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Lunch Box

There Are Crispy, Loaded Empanada Plates at Cuates Kitchen in Oak Lawn

The tiny restaurant is serving tacos, ceviche, and delicious empanadas.
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The empanada plate at Cuates Kitchen Nataly Keomoungkhoun

For years, fans followed the Cuates Kitchen food truck all over North Texas to get a bite of their tacos and empanadas. Because the truck catered to all of Dallas-Fort Worth, they developed a happy following of loyal customers wherever they went, says co-owner Carlos Rodriguez.

“Frisco, Fort Worth, Plano, The Colony, Prosper, Dallas—you name it,” he says. “It was a little hard for people to track us down.”

Now it’s not hard at all to find their Veracruz-inspired cuisine. Rodriguez’s family now has a brick-and-mortar on Fairmount Street in Oak Lawn in what was formerly Modest Rogers. If not for this quaint home, I probably would have followed the truck around myself after one recent visit.

Cuates Kitchen is run by Rodriguez, his twin sister Carla (“cuates” means twins in Spanish), and their mother, Fatima Molina. Molina and Carla both cook in the kitchen, creating one of the coolest empanada plates in the city.

An order comes with two very massive and colorful empanadas. The flat sides of the empanadas face each other, and the two form a perfect circle on the plate. The dish is loaded with toppings: fresh shredded romaine lettuce, crumbled Cojita, diced tomatoes and onions, sliced avocado, and drizzled with spicy mayo. It’s almost hard to find the empanada. Almost.

Empanadas are a pastry served throughout Latin America and parts of Europe. They can be sweet or savory depending on where you are and what you’re looking for. Regions of Argentina, for example, often fill flaky dough pockets with seasoned ground beef or carrots and potatoes. In El Salvador, the dough is made from ripe plantains. In Veracruz, where the family is from, empanadas are street food, and they usually aren’t all dressed up as Cuates serves them.

“You fry them and you open it up, and you add salsa and a little bit of cheese and that’s it,” he says. “But here [at Cuates] we added a little bit of romaine lettuce, tomato, avocado—let’s spice it up.”

On the menu, there’s only an option for chicken, but requests for a different filling can be taken, they just require a bit of wait, Rodriguez says. The empanadas at Cuates are homemade, from the crisp exterior to the filling. The dough is made with masa, so the empanadas are made to order because the dough is so delicate.

If they weren’t made to order, they wouldn’t be so dang crispy. And that crunch works well with the fresh veggies on top. I waited maybe ten minutes or so for my order to come out, and I passed the time with an order of elotes and tacos.

Empanadas I’ve eaten in the past are usually handheld and easy to take on the go. There is no way to easily pick up a hefty Cuates Kitchen empanada. If I took it to go, lettuce would fly everywhere. It’s best to savor this meal inside or on the Cuates patio.

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Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Nataly Keomoungkhoun

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Nataly Keomoungkhoun joined D Magazine as the online dining editor in 2022. She previously worked at the Dallas Morning News,…

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