Friday, April 10, 2009

Julia's Empanadas - Guest Post

When our party of two in DC expands to include friends and family who are willing, we'll add their thoughts and fresh perspectives to our own ramblings. In this case, a review of Julia's Empanadas comes from another West Coast transplant who has joined us in Washington. After reading his post you may abandon us in search of more of his witty prose. Fear not because it can be found here.

-B and J

Imagine your most beautiful, mysterious, and magical dream. Then wrap it in a pastry crust. And, ladies and gentlemen, you have Julia’s Empanadas.

Okay, so I might have stuffed my empanada description above with a bit too much hyperbole, but this little hole-in-the-wall place has become one of my favorite places in the entire District. Having spent some time in college to intern and do research in DC, I came in search of knowledge, but I think I may have notched as many visits to Julia’s (conveniently located about 3 blocks away from my dorm), as I did to the library.

For those of you waiting for your mouths to water, but unsure exactly what an empanada is, before you try to wikipedia it, the best description I can think of – and one I’ve used with my own friends – is to think of it as an “Argentinan hot-pocket.” Surely, Julia might take offense at this reference, but it really is your choice of filling surrounded by a buttery pasty shell.

Julia’s Empanadas offers seven different varieties – six standard ones, and a vegetarian/vegan option that rotates weekly. The most popular, it seems, is the Jamaican, which features beef, onion, potato, curry and spices. My personal favorite, though, is the simply prepared spinach one, which highlights spinach and multiple cheeses melted inside of a bulbous shell. Should these savory options leave your sweet-tooth hankering for something more, Julia’s also offers a series of dessert empanadas, including pineapple; strawberry-cream cheese; apple; and the ever-popular almond and pear empanada, with a tiny little string to untie before eating.

Want one of both? Julia’s has you covered with their “Good Meal Deal,” which provides you with your choice of one savory and one sweet empanada, and a beverage. Not good at math? No problem: the good meal deal is exactly $6 including tax. Though Julia’s also offers some soups and salads, no one goes there for anything but the empanadas – or “emps” as some people lovingly refer to them.

Julia’s has three locations in the district – Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and Dupont Circle. The latter is wonderfully positioned among bars and clubs, and, thankfully, is open until 4AM on weekends. It’s right next to Lucky Bar, so if you girls are tired of creepers trying to dance with you, you can come hang out and mingle with Julia and her empanadas instead. Be forewarned though: there is only a tiny counter at which to eat, and it is increasingly usurped by stacks of napkins, plastic silverware, and bottles of water. The best thing to do is to grab your emps to go, and either take them up to the fountain at Dupont Circle, across the street to a small park, or to eat as you walk.

So, who is this mysterious Julia? It remains unclear, as virtually every time I visit, the person manning the store is not a beautiful woman lovingly cooking empanadas just for me, but rather, a mustached man shuffling around the small storefront. That said, while Julia’s Empanadas might not be the most authentic (after all I did refer to them as hotpockets), they are uniformly good, conveniently located, open late, and Julia’s has become a big part of my DC experience. The sign on the door proudly exclaims that Julia’s empanadas are baked with love, and I have to agree – Julia’s empanadas is unquestionably worth a try.

Second Thoughts from B and J

When J and I first moved to DC and were lost among the seemingly countless eateries, we were led to Julia's Empanadas by one of their biggest fans (could you tell from his post?). Needless to say, as one of our first DC dining experiences, it holds a special place in our hearts. However, it is more than nostalgia that keeps us going back. I may have had a better empanada in my life, but there will always be a place in DC and in our dining adventures for an inexpensive, always open, and unique "fast food."
Julia's Empanadas on Urbanspoon

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