Juan Zavala Jr. was sitting with relatives in his native Argentina when someone brought up the age-old question: “What should we get for dinner?” The choice came down to pizza or empanadas, and the latter was chosen near unanimously. That’s when Juan, thinking of the 40 million Hispanics living in America, decided it might be a good idea to open a fast food empanada business in the U.S.
About a month ago, his vision became reality as Half Moon Empanadas debuted on Washington Avenue in South Beach.
His wife Pilar claims, “We are the first and only empanada concept in Miami Beach that makes the empanadas entirely from scratch, in house.”
Not entirely true, as I noticed boxes of diced, frozen onions being delivered. Still, they do the bulk of the work, which you can observe through an open window in the back of the space.
The empanadas come in twelve varieties, including the traditional beef or chicken, spicy beef or chicken, ham and cheese, pepperoni and cheese (for those who just can’t get over pizza), and my favorite of the bunch, the Americana: smoked pancetta, mozzarella, and plum sauce. Pricing is $1.99 each, six for $9.99, and a dozen for $17.99. Each is available either baked or fried (called “soufflé”). Sweet pasteles come in three flavors: guava (membrillo), sweet potato (batata), and dulce de leche (another personal favorite).
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According to Juan, it’s South Beach today, South Florida tomorrow, America after that. And look out Pizza Hut: Half Moon will deliver empanadas to your door.
The restaurant is located at 1616 Washington Avenue, and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
-- Lee Klein