What’s the most important component of a good empanada? The dough? The filling? The dipping sauce? The price?
I sought out the answer at two shops in Dupont Circle, offering two vastly different styles of empanadas. Let’s compare the popular Julia’s Empanadas with the newer Panas Gourmet Empanadas.
Julia’s: Large and submarine-shaped. At least six inches long. For most people, one empanada is probably enough as a meal.
Panas: Much smaller than Julia’s — about a quarter the size, somewhat resembling overgrown potstickers. It’d take several of these to fill up.
Julia’s: Baked, not fried. A somewhat crisp crust, and it does have a lightness to it, like a thinner calzone crust.
Panas: I can’t say for certain, but I’m thinking fried. ** The crust is crispy and distinctly flaky, but not at all greasy.
Julia’s: Some more traditional Chilean offerings, like ground beef or chorizo, plus others like a vegetarian option or Jamaican. I went with the salteñas, a filling of chicken, potato, green peas, hard boiled egg, raisins, green olives and onion.
Panas: Latin fusion inspired. A little harder to describe, so you’ll have to check out the menu on their website. Ingredients are said to be all organic. I picked out two to try — smoked eggplant, and the CubaNovo of roast pork rillette with onions, cilantro and Grand Marnier.
Julia’s: None offered.
Panas: Each empanada comes with a choice of dipping sauce. (Or, “dripping sauce” as it says on the menu — either that’s a typo or something didn’t translate.) I chose the ají, a spicy yellow chili pepper and mayo sauce, and chimi, a milder more traditional sauce that goes well with meat.
Julia’s: $3.49 per empanada.
Panas: $2.25 per empanada (but keep in mind they’re much smaller than Julia’s). Combo plates are offered, such as three empanadas and a soda for $8.
Each has its merits. I gravitate more toward the fried-style empanada at Panas, but I appreciate the size and heartiness of Julia’s. Value-wise they’re about equal. Julia’s are larger but served without a sauce, whereas Panas are smaller but come with a dipping sauce. I found the Panas empanadas to be a bit more flavorful, but it probably all depends on the filling. Those sauces were a nice touch though, especially the spicy ají.
A plus about Julia’s — they’re open Friday and Saturday until 4am, which I imagine immensely pleases the post-bar crowd.
Really it comes down to which style of empanada you prefer. Try them both.
** I was wrong, Panas’s empanadas are not fried. I think the first time I went their empanadas were so crispy compared to Julia’s that I mistakenly thought they were fried.
1221 Connecticut Ave. NW
Panas Gourmet Empanadas
2029 P St. NW