Caracas Empanadas (cart)
Update 10/21/11: Caracas Empanadas is operating again.
As of this posting on 9/20/11, Caracas Empanadas is out of commission due to a fire at Taste of Madison.
In a word: Street food done well.
Latest Caracas Empanadas news and reviews
JM and Nichole ate 4 empanadas: chicken, pork, cheese, and potato and red pepper.
The bill was $10, or $5/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Caracas Empanadas an A- (see our grading rubric).
Empanadas are ideal walking-around food, and a perfect fit for cart eats. Caracas Empanadas, new on Library Mall in 2011, lives up to the potential.
We went on a Thursday, since we didn't realize during the post-U make-up list that they only operate Wendesday through Saturday. (Caracas Epanadas has since gotten on Twitter, and they use it to share their hours and location, which is a brillant business use of that medium. Every cart should be on Twitter.)
Today was another narrow escape - at high noon, they were dealing with a water pump malfunction and feared they'd have to pack it in. But by 12:15 they took our order and a few moments later we were eating lunch.
The empanadas are handmade, frozen, and deep-fried to order. There were six savories (shredded beef, ground beef, chicken, pork, cheese, and vegetable) and four sweets (chocolate, strawberry-chocolate, banana-chocolate, apple cinnamon) on the menu, plus churros and cans of Coke products.
We got four savory empanadas. They were served in a nicely greasy white paper bag. Two teensy cups of bright green sauce came with them, and proved useful. The sauce was either cilantro- or basil-based, we can't quite remember, but it started with lingering garlic and ended with a fleeting spike of hot spice.
The pork was our favorite, partly because pork always seems to be our favorite, and partly because it was well-seasoned in a sweet, light BBQ sauce, with diced peppers and onions.
Our opinions of the chicken differed. While it was moist shredded meat, Nichole thought it had a processed, too-salty flavor. JM didn't taste the salt so much as the absence of other flavors.
The cheese empanada felt decadent. Inside it was not so much filled as coated with a hearty cheddar-based sauce. (You know what would be awesome? A krab, cream cheese, and onion empanada. Just saying.)
We thought that the "veg" empanada of the day was not "vegetable" so much as "vegetarian," being mostly diced potatoes in a thinner, grainier version of the cheese sauce, plus a little bit of red pepper. The crust had a different degree of flakiness, hinting that it got its own fryer, though we didn't think to ask.
A few days after our visit we got a nice email out of the blue from the cart operator, so we took the opportunity to ask some questions. We learned that the dough is not quite vegan due the use of a small amount of milk, but that there are other, more balanced vegetable options in the rotation:
We always offer plain cheese (we finally just found a great Latin white cheese very similar to one we use in Venezuela) and we rotate between the following veggies:
Sweet Plantain and Roasted Garlic (our most requested)
Spinach, Mozzarella and Ricotta
Potato, Corn, and Black Bean
Potato and Roasted Red Pepper
We hope that Caracas Empanadas can right itself after the fire and continue to be a great place to get hot food on the go.