Sunday, September 28, 2014

5411 Gourmet Empanadas

While the laws regulating food trucks in Chicago are cumbersome, there are several companies that have been successful enough to expand their enterprises into Brick and Mortar stores.  I first encountered 5411 Empanadas as a food truck and I really liked what they were doing.  Empanadas are the Hispanic version of Hand Pies or Pasties.  Crusty and savory pies that are eaten by hand and can be filled with a variety of things.   They are a very popular street food in Argentina.  I had first encountered the 5411 Empanadas truck a few years ago.  Last year, they opened up a brick and mortar store in Lakeview which I did not go to, but when they opened up a spot in Wicker Park, it became a must go to.  The space is a small storefront with a glass front with 5411 painted on one side of the window.  5411 is the dialing code for Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the owners are from.  The (Wicker Park) space is small, with seating for about 14 at tables by the windows and about 6 more seats at the bar.  The space looks like a coffee bar and while it does serve coffee, it also has a small selection of beers and wine.  Ordering is done at the counter with a large chalkboard listing what is available.  The food is brought to you and at the table or bar, there is a listing of what each empanada looks like.  This is very convenient because the empanadas are relatively small (about 4 or 5 bites), so several will generally be ordered.  If they didn't have crust differentiations, it would be a crap shoot for both the diner and the baker both.
I ordered 5 empanadas and one sauce.  The sauce was Chimichurri, the traditional Argentine sauce of  Herbs, Garlic, and Olive Oil.  It reminded me somewhat of a pesto and it served as a nice dipping sauce for the different empanadas.  All of the empanadas had a nicely browned crust that had some flakiness to it, but still held together when a bite was taken out of it and all of the fillings were very good and flavorful.  The empanadas also came out pretty hot.  While I did order multiple empanadas, I did eat them one at a time (from top to bottom and from left to right as they sat on the plate).  I didn't think about it at the time, but I also ate them from most to least vegetarian.  I started out with the Mushroom, Thyme, and Blue Cheese.  I then went to the Ratatouille, the Bacon, Date and Goat Cheese, the Chorizo with Patatas Bravas, and finished off with the Malbec Beef.  While they were all good and I liked them all, I think that I liked the Bacon, Date, and Goat Cheese best.  It was both sweet and savory and had a little gaminess from the goat cheese which added to the overall flavor.
After my empanadas, I decided I wanted some sweetness.  The store carries a few desserts including flan, cheesecake, and housemade Alfajores, a soft sandwich cookie that is covered in glazed sugar, or chocolate, and is very popular in Argentina.  I decided to stick with the Argentinian theme and got a couple of Alfajores, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  One was chocolate and one was glazed and filled with a pistachio filling.  They were light, sweet, and very good.

I already knew when I came to the store that I liked the empanadas from 5411.  I am glad to see that they are able to maintain it in their brick and mortar store.  They make some very good empanadas with a wide variety and I will definitely be back.

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