Great Britain has its meat pies and the United States its Hot Pockets -- but some of the best examples of pastry stuffed with savory filling come from South America. The Denver area is lucky to have a few empanada vendors, including three locations of
Empanada Express Grill. These Venezualan spots don't just offer killer empanadas (made with a corn-based dough); their arepas are award-winning. And they have several vegetarian versions of both the arepas and empanadas for your dining pleasure.
See also: - Tarasco's New Latin Cuisine is hot for veggies, too - Jack-n-Grill's green isn't vegetarian, but other dishes will grow on you - Old Blinking Light takes plant-based eaters south of the border
In a Golden strip mall next to a Domino's and just down the road from the high school, the original Empanada Express does a brisk business during lunch -- from both high-school students and older students who come down from the Colorado School of Mines for a midday fix. It's much quieter in the evening, when there might be just a couple of occupied tables, but locals keep dropping in to pick up take-out meals.
Pictured above is a domino empanada, stuffed with black beans, avocado and cheese, and a sweet domino arepa, which adds a plantain to the mix. The hot corn crust, house-made beans and freshly grated cheese are a winning combination, and the sweet plantain gives extra depth of flavor if you're a fan of the fruit.
The arepas are grilled instead of fried, so they're a bit healthier than the full-on empanadas -- and you can always ask the kitchen to hold the cheese if you want to stay away from dairy.
The Empanada Express menu has several other options, including rajas (roasted poblano peppers), a chile relleno and a cheese-and-avocado selection. You can also order an empanada or an arepa as a meal with your choice of sides -- which we recommend, because two empanadas or arepas, or one of each, is a giant meal. But perfect if you want leftovers...and you will.
All Empanada Express locations are open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; visit www.theempanadaexpress.com.