Nameless Empanada Cart 2: Anonymize Harder

If the enigma of eating empanadas from an anonymous cart hasn’t yet faded, you’ve got another option. While the loss of Shachi’s on 35th (which is being replaced by what appears to be another generic deli, albeit a tiny one) leaves us without permanent empanada options in southwest Midtown, the Nameless Empanada Cart has a second cart located on 37th, right next to 8th. On a crisp October day when nerds converge on Manhattan in greater numbers than normal, what better way to celebrate by seeing what differences four blocks can make to the empanadaverse?

I wasn’t too impressed by the beef, so I opted for chicken and cheese for this cart’s testing. They’re still $2 each, which isn’t that bad. Sadly, the maduros con queso from the sign are not an option. When I asked the sole lady running the cart, she said that all they had were the usual chicken, beef, and cheese.

The transition between cart and office didn’t fare the crusts too well. I was not impressed by how gummy the crust border became. Even the thin crust around the filling was a bit too chewy. There’s a heat-lamped storage rack area where prepared empanadas are kept, so chances are I got them from the older end of the rack. It might be worth requesting that they fry ‘em up fresh if you have the time.

The chicken in the chicken empanada is very definitely a good portion of dark meat along with white meat, likely cooked first and shredded elsewhere as there’s not much prep space on the cart. The chicken itself tastes like it’s been marinated since it still holds a bit of moisture and plenty of flavor. It’s stuffed quite well, leaving some space inside the empanada. As before it’s still the better of the bunch.

Yes, the cheese empanada continues to disappoint. On this one, they seemed to have added a bit more cheese – but it didn’t melt all that much. What you see is a block of cheese that has cooled back down and returned to its original form, or maybe compressed while frying. By doing so it’s a chewy chunk, somewhat rubbery, which had a weird squeaky feel while chewed. It does at least taste decent, a mild cheesy tang with a modest banana-like taste. It’s some kind of fresh cheese whose name I don’t know, but I’m sure it’d be a lot better if it was a lot better distributed and a lot more melty.

Save us, hot sauce! Fortunately, the cart’s recipe for wonderful hot sauce has not changed. It’s shifted from pinkish to more of a moderate safety orange, but it’s still got a good fiery kick that’s very, very needed. It complements the tangy chicken and offsets the heaviness of the solid cheese.

I’ll be honest, while I didn’t expect empanadas to be a healthy lunch, seeing all that grease left over at the bottom of the bag, turning it transparent (“it’s the window to good health!) makes me feel like I should have three hearts of celery for dinner. Granted, this bloaty, sick feeling in my stomach is probably contributed to by having had a handful of chicharrones for breakfast not too long ago, but it’s not making me look forward to a swift return to this empanada cart, shrouded in secrecy – apparently a trend on this block.

The + (What Shachi’s partisans in the hills would say):

  • More empanada options are always a plus!
  • If you can’t get your food covertly from an elevator shaft, a cart with no name is fine too.
  • Awesome hot sauce and gratefully marinated dark meat chicken!

The – (What those who are regular Nuchas visitors would say):

  • There’s zero variety here. It’s literally the same cart!
  • Oh good God, this cheese is just a chunk of Superball by-product.
  • I feel sick from all the grease.

Nameless Empanada Cart, W. 37th St., just around the corner from 8th

2 Comments

  • Please google “queso de freir.” It’s supposed to be squeaky.

    I’m pretty sure that cheese isn’t the melty kind because it’s too perfectly square. If a soft melty type of cheese had been melted at one point, it wouldn’t cool back down to that perfect shape.

  • It’s kind of a throw-off, though – the cheese empanada at the 34th St. cart was melted throughout. At the edges of the one from this cart it was a great deal meltier.

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