Empanadas are the quintessential street food of Latin America. Not to be confused with pastelitos — the empanada’s equally popular cousin — these golden-brown, crescent-shaped pastries come in a wide variety of sweet and savory flavors from all over South America and the Caribbean. Empanadas have also become synonymous with Miami’s culinary scene. A trip to the Magic City without having an empanada is like going to New York without eating a bagel. Gotta do it.
Many South Florida bakeries and restaurants stay true to the Spanish snack’s roots by serving classic flour-wrapped recipes, while others take a more modern approach by remixing the empanada’s basic meat fillings. There are a number of spots to grab a bite of these low-cost, handheld half-moons throughout the 305; below are just ten of the best.
10. La Moon
Among Brickell’s growing selection of midday snacks and late-night hangover cures, La Moon (97 SW Eighth St., Miami) remains the go-to pit stop for quick, authentic Colombian food. Unlike their Cuban or Argentine counterparts, Colombian empanadas are made from cornmeal instead of flour. La Moon's beef-and-potato-filled empanadas ($1.40) are fried and crisped to perfection. Make 'em caliente by sprinkling on homemade ají sauce — here a spicy salsa made of jalapeño pepper, onions, diced tomato, lime, and cilantro.
9. Charlotte Bakery
Featuring exotic confections from four Latin American countries — Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela — this Washington Avenue storefront has been serving the freshest and fluffiest pastries in Miami Beach since 1996. Cookies, facturas, fruit tarts, cheesecakes, and other heavenly items are made daily, but the family-owned sweet shop (1499 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) is known for its mouthwatering pastry pockets. The Argentine spinach empanada ($1.99) is a veggie lover’s dream, while the Venezuelan pabellon empanada ($3.50) — packed with juicy beef, black beans, cheese, and sweet plantains — is much larger and more satisfying.
8. Toro Toro
Tucked inside the InterContinental Miami at 100 Chopin Plaza, this hotel eatery draws customers to its pan-Latin flavors and elaborate beverage menu — especially during Toro Toro’s Sunday brunch with bottomless bloody marys and mimosas. Pair your booze with the restaurant’s must-try bar bites, including lomo saltado empanadas ($12), which rank among the best in the Magic City. Beef tenderloin, soy sauce, avocado sauce, and mozzarella stuffed inside a flaky crust are simply Peruvian perfection.
The epitome of Miami landmarks, Versailles (3555 SW Eighth St., Miami) offers the ultimate Cuban food spread, ranging from roast pork sandwiches ($5.95) to oxtail stew ($15.25). Begin your culinary journey with an appetizer of
Relish in refined Argentine fare at one of four Novecento locations in Miami — Key Biscayne, Brickell, Aventura, and, the most recent expansion, midtown. No matter which of the four spots you visit, the empanadas are the same — fresh and flaky. Amid the ambiance of a European-style bistro and bottles of wine are artful creations worth sharing. The empanadas Novecento ($9.50 for two) are filled with hand-carved beef, and the more classic empanadas ($8.50 for two) are served with your choice of spinach and cheese, chicken, or ham and cheese.
5. Graziano's Market
This mercado (3922 SW 92nd Ave., Miami) boasts the best meats in traditional Argentine cuts that Miami has to offer. But just as those cuts of churrasco are handled with great care, so is Graziano’s Market’s wide array of handmade empanadas, starting at $2.95 each. Here you’ll find carne, chicken, ham and ricotta, corn, three cheeses, and more. No matter what you decide, there’s really no wrong choice if you’re looking for something tasty.
4. La Estancia Argentina
A plethora of fillings are loaded inside La Estancia Argentina’s melt-in-your-mouth turnovers, from basics to game-changers like mushrooms, salmon, and chorizo. This Miami-based chain — including a location in Aventura (17870 Biscayne Blvd.) — sells its traditional empanadas for $2.15 apiece or $21.50 per dozen, while the premium gourmet ones go for $2.85 apiece or $28.50 per dozen. Wash them down with either a cup of coffee or a glass of vino; try the latter.
3. Wynwood Kitchen & Bar
In a neighborhood with no shortage of visually striking art and innovative cuisine, Wynwood Kitchen & Bar (2550 NW Second Ave., Miami) stands out. Whether it’s the Latin-influenced tapas, creative cocktails, or stunning decor, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Try the triangular pillows of goodness stuffed with ropa vieja ($9), made of chicken and cilantro crema.
2. Go-Go Fresh Food
Get up and go to Go-Go Fresh Food at 926 Alton Rd. in Miami Beach for a healthful pit stop. The South Beach staple offers an always fresh and affordable selection of made-from-scratch soups, tossed-to-order salads, and empanadas that are baked while you wait. Empanadas here are unlike any others, with wild creations like spicy Thai peanut chicken, barbecued beef, and shrimp scampi to satisfy Miamians' unique palates. For those with a sweet tooth, pick your poison: dulce de leche and blackberry, guava and cream cheese, or Nutella and banana, each $2.75.
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1. Ricky Bakery
Pastelitos, croquetas y empanaditas, oh my! Cases at this famed Cuban bakery (3115 Coral Way) contain a profusion of sweet and savory treats. But it’s the light and flaky, golden-crusted empanadas ($2.15) filled with chicken, guava, or picadillo that are heaven-sent. A bite of one of these delectable pockets will make you a believer too.