Food truck sets up storefront, 5411 Empanadas

September 24, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"It's the international dialing code for Buenos Aires, Argentina; that's where we are from and that's the empanada style we make," Nicolas Ibarzabal, 5411 Empanadas, said of the store's namesake number.

Empanadas are essentially a fancy version of a hot pocket. They've been around forever, especially in the Southern hemisphere.

"Every country in South America/Latin America has their own way of doing empanadas; we do them the Argentinian way," Ibarzabal said.

That means they're smaller, using a thinner dough that they ship in directly from Argentina, and are baked instead of fried. There are nearly a dozen flavors at 5411, but the most basic is the beef, which is usually accompanied by root vegetables. Spinach and cheese is another popular version, and the barbequed chicken has the slightest hint of sweetness.

How can you possibly tell which is which? The cooks give them identifying shapes, and then provide a key so you can tell which is which. That spinach-cheese gets a three-pronged hat; the barbequed chicken gets sealed with the tines of a fork; inside the half-moon shaped like a dumpling: bacon, dates and goat cheese.. While over in the spherical hat it's the ham and cheese.

They offer a couple of sauces on the side, but they're not necessary. If you like dulce de leche, or goat's milk caramel, better check out the creamy cheesecake or the alfajores; those are sandwiched between shortbread cookies and rolled in coconut.

The key with these empanadas is don't take them too seriously. Sure, you could use silverware, but if you want to eat like a South American, go hand-held.

"We do have knife and forks if people want to, but when people ask we usually suggest it's a finger food so eat with your hands," Ibarzabal said.

5411 also delivers-- even in the suburbs -- as long as the minimum order is 12 empanadas. Foodies can also chase down their food truck as it roams the city, normally stopping in the Loop for lunch. To find out their location, follow @5411Empanadas on twitter.

5411 Empanadas
2850 N. Clark St

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