Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gram's Empanadas

1410 N. Gessner

Several of our South American restaurants have Uruguayan dishes on their menus but so far as I know this is our only eatery identifying solely as Uruguayan.  There is an image of the Uruguayan flag on the menu board.

My obsession with sausages led me to try the Choripan on my first visit but I also had a beef empanada.  The Choripan - chorizo plus bread (pan) - is a sandwich found in several South American cuisines and I've read that Chorimobiles are the most popular kind of food carts in Argentina.  I have uniformly found South American chorizos to be pretty good sausages and this was no exception but it was different. Like andouille, it seemed to be made of chunks of meat rather than ground; it was split and grilled, a little over-grilled in this instance, and was tasty but the sausage was dwarfed by the bun and all that lettuce.  I have to admit I have yet to discover why these sandwiches are so popular.  None of them have been very impressive.

The beef and cheese empanada was a real winner, however.  Ground beef, minced red, yellow and green bell peppers and onion plus a gooey, stringy cheese, all in a flaky pastry crust with a creamy green sauce on the side that was just a little spicy.

On a second visit I stuck to the empanadas, going for a Leek and Cheese and a Shrimp.

The leek really wowed me.  I didn't really know what to expect but I sure didn't expect to see all that dark green part of the leek.  This one too had the minced peppers and onion and stringy cheese.  It was a bit on the salty side but I was tempted to go back up to the window and order another one and save the shrimp empanada for later.  That wouldn't have been such a bad choice, actually.  Compared to the leek, the shrimp empanada was blah; as I expected for the price point, frozen shrimp were used and they were pretty tasteless.  I understand the crab empanada uses imitation crab, a shame but understandable at the price point.

There are 14 empanadas on the menu board including several breakfast options and 2 sweets - Dulce de Leche and Sweet Potato.  There are also ten 'Meals' on another menu board, including the Choripan and a Chivito Burger and a Chivito Sandwich.  That last one is considered the national dish of Uruguay and it's on the menu of several South American restaurants around town, usually occupying a prominent place on the menu.  Gram's online menu describes theirs as flat iron steak, ham, bacon and cheese plus a fried egg.  I'm pretty sure I saw one on one of my visits and it's a very good looking sandwich.  The Chivito Burger substitutes a hamburger patty for the flat iron steak.

There are several tables on a covered porch on the south side of the little stand and a drive thru window on the opposite side.  Despite the drive-thru, Gram's is not fast food - empanadas are cooked when ordered, not sitting under a heat lamp, and it takes about 10 minutes.

A couple of real winners and more to explore sums it up.  Gram's Empanadas should definitely be on anybody's list for an Empanada Crawl.

Gram's Empanadas on GrubHub

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