It's known by various names -- empanada, calzone, turnover or even curry puff in Asia -- but love for these portable pies is unmistakably universal. Who knew that stuffed and folded-over dough, baked or deep-fried, would keep people coming back for more?
To celebrate National Empanada Day, here are nine spots in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky that serve delicious empanadas.
(11512 Springfield Pike, Springdale; 513-772-2444)
Owner and Colombian native Jose Castano operates Zona VIP with his wife, Esperanza Serrano. She cooks and he manages the front of the house. The restaurant offers four kinds of empanadas: carne (beef), pollo (chicken), queso (cheese) and tipica (rice, ground beef and boiled egg). The tipica empanada is particular to Serrano's hometown of Bucaramanga in Colombia. The empanadas are made with corn flour and served with aji, a Colombian sauce.
(29 E. Court St., Downtown; 513-381-4848)
This Chino-Latino eatery puts on an Asian spin with its chicken curry empanadas. Lalo stuffs the crispy empanadas with delicately spiced chicken, then serves them with a red curry sauce rounded out with a touch of coconut cream.
(6503 Dixie Highway, Fairfield; 513-942-5065)
This family-operated Mexican bakery offers sweet empanadas, which manager Luis Leon said are typical in the west central state of Jalisco in Mexico. The empanadas are baked and filled with pineapple, strawberry or cream. Leon said the bakery also will offer squash blossom empanadas in the fall.
(Various locations; 910-795-6930)
Originally from Cartagena, Colombia, Isis (pronounced ee-sis) Arrieta-Dennis takes "made-from-scratch" to another level: She boils and grinds her own corn to make the empanada dough.
Arrieta-Dennis' startup business is based out of Findlay Kitchen, but she sells her arepas and empanadas at Findlay Market on the weekend and at Fountain Square on Tuesdays. You also can find her empanadas at Jungle Jim's, in the Hispanic frozen foods section.
The Arepa Place offers four empanada varieties: chicken, ground beef, cheese and potato (vegan). In keeping with Colombian cuisine, which is not spicy, the accompanying sauces are also relatively mild. Sauces include aji Colombiano, salsa blanca, verde and roja.
(8944 Columbia Road, Loveland; 513-443-8226)
Born in Mexico City, Mark Bennett and his wife, Melanie, own and operate this fresh-casual restaurant that specializes in Mexican street food. Chilango offers a couple of staple empanadas -- braised beef (braised in guajillo chile) and papas con poblano (potato, roasted poblano peppers and chihuahua cheese) -- and sometimes chorizo con papa (chorizo and potato). Chilango serves its empanadas with shredded lettuce and sides of salsa roja and verde. The colorful bar at the back of the restaurant offers additional salsas (pico de gallo and avocado-tomatillo).
(Various locations; 513-312-9566)
Empanadas Aqui takes Venezuelan empanadas on the road in a green food truck. Owners Pat Fettig and Brett and Dadnitri Johnson serve four empanada staples: The Bad Girl (shredded chicken, roasted peppers, sauteed onions and cheese), spicy beef (shredded steak, pepperoncinis and hot cherry peppers), Carne Mechada (shredded steak, onions, sweet red peppers and leeks) and the sweet Emporeo (crushed Oreos, cream cheese and chocolate sauce). Follow the truck on Twitter to track its next stop.
(1342 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine; 513-978-1706)
When you walk inside Che, you might think you've entered empanada heaven. This bar and restaurant offers about a dozen different varieties of empanadas, thanks to creative Argentine-born chef and co-owner Alfio Gulisano.
Che has classic empanadas like De Carne (beef, cumin, paprika, hard-boiled egg and olives) and De Espinaca (spinach and cheese -- his grandmother's recipe), as well as more contemporary versions such as spicy smoked pork belly (braised pork belly, caramelized shallots and cheese) and shrimp scampi (sauteed shrimp, garlic, herbs, mozzarella and provolone).
(8100 Blue Ash Road, Deer Park; 513-793-3100)
This carry-out and delivery eatery offers an assortment of empanadas, including ham and cheese, chicken and cheese, black bean and cheese, sweet plantain and cheese, and even fish. The pabellon empanada is a mother lode of flavors: shredded beef, cheese, black beans and sweet plantain. If none of these options tickle your fancy, owner and Venezuelan native Javier Almeida would be more than happy to customize an empanada for you. Arrechissimo serves its empanadas with regular or spicy cilantro sauce.
(602 Main St., Covington; 859-815-8736)
Tacos may rule at this restaurant that specializes in Latin street cuisine, but the short-rib empanada holds its own. The crispy pocket is stuffed with braised meat and served with zesty, fresh chimichurri, crema and cilantro. Chef de cuisine Pat Burns said he's developing additional empanada varieties, including a sweet empanada using locally grown apples. Stay tuned.
Grace Yek writes about food for WCPO.com. She is a certified chef-de-cuisine with the American Culinary Federation, and a former chemical engineer. Questions or comments? Connect with her on Twitter: @Grace_Yek.