It is ironic, but the places I prefer to get Empanadas are in San Diego, not in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a city famous for its culinary delights and movie stars. However, with our 40% Latino population, you will be hard pressed to find good Mexican or Latin American food here. San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, and New Mexico are the optimal destinations for Latin cuisine! Ironically, once again, San Diego, which is right next to the border, has some of the world’s worst tacos. But, in Los Angeles, you can get very tasty tacos from trucks on the street at midnight!
Old San Juan: Los Angeles
This place has allegedly closed in the last few months. Their appetizers were spectacular, but their dishes didn’t suit me at all. They had amazing empanadas (which they call pastelillos in Puerto Rican Spanish) with chicken, beef, pork, and crab. The soft and flavorful fillings made these empanadas my favorite anywhere. Additionally, they had salsa tropical with mango and other wonderful non-Mexican ingredients in it which went great with their tarot chips. Something to try at least once. My favorite was their plantain alcapurrias. They were shaped like plantains made with ground and deep friend plantains. The insides were chicken, beef, pork, or crab. Personally, I liked beef the best in their pastelillos and alcapurrias, but all of their appetizer variations were amazing.
Here are some yelp locations that also have alcapurrias in the Los Angeles area
Nonna’s Empanadas: Los Angeles
This is a place right on the West-side of Los Angeles near Beverly Center and Beverly Hills that specializes in empanadas. They have dozens of varieties of empanadas including fruit empanadas. The place is run by Argentinians by the way. What I noticed is that the flavors for the Argentinian and Chilean empanadas seemed to my not that well educated palatte to be authentic. Unfortunately, although the other nationalities of empanadas tasted good, they were obviously not made by someone who knew the culinary culture of those countries.
I tried a samosa there. It tasted remarkably un-Indian. Good though! The shape of a samosa is supposed to be triangular and three dimensional, and a particular size. The shape adds authenticity. Food at this restaurant is in a sense mass-produced, so having customized shapes for the turnovers just isn’t part of the plan — so far. But, maybe things will change. I also tried a Russian Pierogi. I had one at a Russian Deli in San Francisco which had the authentic flavor. But, Nonna’s had neither the huge triangular shape, not the distinct greasy and brothy flavor that the real thing had. I recommend Nonna’s for a great experience and a fun time, but not for authenticity unless you order the Argentinian or Chilean empanadas.
La Paella: Los Angeles
This is a very nice restaurant right on the border of Beverly Hills on San Vicente. They have all types of paella to share (no individual portions to my dismay.) Their wines by the glass were very affordable and in very good taste as well. They have many traditional tapas dishes, and other entres from Spain. The staff is excellent and consist generally of people from Spain who prefer traditional food (based on my conversations with them.) The chocolate moose is a favorite of mine, and their empanada is the icing on the cake. Recommended, especially for a date!
Little Spain: Los Angeles
This is a place that has been in the 3rd Street Farmer’s Market for about two years. I went there twice and liked it. They offer paella for single customers in small sizes which is unusual. Great wine, nice service, and of course is it always a pleasure to be in the Farmer’s Market which has an ambiance of fun! They have chicken empanadillas too.
Bertas: Old Town, San Diego
There is a place in Old Town, San Diego called Bertas which has a very nice Lamb empanada. I enjoyed their ambiance, food, artwork, service, as well as the relaxing environment of San Diego in general.
Sevilla Night Club: Downtown, San Diego
It was a long time ago. But, I enjoyed some unusual tapas dishes there including an empanada. Great service. They are right on 5th ave in Downtown San Diego.