Empanadas Are Having a Moment in the Twin Cities

Three local restaurants do this handheld meat pie—”soul food for Argentina”—beautifully

Empanadas and chimichurri at Boludo

Photo by Derrick Koch

A Sunday in Argentina starts with waking up to buy some beef. By a couple hours later, there are 15, 20, maybe 25 people at your home. Food is served, drinks are poured, and fires are lit. Conversation begins to flow. Lots and lots of jokes.

“This wonderful thing lasts for three or four hours, and that’s just the beginning,” says Belén Rodríguez, owner of Quebracho Charcuterie & Pies, which began hosting pop-ups at Linden Hills Holiday Market last year and takes special orders. “There will be chorizo, and blood sausage, salads, dessert, baguettes.” And, of course, plenty of empanadas.

After arriving in Minnesota for school in 2012, Rodriguez longed for the food traditions she had left behind in her native Rosario, Argentina. The Sunday feasts, especially. When she thought about how she could bring a touch of that culture to her new home, she landed on empanadas.

The hand pies are commonly eaten with family in Argentina, she says, and making and sharing them has brought her closer to that feeling of home. Empanadas are having a moment in the Twin Cities, with Quebracho, DelSur Empanadas in Minnetonka, and the new, wildly popular Boludo in south Minneapolis.

While empanadas play the starring role on Rodriguez’s long, romantic table on Sundays, the filled pastries are ubiquitous in Argentina—part of everyday life.

DelSur partners Diego Montero and Nicolas Nikolov say that, in their Argentinian hometowns of Córdoba and Buenos Aires, respectively, empanadas are like pizza. If you don’t feel like cooking on the weekend or have a soccer match to watch instead, you order empanadas. They arrive tout suite via motorcycle in a pizza box.

For those who know and love empanadas, they’re “soul food for Argentina,” “grandma cooking,” and “something anyone can do.”

They vary in style regionally and can be baked or fried, big as half of a traditional pie pan or small as a dinner roll. A traditional recipe includes ground beef, olive, and hard-boiled egg.

The accompanying bright, herbaceous, garlicky chimichurri condiment is almost always lick-the-ramekin addictive. (And, in my opinion, it’s often served in parsimonious portions. Bring on some more chimichurri!)

The former south Minneapolis home of fine-dining restaurant Birdie is now Boludo, an empanada counter and pizzeria run by Facundo De Fraia (who developed the empanadas at Linden Hills Argentinian restaurant Martina) and Teddy Kordonowy.

The tight confines, loud music, low prices, and street-food feel seem designed as a stop on a bar crawl. Boludo is drawing enough of a “destination” audience that it probably doesn’t matter whether the neighborhood is poised for such a stop.

There are 18 seats, and counter-ordered empanadas are quick to land. Don’t miss the pizza, which is a revelation with plump-yet-shatter-crisp crust and a salted (yes, salted) cheese layer. Soccer jerseys on the walls and a small beer and wine selection round out the experience.

If Minnesotans engage with the tight space and wee menu, it might signal a sea change in everyday eating—whether it’s a Sunday feast, grandma’s scratch cooking, or a quick empanada. The point is doing it together, and doing it deliciously.

3749 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis

DelSur Empanadas
14725 Excelsior Blvd., Minnetonka

Quebracho Charcuterie & Pies

Mecca Bos has written about the Twin Cities food scene for more than 15 years and cooked in professional kitchens for almost as long. If there is something to be tasted in town, she has tasted it. She loves few things more than bragging about her beloved hometown and food cities. Her work can be found both locally and nationally and at meccabos.com.