Restaurant Review: Papa Luna’s Empanadas

    The restaurant was born when the man behind Papa Luna’s Empanadas spent a stint in Argentina having these baked stuffed pastries, and decided to introduce them in the US and open a shop in PB.

    A counter-ordering spot and street-side patio give the summery shop a casual beach-like atmosphere, resembling more of a take-out place than a sit-down restaurant. These super-cheap, super-portable upgraded versions of Hot Pockets are about a size of a small guy’s hand and served either on the spot — premade to be baked in the oven quickly in about five minutes when customers come — or take and bake. They’re not as exotic as the name implies, but whether you feel like traditional or contemporary, they have it all ready for you until as late as 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

    Carne Molida Con Papas ($2.95) is a traditional empanada filled with lean ground beef, green olives, hard-broiled egg and potato. The beef and potato complement each other very well to create a nice, fulfilling softness in your mouth, along with that crunchy bite of the crust. The herb-and-oil sauce that comes with the empanadas is perfect for livening the flavor. The downfall is that it tastes very much like your regular beef Hot Pockets, though much more freshly made.

    Camarones y Tocino ($2.95) is another traditional empanada stuffed with tiger shrimp, smoked bacon, garlic and white sauce. It’s recommended for those who don’t like things that are too meaty. Although the bacon adds a little too much salty taste to the already salty white sauce-seasoned tiger shrimp, it’s safe to say that the whole seafood flavor gets you ready for summer.

    Caprese ($2.95) is an amazingly delicate contemporary empanada with fresh basil, roma tomato, mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar inside. The favorite of all the empanadas we’ve tried, this one is so crisp and freshly hot. It’s not as stuffed as the other empanadas, but the basil and coarsely chopped tomato give a healthy flavor, and the melted mozzarella cheese jazzes up the flavor. It’s a must for light eaters.

    Nutella Banana Éclair ($2.35) is a dessert empanada stuffed with generous amount of mushed banana mixed with sweet silky nutella, along with powdered sugar on top of the crunchy, yet soft empanada crust. It’s certainly a little pocket of joy in life. It comes with extra melted nutella on the side for you to indulge in that sweet chocolate dream of yours as much as you want.

    For about $3 per empanada, it may not be a fulfilling meal unless you consume about 4 of them. Let’s be honest: it’s a great grab-n-go snack. If you’re smart, you’ll pick a perfect meal combo ($5.95) that comes with the empanada of your choice, salad, a drink – and even a dessert empanada for just $1.50 more.

    Rating: 4/5
    Recommendation: Caprese
    Hours: Mon-Thu 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.
    Fri-Sat 11 a.m. – 3 a.m.
    Sun 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
    Location: 1404 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach

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