Let’s be honest: Buffalonians love their comfort food. Wings with chunky blue cheese and beer, pizza with pepperoni curled at the edges to form tiny grease cups, french fries with, well, everything. If it’s fried, greasy – or ideally, both – we’re all in.
Well fried food fans, step away from the wings and put down that french fry, because there’s a new game in town. Allow me to introduce La Gourmet Empanadas, a new shop selling fried pockets of goodness, in enough varieties to satisfy every palate.
The restaurant is at the corner of Herkimer and West Ferry on the West Side, in a former banquet hall. Seating is minimal, so you may want take-out if you’ve got a large party, but even for non city-dwellers, these little packets are worth a ride.
For $2.95 each (with the exception of the lobster, shrimp and crab seafood combo, which is $4.50), the empanadas are a steal and large enough that we were satisfied with one and a half apiece. Be a little naughty and try them fried. They’re all fried or baked to order, but the shatteringly crisp bubbling crust is worth the calories. The restaurant also offers dinners and wings for a decent price, but we focused on the titular item and were not disappointed.
Our pulled pork, black bean, pizza and brownie s’more empanadas came within five minutes, piping hot and packed to go, with each packet helpfully labeled so we didn’t have to guess what was inside. The pulled pork and black bean each came with a mayonnaise-based spicy dipping sauce, a nice addition to moisten up the crispy crust.
The pulled pork we all know from our favorite barbecue joints is often sloppily drenched in sauce. This is not. This pulled pork is juicy, toothsome and full of piggy flavor, using all of the most flavorful parts of the pig rather than just the prettiest ones. The black bean is a solid vegetarian option, with a healthy helping of beans, but it did need that sauce to spice it up. Pizza (which comes in regular, pepperoni, sausage and Buffalo chicken flavors), was a nontraditional filling, but a satisfying one.
If you remember pizza-flavored Hot Pockets from your youth, or that time you ran out of food and stopped at the convenience store for “dinner,” these will taste familiar. The cheese is gooey and pepperoni pleasingly meaty but that crust is just elevated enough to taste like something a grown-up can eat without shame.
Now, about that brownie s’more. Diabetics, be warned: There was enough sugar crusting on this pocket to adequately glaze three additional empanadas. At least a quarter cup of granulated sugar flaked off as we were eating these incredibly messy treats, and at least that much made it into our stomachs. That is not a criticism. The interior tasted like brownie batter, but its dark chocolate bittersweetness played nicely with all that sugar. Split one of these with a friend unless you’re going just for dessert, it was a rich couple of bites.
Stop in to the La Gourmet Empanadas for lunch, grab a few for a snack on the way home or order out for dinner, but don’t miss what is soon to become a new city standard. Yes, they’re that good.
La Gourmet Empanadas
Where: 74 Herkimer St. (240-1349, lagourmetempanadas.com)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.
Handicapped accessible: No.