

THE SCENE Tiny, simple-but-sophisticated coffeehouse

EXTRA CREDIT Terrific fresh lemon/limeade; plum cake and other bakery sweets, several of which involve coconut

 

Photograph: Anna Knott

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comments
4 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

What about Buenos Aires Deli on Cicero- they have tasty Argentinian empanadas 12/$18

2 years ago
Posted by msc

What about the new empanada place in Riverside? It is excellent!

http://www.empanadus.com/#!

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