The Empanada Shop
642 Monroe Ave
Rochester, NY 14607
Empanadas for those not familiar are like Uncrustables that are cooked for big people. Empanadas have a long history. Galicia, a fascinating region of Spain, which has influences of Gaelic culture (perhaps why the similarities to pasties) and holds a festival each year. The name empanadas means to coat with bread (empanar): think sandwich with a safety handle that has been fried.
The ones at the Empanada Shop have the most variety I’ve seen in a long while. The Empanada Shop consistently has on average 25 flavors of empanada fillings that they are constantly slightly adjusting. I often get the Basura, a shredded stewed beef, with the Green Plantain. I had the Lime Cilantro Chicken the other day which was dense with chicken and seasoned with the lime and cilantro. The Squash was simply well seasoned. The Steak and Shrimp, in contrast, was in a cream sauce and lovely. Other shops have more traditional types, and those that cater to Rochester expectations (Beef and Onion or Pizza for example).
The Empanada Shop is easy to miss. It’s in the same block as Aladdin’s and has a “humble” storefront. When you walk inside it is not fancy, but is clean, brightly lit and has ample space. Turquoise/Aqua colored chairs with blond wood table tops and light walls help brighten the dining room in grey Rochester. There’s a tree and a bamboo tiki bar not doing much in particular.
Most get their food to go and you can tell as it is often empty of patrons with phone orders sitting to the side waiting for pick up.
The combinations that I get most often are either the $5.55 one empanada and one side combo or the more often the dinner combo for $10 with 2 empanadas and 2 sides and then split with my best friend. The yellow rice and the plantains are my sides of choice. I hear the Yucca Fries are worthwhile and I like Yucca Fries in general.
What I would also say is that while these are the best empanadas in Rochester, they are not the best empanadas. The dough for these empanadas is not dissimilar to the one at the market. Both remind me of the dough on the apple pie at McDonald’s when they still used to fry it: hard, too thick, not particularly flavorful with air pockets and a mild toughness.
Empanadas in other places have a dough that is thinner, more the texture of actual pie crust and sometimes are in fact baked. This factor alone means that I cannot eat these empanadas every day, as they tend to be greasy and not easy to digest. But I genuinely like them and have barely touched the menu options. There are also full dinners, sandwiches, Arepas (I buy the side one with nothing on it), etc. as well as a case of beverages. The Empanada Shop is worth visiting if you like turnovers or pasties at all. Oh also, they are actually cooked by someone who is Columbian so do not have the white people making “ethnic” food issue that is so prevalent throughout Rochester. Go for the adventure, what do you have to lose, except a boring meal? Enjoy!