The empanada is having a moment on the city’s eastside with the opening of Empacho. The pocket-sized eatery situated along the Dennis Archer Greenway at 2761 Jefferson Avenue hopes that its line of savory and sweet South American hand pies and snacks will become a hit among folks out to for leisurely visits to the Detroit Riverfront or Belle Isle.
Owner Gonzalo Collazo celebrated the grand opening Empacho over the weekend as a means of showing Detroiters how his community uses the ubiquitous empanada as a tool for bringing friends and family together. Collazo designed the small interior, made up of a lunch counter and limited seating, white and gray floor tiles, and wood accents throughout. A curated retail area features packaged yerba mate, and jars of chimichurri sauce and dulce de leche — which Collazo says is a popular accompaniment for spreading on toast, drizzling on pancakes, or packing into a sweet mini empanada. The logo incorporates a stylized illustration of a frog — imagery inspired by the South American bar game, El Sapo.
Collazo says that the name Empacho is a Spanish term that references the sensation of fullness that one has when enjoying a meal during a special occasion.
“We want to make people feel [like] they can come [here], take some empanadas, some products, and take them home and share with friends and have fun [creating] their own moments,” Collazo says.
To that end, guests place orders — individually or by the dozen — from the spot’s takeout-friendly counter. Empanadas can be ordered individually for $4.50 each or by the dozen, along with a selection of dipping sauces, packaged in a flat box. For guests who want to stick around the shop, there’s an outdoor seating area set up along the greenway. Customers are encouraged to grab a cup of coffee from neighboring Red Hook, which recently added an adjoining wine shop that features a limited selection of Argentinian wines that Collazo helped source. Soon, guests will be able to also order wine by the glass from Red Hook, making for the ideal situation for wiling away lazy summer afternoons sipping wine and enjoying empanadas.
The empanadas are available with a variety of fillings that draw from Argentina’s Spanish and Italian influences, including two regional styles of beef, chorizo, ham and cheese, Neapolitan, spinach and mozzarella, and an American breakfast-style option with eggs inside. Guests can add sauces like criolla, chimichurri, or sweet-garlic mustard for $1 each. For a smaller bite, Empacho also makes chipas (a savory cassava flour and cheese-based bun), mini sweet empanadas, and alfajores, a traditional cookie filled with white meringue or dark chocolate. In addition to its retail options, Empacho is also developing a wholesale program.
Collazo says the past couple of years he’s been splitting his time between Detroit and Argentina that he has spent much of his career traveling the world. Among the few reminders of home, he says, are his country’s empanadas. In its short time since opening, Collazo says he’s found the Argentinian delicacy to be an effective conversation starter.
“We had clients that came [last] week and they were like, ‘I lived in Buenos Aires,’ and we started talking about Buenos Aires,” says Collazo. “It’s also a good way for us to meet people and connect with people.”