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Cheap eats: 7 Bay Area empanada restaurants that are amazing

a slice of pizza on a plate

By JESSICA YADEGARAN | | Bay Area News Group  March 29, 2021

a box of food

Castro Valley’s Pampas Empanada & Coffee Co. does a brisk business in espresso, tea and Argentine treats, offering a dozen different kinds of savory empanadas, as well as four sweet, fruit-filled versions, and an entire menu of alfajores. 

Craving a savory pocket of comfort? We get it. Empanadas can be stuffed with savory or sweet fillings and are perfect enjoyed on the go, like a bagel, or as a sit-down bite with a green salad on the side. What you shouldn’t do is pay too much. You can get a large, handmade empanada for around $5 or a trio of the smaller, half-moon pies for about $10, if you visit one of these fantastic casual spots from San Jose to Oakland, Redwood City and Lafayette.

Milohas Colombian Empanadas: This South Bay institution makes a wide variety of baked Colombian empanadas that have a flaky, buttery dough and a range of fillings, including turkey and other meats, egg and cheese, mushroom and quinoa. There’s even pineapple. Look for lunch combos with salad or soup, too. $4.75 each. 4662 Meridian Ave., San Jose;

Sabores del Sur: Long-time Walnut Creek restaurateur Guisell Harith Osorio has pivoted to a nearby commercial kitchen for to-go, delivery and catering of her Chilean cuisine, including empanadas. Enjoy classic bready-style empanadas filled with chicken, Chilean steak, ham and cheese and more. $5.75-$6.75 each. 271 Lafayette Circle, Lafayette;

The Damel: Open since 2019, this two-year-old Afro-Brazilian restaurant celebrates the intersection of chef-owner Oumar Diouf’s Senegalese roots and South American culinary experiences. Look for more than 14 empanadas, stuffed with halal lamb or spicy halal chicken, and non-meat varieties with spinach, mushrooms, hearts of palm and more. Sweet empanadas, too. $4 each. 1312 Broadway Ave., Oakland;

a close up of a slice of pizza on a plate
The Damel in Oakland offers more than 16 handmade empanadas, including the Carne, with halal ground beef, onion, tomato, olive and spices. (Courtesy The Damel) 

Pampas Empanada and Coffee Co.: This Argentine coffee house does a brisk business in espresso, alfajores and empanadas — an entire menu of them. Look for 14 varieties ($3.95 to $4.25), including a dozen savory versions, from breakfast (scrambled eggs, cheddar and bacon) to chicken, sweet potato and chorizo with chimichurri. 3483 Castro Valley Boulevard, Castro Valley;

Best Artisan Empanadas: This new family-owned spot near The Pruneyard in Campbell is already racking up positive reviews for their flaky, crispy and widely varied empanadas — all 15 of them — including breakfast empanadas served with house potatoes ($8) or other savory types, like cilantro chicken, Peruvian Lomo or spicy Thai, which come with house salad for around $10. 533 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell.

Venga: This Argentine empanaderia, with locations in San Francisco and Redwood City, makes its stuffed pockets daily in a host of flavors, including five with meat, like Gaucho Chicken or traditional beef with hard-boiled egg, plus nine vegetarian, including Super Kale with beets and carrots, and a Five Pepper Manchego empanada  laced with poblano chiles. Most are $4 each. They do gluten-free empanadas, too. 443 Valencia St., San Francisco, and 822 Main St., Redwood City; 

El Porteño: You can’t go to the San Francisco Ferry Building without loading up on legendary empanadas from this Argentine-style spot. Fluffy, flaky dough surrounds everything from bay shrimp with aged parmesan to prosciutto with fontina cheese and bananas with dulce de leche. If you like sweet empanadas, there’s also the Manzana, which is stuffed with Pisco-soaked raisins. 1 Ferry Plaza, San Francisco and Oxbow Public Market, 610 First St. in Napa;