A Latin American delicacy with European roots, an empanada is dough wrapped around a tasty filling.
It is the specialty of the house at Papa Luna’s owned by Simon Baer, who studied abroad in Buenos Aires between 2006 and 2008 before moving to the States, bringing the Argentinean delight with him.
Baer said he came to Pacific Beach to treat San Diegans to international fare and South American flair.
“Empanadas are baked turnovers, like a pirogi or a mini calzone that can be either sweet or savory,” said Baer. “Every country has its own take on it.”
Baer chose Luna (“moon” in Spanish) for his restaurant name because his menu staple is “half-moon shaped,” and because he wanted “something everybody could read and understand that was easy to say and spell phonetically.”
Papa Luna is as easy to say as its cuisine is to eat and transport, two keys to its growing popularity.
“It’s a good food for Pacific Beach because empanadas are a handful that are easy to carry and walk with. They’re very portable,” Baer said.
Papa Luna’s tag line is, “Latin American style, Southern California flavors.”
That’s exactly what you’ll find at Baer’s eatery.
“We do traditional empanadas and also do a Southern California take on empanadas,” said Baer, offering his turkey empanada, which he described as a “Thanksgiving dinner all wrapped up,” as one example. The empanada is filled with roasted turkey breast, mashed potato, stuffing and cranberry and served with homemade gravy.
There are empanadas for every meal and every taste, for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Examples include a Philly cheese steak empanada with homemade cheese sauce, a “Sunny Goat” empanada with organic goat cheese, sausage and sun-dried tomatoes and a breakfast empanada with chorizo and scrambled egg.
There are even dessert emp-anadas with chocolate, banana, apple and raisin filling.
Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends, Papa Luna’s also offers an array of unique salads, as well as gazpacho, a cold tomato Spanish soup.
“We do an empanada of the month,” said Baer, noting customers offer their suggestions for monthly choices in a restaurant suggestion box and also through the restaurant’s Facebook site.
“If [the suggestions are] popular enough, we’ll keep them on the menu,” he said, adding customers whose suggestions are picked also get to name them, like the current entry, the “Babaloo” empanada with plantains, black beans, roasted garlic and cilantro.
The empanada restaurant has a small patio and a few tables inside.
“It’s a great alternative to pizza, burgers and burritos, which is why Pacific Beach is a good fit for it,” concluded Baer, adding his restaurant is “happy to be an active community partner,” having donated more than $3,000 to Pacific Beach schools since its opening.
For more information, call (858) 255-8875 or visit papalunas.com.