If you shorten the word "empanadas," you might just come up with Panas, a new gourmet empanada joint that just opened at 2029 P Street. You could also come up with "Empies," but Panas has more of a little ring to it, so we'll roll with it. Empanadas aren't specific to one region, but with roots in Spain and Portugal, the small 'meat pies' have become a staple of any and every South American, Central American and Caribbean nation. This, by definition, justifies the 'Latin-Fusion' categorization, but isn't that just fancy talk for Americanized Latin food for whiteys like me?
Beyond the new, make-shift sign is an ultra-sleek, modern eatery. How sleek is it? It's got grass growing out of the walls (below), which is something that only happens in the future. After wading through the weekday lunch rush, I turned my attention to the menu. And it's huge. In addition to some South American classics, there's some of that Americanized fare we just talked about.
They've got plenty of meaty options and even a decent-sized vegetarian selection of 'panas,' plus a handful of combo deal options. I sprung for the one that included four empanadas, plantain chips, a few dipping sauces, guacamole and a soda for ten bucks.
I went with the Chipotle Steak (shredded sirloin steak, onions w/ spicy red mole, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and cabernet sauvignon), the Chicken Pesto (chicken w/ gourmet pesto, tomatoes, aged cheddar and onion), the CubaNovo (roasted pork rillette w/ onions, cilantro, lime, grand marnier and sauvignon blanc), and the Pepe (pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and fresh tomatoes). Had I noticed the veggie empanadas, I may have included the Popeye (sauteed spinach and onions, golden raisins, cream and goat cheese).
The first thing I noticed about my empanadas (below) was the relative freshness. During a busy lunch rush, the empanadas were flying in and out of the oven. The Pepe was over-stuffed with pepperoni like a mini calzone. The Chipotle Steak had a nice smoky, spicy taste to it. I was happy to note, all of the empanadas were filled with an interesting blend of gourmet ingredients.
I also got the chimichurri and the spicier Aji Amarillo (pronounced A-Hee, like the Tuna) for dipping counterparts. Maybe I'm easily placated by a couple of unique sauces (like at California Tortilla, where I typically fill up about ten different hot sauces, and maybe end up using one.) but, between the sauces, the guac and the plantain chips, I was very happy with my South American influences. Above all, the new P Street outpost provides a very fun environment and experience.