One thing that Irving residents know and do a darn good job of concealing from the rest of us is this: The town is patchwork quilt of ethnic culinary gems. From Indian markets to authentic Peruvian, and from Mexican tacquerias (with more choices of taco than you ever thought possible) to Honduran favorites – the choices are endless. If you want credible white tablecloth dining, head to the Four Seasons. But if you want a cornucopia of ethnic delights, start just one mile south on Belt Line Road.
Jump for a taste of empanada.
Over the past month I have made anonymous weekly trips to what I have concluded may currently be the source of the best empanadas in the Dallas area. Empa Mundo has an air conditioner designed for Lilliput. There’s a kitchen that is two feet away from, and in full view of, the serving area; a soft drink selection that is barely adequate; and second-hand tables that you’d find in a yard sale. However, all this is of no consequence if you go for the food. The menu consists of just twelve flavors of empanada. Cheesesteak, chilipanzinga (ham and cheese), and humita (corn and cheese) are particularly tasty. But I couldn’t find a bad one out of the bunch. They are all $2.50 each and two will fill all but the most ravenous individual. I always bought extra to take home, and as I sat with friends eating lunch and discussing the establishment, I noticed that a lot of the traffic is take out. Baylor’s nurses,, geeks from Microsoft, and locals all surge in from noon onwards knowing they have hit the motherlode.
A friend of mine ordered 50 empanadas for Columbian Independence day celebrations. Mercedes Benz, in Fort Worth, ordered over 100 for a company event. And a well-known Spanish restaurant in Dallas orders hundreds every month for resale. The word on Empa Mundo is out, despite it’s short two-and-a-half year existence through one of the worst recessions in Dallas restaurant history.
The owners are Raul Gordon, an Argentinean by birth who came over in the early 1960s and spent many years as an operations manager with food giants like Nabisco. He can tell you how they sent him to every corner of the globe to ensure that Oreo cookies turned out the same way in Jakarta as they did in New Jersey. Lucky for him, he met his wife, Maya, in Indonesia and they now work the business together. They would like to expand, and Raul has just gotten back from a trip to ‘the old country’ (as he calls his homeland), researching larger scale baking equipment.
The important thing to Dallasites right now is that the empanadas are stuffed and packed with filling. The crust is savory and crisp. The limited menu is a testament to the advantages of specialization. Since they are BYOB, pay Raul and Maya the homage of bringing the best Argentinean Malbec if you dine in the evening. I don’t know if empanadas will succeed the taco craze but I can find lots of compelling reasons in these empanadas for them to increase in popularity.