Spinach empanada at Gara Empanadas

Dashboard Dining With Latin flavor At Gara Empanadas

Wow! I’ve got to tell you about the cozy little place where we ate on a trip out to Oldham County the other day.

It was a small space, intimate but surprisingly comfortable as we sat surrounded by walls of glass that let in plenty of sunlight and the suburban view. The colors were muted, almost spartan, wsoft upholstery and crisp edges in shades of gray. The seating was most comfortable of all, form-fitting and even adjustable; and we could take our pick among scores of entertainment channels. Really, about the only downside I could see was the the big steering wheel in my lap that made it kind of hard to get at my food.

Yep, we were dashboard dining! That’s the only kind of dining you can do at the new Gara Empanadas in Crestwood, but it would be a shame to miss out on these excellent and affordable Latin goodies just because it’s limited to drive-up and walk-up takeaway.

Let’s face it – empanadas are fun! If you’re not familiar with this Latino treat, empanadas are turnovers with a Spanish accent, filling sealed in a pastry casing, fried or baked until the bready wrapper is golden-brown and delicious while the innards are steaming hot. They can range from bite-size to plate-size, and just about every Spanish-speaking country offers some variation on the theme.

(If you’re a language nerd, you may be as geekily entranced as I was with the information that “empanada” comes from the Spanish word for “bread,” “pan,” converted into a verb, “empanar,” which means, pretty much, “put into bread.”)

Two guys work inside the little free-standing building (one said he’s Argentine, the other Mexican, I think), hustling empanadas into the ovens and pouring fountain drinks and Latino “smoothies.”

Gara Empanadas’ website trumpets, “Not just GOOD but GREAT,” adding that they “build the best empanadas you’ve ever had.” Well, that’s bold … but they are good.

Take your pick of six from the big chalkboard-look menu out front – beef, chicken, tuna, ham-and-cheese, bacon-and-egg, spinach or the aforementioned coconut, all $2 each; or you can buy ’em by the sack in four combination orders that save you a few pence on a bag of empanadas and a drink.

They’re good but smallish – I’d say you could put one away in four to eight bites, depending on your level of daintiness – so I’d suggest getting two to six for a meal, depending on your appetite. We sampled four and easily could have made room for more.

The beef tasted beefy indeed, chopped with bits of green pepper and onion. The chicken didn’t boast so much chicken flavor, but made up for its mildness with lots of herbs and green pepper in a coarsely ground mix. The spinach tasted fresh and added onions and maybe garlic, and the coconut – drizzled with dulce de leche – was moist and sweet. All four empanadas were baked, not fried, in a rich, flaky shortened crust.

Gara Empanadas is on the KY 329 bypass just around the corner from La Grange Road (KY 146) in Crestwood. It’s open lunch, dinner and evening hours every day of the year except Christmas.

Our dashboard lunch of four empanadas and a diet cola came to a budget $9.22, a price-to-quality ratio that rendered tip percentages meaningless. I tossed the guys a fiver as my way of saying “thanks for being here.”

Gara Empanadas
6004 Pleasant Colony Ct.
Crestwood, Ky.
Robin Garr’s rating: 83 points