Cari Taylor-Carlson

La Masa Has Delicious Empanadas

There are many great reasons to visit Brady Street, La Masa is one of them.

By - Aug 6th, 2018 06:23 pm
Brady Street Week 2018August 6th through 10th is Brady Street week at Urban Milwaukee. Visit the site daily for dining reviews, development news, business profiles, tavern profiles and more. Coverage sponsored by the Brady Street Business Improvement District (BID#11)
La Masa, Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

La Masa, Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

I’ll put it right up front; I love La Masa. It’s my go-to place on Brady for a quick, delicious, inexpensive meal, where I can’t get enough of their empanadas, the Jicama Slaw and the three sauces.

I come to La Masa with a history of eating dough stuffed with a variety of fillings. In Kathmandu I ate momos, steamed dough, filled with chopped water buffalo meat which I later learned had spent the day in a small room with flies crawling on it. I ate pot stickers at midnight in Bangkok’s Night Market, and I ate fried empanadas in Chile, in a restaurant where I dined alone at 7:45 p.m. in a cavernous room, because the locals don’t start to think about their evening meal until after 8:00 p.m. And of course, Milwaukee has its pierogi.

None of them measures up to the baked, not fried, empanadas at La Masa. From their opening in 2015, they have served the neighborhood well with Latino-inspired dishes that fill a niche for a quick meal on a street that favors many bars and sit-down restaurants.

Inside La Masa Empanada Bar. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Inside La Masa Empanada Bar. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Recently friends and I sampled most of the empanadas on the current menu as well as two salads which our attentive server recommended, Quinoa Salad, and Grapefruit and Goat Cheese Salad. She said the quinoa salad has been mentioned as possibly life changing. It was good but……not that good. The bowl overflowed with mixed greens, sliced avocado, grape tomatoes, black beans, corn, and crunchy quicos, toasted corn nuts. The tomatillo vinaigrette, both piquant and tart, animated the salad, especially the potentially monotonous quinoa.

The Grapefruit and Goat Cheese Salad came alive with savory grapefruit sections balanced by earthy jicama, red onion, sliced avocado, and dabs of soft goat cheese. It was dressed with an almost imperceptible blood orange balsamic vinaigrette. Okay, I know some people prefer their salad lightly dressed, I’m not one of them. I wanted more vinaigrette.

From the six empanadas we ordered, the super stars were, Black Bean and Chorizo, Jalapeno Cheddar, and the summer special, Brat and Kraut. The chorizo was spicy and blended well with white cheddar and black beans, while the brat and kraut left no doubt that this is a Milwaukee creation. The chef crumbled the meat, added a little mustard, and to keep it real, a hint of sauerkraut peeking through the brat. They also put white cheddar in the jalapeno empanada, an interesting combination. Because jalapeno was the first ingredient, I approached it with some trepidation. Turned out the pepper was relatively mild and tasted “green,” as if it had just been plucked off the vine.

Each empanada order came with chimichurri, a traditional Argentine sauce made with parsley, spices, and olive oil. For an additional 50 cents you can add a little cup of Aji Amarillo Aioli or Creamy Poblano Avocado Sauce which they also use as dressing on the Mixta Salad. The chimichurri is a fine, nicely blended, solid traditional sauce, the others too good to pass on. Spend the extra buck, you won’t be disappointed. If there is leftover sauce, highly unlikely, they give you a little cup to take it home.

When you order the La Masa Trio, you get a bonus along with your three empanadas, a serving of Jicama Slaw. They dress the shredded cabbage and carrots with their house dressing, a tangy blend of balsamic, cumin, lime juice and mayonnaise. Since they make it fresh daily, our server said, there could be minor flavor variations from day to day. I found its punch of sweet and sour, addictive. They also sprinkle quicos on the slaw to ramp up the textures.

Each empanada comes with an identifier, a tiny letter stamped on it. The letters are made with edible stamping ink, hard to read, but a nice touch when all the empanadas look identical and you need to sort out the Argentine Beef A from Chicken Tinga T.

There was no problem identifying the Banana Nutella stamped with N, served with Dulce De Leche ice cream. If you like Nutella, and who doesn’t, this is a scrumptious dessert filled with more melted Nutella than banana.

Just because I was curious, I ordered Thin N Crispy Fries and that is exactly what I got, impossibly thin, perfectly seasoned fries in a bowl, ready to dip in the aioli or the creamy poblano sauce.

They offer a wide variety of beer, wine, and cocktails. You can get both hand-crafted cocktails like a Peach Picante ol’ Fashioned from a list of nine, or a cocktail “On Tap,” for example a Moscow Mule or a La Masa Sangria. You can also order from a brief wine list or opt for Wine on Tap, White Blend, Malbec, or Rose. You can get beer in a bottle or on tap. To keep it local they serve Lakefront Riverwest Stein, Good City Mitro Milk Stout, Eagle Park Loop Station Golden Ale, Black Husky Pale Ale, and Explorium’s Farmhouse Ale.

There are many reasons to visit the hip Brady neighborhood. You can add La Masa to the List.

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One thought on “Dining: La Masa Has Delicious Empanadas”

  1. says:

    Yes, La Masa features delicious empanada + courteous service + clear definitions of beers on tap.

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