Thursday, December 11, 2008


With A Glut Of New Joints, Let's Take A Look At Who's Making A Mark

Let's face it, we all do it. Sure, I'd like to tell you I had a Chef Salad for lunch, but the truth is I likely had 2 King-Koti Rolls from the Biryani Cart on 46th and 6th.

Fast food, cart food, you name it.... is part of our lives. From the celebrated "regular slice" to the Grays Papaya Hot Dog, NY is famous for fast eats.... and now the marketplace is changing.

For some reason, fast food concepts like trying out their wares in Manhattan. I'm not completely sure why, as New Yorkers can be the most difficult to please in the world... but as the song says "if I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere".

To begin my series on funky new fast food joints, I'll begin with a food that is near and dear to my heart.


Two weeks ago I was a few blocks west of the office and stumbled upon the new chain of sublime fried pies, "Empanada Joes".

Let me first qualify these remarks by letting you know that I basically exist for anything a. in the shape of a dumpling or pie, and b. fried, baked or steamed in any way (this would include deep fried, pan fried, wok steamed, boiled in butter, etc, etc).

Let's break it down shall we?


Empanada Joes is a sterile, funky little space. There is no thoughts of a far away land (or even Mexico) and certainly no romance here. There isn't even a comfy seat... but I am guessing they planned it that way - eat your stuff and kindly get out. Grade: C-


People at the location I went to were overly friendly... which in New York, could get you killed. It is the ultimate cheese factor when management insists you greet some guy at the door 30 feet away with a "Hi, What Can I Get You", when you can't even see the freaking menu much less have a plan of action. Grade D


The menu is poorly designed and conceived. They basically offer an array of empanadas you can order ala carte or with possibly the worst tasting, undercooked side dishes ever created. The menu doesn't offer as many meal options as you would like, or add-ons (extra this or that, without ordering a whole new meal)... and for this they are losing money. GRADE: C-


Well, here comes the good news. Aside from the side dishes.... and I'll expand here.... a black bean and rice dish that was described as well seasoned if not spicy, was actually unedible.... and nearly frozen as it had been in the cold case for a day or two..... anyway, ASIDE from the side dishes, the empanadas are solid. These pies aren't "oh my god pull the car over there is an Empanada Joe's" good, but I would certainly consider grabbing a dozen of these for a football party.

I had two pies, one Argentine Beef which was very good.... and one "CheeseSteak" which was average, and had nothing to do with a cheese steak in anyway. The verdict?
FOOD: B (except the sides, that get an F)


This is a good effort and idea, but these guys need to forget about the bells and whistles and sell freaking empanadas. You should have about 20 different ways to order as many or as few as you want in a value pack, and they should give the nutritional/healthy spin that surrounds this place a rest. Note to Empanada Joe's: YOU SELL EMPANADAS. This eat beautiful, feel beautiful ad campaign you have needs to be rethought. I don't know about you, but after I eat 4 or 5 large empanadas, I don't feel beautiful.

OVERALL: C+ Go for the pie, and forget the rest. And oh yea... get it to go.


After being contacted by Empanada Joes (who were not actually thrilled by this post) I stand corrected... the pies are actually baked, not fried. So , I offer and extra kudos for their ability to bake and NOT fry these tasty treats..... but please, fix your side dishes... they are still unedible.