Empanadas from La Empanada Llama

Empanada Llama empanadas

By Deanna Fox

When it comes to the eating of feelings, I am the champion. The contents of my refrigerator are direct indicators of my mood. Happy or generally content times manifest as plenty of fresh produce, lean meat, and other aspects of a homemade, well-balanced diet. Other times, you'll find all the things that would make Jenny Craig blush.

One particular crappy day had me hankering for something fried, spicy, and perhaps even a little sweet. How could one better address all those cravings that with fried handpies? And on this day, that came in the form of empanadas at La Empanada Llama.

In one single bite, I could feel my entire day turning around.

La Empanada Llama exterior Delaware Ave

La Empanada Llama had been in the back of my mind for some time , but I just never seemed to be able to make it over for a visit. As luck would have it, the restaurant recently moved to a space on Delaware Ave in Albany. And needing to be in the area anyway, I felt an epic display of emotional eating might be the perfect way to brush this cloud of Murphy's Law away from my head.

Within one bite, I was sold. I swear the skies opened up and sunshine flooded the Delaware Avenue sidewalks where the rain once fell.

empanada_llama_empanadas_interior.jpg

I started with two savory empanadas, not knowing how filling they would be. They were perfectly filling, but you need to let them settle in your belly first. (They are easy to eat, you'll undoubtedly scarf them down fast, and the result will be a bloated, overstuffed feeling if you're not careful.) My first empanada was the chicken ($3), filled with shredded meat in a traditional aji amarillo sauce - it's like a spicy queso sauce, and it's every bit as delicious as it sounds. I also tried the Mexican ($3), but not without some hesitation. I'll be honest, I'm not a big refried beans lover, but the Mexican was a perfectly balance trio of the beans, seasoned ground beef, and guacamole. Smearing a little "green sauce," a closely guarded secret no doubt consisting of cilantro and hot peppers, on either empanada brings a vibrancy, a piquant hit, to the flavor that works to highlight the flavors already happening.

Especially crap-tastic days call for sweets, though, and I decided to double-down on desserts, opting for both the tres leches cake ($3.25) and the dulce de leche empanada ($3). You can order the dessert empanada with or without coconut -- always opt for with. About the same time, my friend Daniel invited me over for a cup of his Cuban coffee, so I took the sweets to go, ordering another round of empanadas and a side of plantains ($3) to bring along to accompany the black beans and rice he also offered up.

empanada_llama_empanada_dulce_de_leche.jpg

"Oh my God."

That's what Daniel said when he split the dulce de leche empanada in half and watched the river of molten, golden caramel ooze over the fried empanada pastry like a treasure chest spilling over with riches. The tres leches was on par with any other I've ever had. But the dulce de leche -- sweet with the flavors of burnished sugar and cream -- was the real pinnacle of the meal.

Seeing a friend, and pairing that with excellent food, brought solace to my woes. Empanadas, it turns out, are my foodie Prozac. Sure, some jerk cut me off on Whitehall Road after I left La Empanada Llama, but in slamming my breaks a pair of Ray Bans I thought were long gone came sliding out from under the passenger's seat. And yeah, my gas tank hit "E" on my way back from Daniel's house.

Food can't fix everything, but it can make the day a little brighter. A handmade, lovingly formed empanada from La Empanada Llama brings a little sunshine on even the darkest of days.

Deanna Fox writes about many things, mostly about food. More can be found on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.

More Eat This:
+ Chicken parm at D'Raymonds
+ Waffles at Iron Roost
+ Grilled cheese at The Cheese Traveler

Find It

La Empanada Llama
469 Delaware Ave
Albany, NY 12209

Comments

You should totally get the beef one next time.. it has RAISINS (unless you are one of those "raisins ruin everything" people)

I am a fan of the nutella and banana one as well.

And I will be the first to say that I'll sit down and eat 4 of these before I realize I'm full... and it's totally worth it.

PJ is right -- the beef one is delicious. Although, my favorite is the cabbage and chorizo -- so, so good. The Wednesday lunch buffet is a delicious bargain, as well.

I've had their savory empanadas but never their sweet ones, they look absolutely amazing!! And I'm so excited about the new location, decent walking distance from center square.

It is criminal that this place is only a few blocks from my house. I went three nights in a row!! Its an addiction...

It also doesn't help that the food is so cheap, considering the amazing quality and how filling it is. For $9 bucks I had dinner and a dessert and felt guilty at how little I paid for it!

I have been wanting to eat here for a while, too. Now that I know about the new location, I'll be there soon. Delaware Ave is the perfect place for them.

I was so excited to try Empanada Llama a few months back. I tried the beef empanada and the chicken as an order-ahead take-out order. I also ordered a side of riceThe first thing I was met with was very unfriendly service. Even though there was a woman who was in the restaurant (and the restaurant was completely empty), nobody came over to me until I called out for assistance. There was no smile or any kind of friendliness. OK, though, perhaps she was having a bad day.

The chicken had pretty good flavor, but I was disappointed to see that the crust was pretty dense. The texture reminded me of a thick apple pie crust. I am used to a lighter, flakier crust, more comparable to a puff pastry.

Where I was really disappointed was in the beef empanada. I did not taste any discernable spice. I am all for an empanada with raisins (my favorite kind of empanada are Argentinian style, which have golden raisins), but I do not think they helped here. Overall, I found the meat to be bland and disappointing. I also found that the crust also had a similar tough, too-thick texture to the chicken empanada.

Two empanadas were plenty to fill me up, though.

Unfortunately, the side order of white rice also missed the mark a bit, as it was very salty.

I am glad to see so many favorable reviews, so perhaps I will give it another go if I find myself over there.

I'm so glad to see so many other people love La Empanada Llama, too!

Yes, they do a lunch buffet on Wednesdays, I believe it runs from 11a-2p for around 8 bones. That's an incredible deal.

I'll be honest - the fact that empanadas were kept in a heat case until people ordered them worried me, but I tried empanadas kept under heat AND fresh-made empanadas and there was no difference, except that the fresh-fried one was crazy-hot, and the other was perfect temp. If you go in for lunch, don't be put-off by the hot case. It allows the staff to give you an amazing product quickly.

@N - I do hope you will give it another chance. The woman who worked the counter the day I was in was so friendly, even a little charming. I also witnessed her handling difficult phone orders and a line of customers at the counter with grace. She's a pro. It sounds like maybe it was just an off day when you were there, @N. I'm sorry for that, and I do hope you'll give it another chance.

That's another good point - if you are in a rush, call ahead and pick-up your order. They keep it hot for you until you get there, it's not just sitting around on a counter somewhere.

I'm really looking forward to trying some of the other Peruvian delights on the menu. Maybe I'll see some of you there!

order the mini ones for a party! We got them for my sons graduation and they were a HUGE hit!
I am going to get some for thanksgiving!

Deanna, you must be kidding. I would be put off by the hot box.

There is little worse than what amounts to leftovers (pre-cooked food sitting in a steam table or under heat lamps), and especially fried foods as such being served in a restaurant. I want food cooked to order. How long can it take to fry an empanada? 10 minutes max? They are lazy.

If I entered the shop and saw food getting old in a hot box as you call it, I would turn right around and walk out. Lukewarm empanadas cooked God knows when? No thanks.

Damn about the secret green sauce... I ordered a slew of empanadas recently and fell in LOVE the green sauce. I was hoping I could find out more about it to try to make at home, and it's quite a guarded secret. I could put that green sauce on everything.

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