Miami's homegrown empanadería chain marks eight years of serving locals and visitors across South Florida with the opening of its seventh eatery. Situated near the center of the MiMo Business District, the newest location of Half Moon Empanadas (860 NE 79th St., Miami) offers an extended menu, including a bevy of new flavors and a build-your-own option.
"The 79th [Street] shop location was initially selected as a production-only, commissary facility," cofounder Juan Zavala says, "but we decided to add a pickup window and start with a soft opening to satisfy the demand from area residents who were stopping by to pick up empanadas. We see that the neighborhood is really coming to life, and we wanted to be part of this movement to offer authentic food prepared the right way."
Among Half Moon's newest flavors, Zavala says, the three-cheese empanada — stuffed with a blend of mozzarella, asiago, provolone, fresh tomatoes, and basil — is one of the most popular.
Everything is the direct result of customer feedback, internal trial-and-error, and financial analysis, he says. "When we first opened, we did not anticipate the breakfast demand," he adds. "We were more focused on lunch, dinner, and in between."
Now Half Moon's menu features the Mexicano, similar to a breakfast burrito, which packs an omelet-style egg, feta cheese, pinto beans, corn, sausage, and hot sauce into a medium-size empanada. For something larger, there's a bacon, egg, and cheese square pie, made with diced bacon, an omelet-style egg, mozzarella, and spices.
For creative eaters, the brand's build-your-own option allows customers to generate a unique flavor combination by mixing and matching cheeses, toppings, and salsas with a meat or protein of choice.
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Cofounders Zavala and his wife Pilar have helped make the empanada a staple rather than a special. At Half Moon, each empanada is hand-rolled and made from scratch, two practices Zavala credits for the brand's lasting success. With more than 20 varieties on the menu ($3 to $5), he's confident in what's to come for the Half Moon brand.
"I don't know what other empanada makers are doing," he says, "but we can only say that the foundation for our success has been staying true to our philosophy of making artisan empanadas, from scratch, by hand, and with the best ingredients.
"We start with whole ingredients as much as possible," he adds. "We dice our chicken from whole; we shred our cheeses from whole blocks. We never freeze our empanadas, and they are always baked, never fried. These simple fundamentals are what make us who we are."