Sophie Bolich

La Mendocina Makes Argentinian-Style Empanadas in Riverwest

The take-and-bake empanada business, is operating out of the The Riverwest Filling Station's kitchen.

By - Aug 23rd, 2022 07:45 pm


Riverwest Filling Station. Photo taken July 18, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

Riverwest Filling Station. Photo taken July 18, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

The Riverwest Filling Station may have closed earlier this summer, but the gastropub’s kitchen is still cranking out delicious food.

La Mendocina, a take-and-bake empanada business, is using the space, 701 E. Keefe Ave., as a commercial kitchen for the operation.

Owner Marcela Lagos started selling her Argentinian-style empanadas in 2020. At the time, she was working as a fitness instructor, but business ground to a halt when the pandemic hit.

After posting a photo to Facebook of a batch of empanadas she made for a family gathering, Lagos received numerous comments and messages requesting to purchase the empanadas.

The following week, she made 10 dozen empanadas and sold out “very quickly,” she said. The week after that, she made 18 dozen and sold out again. From there, she took the leap and rented a commercial kitchen space in Riverwest. When that restaurant abruptly closed, she moved the business to Riverwest Filling Station.

For Lagos, empanadas are tied to family. Her mom was the one who taught her how to make the hand-held pies, which traditionally consist of a wheat-based dough with meat, cheese or vegetable filling. The name comes from the Spanish word “empanar” loosely meaning “to bread” or “to wrap in pastry.”

The business name, La Mendocina, refers to being from Mendoza, Argentina, as empanadas and Lagos both are.

Lagos said the prospective business had always been at the back of her mind, though she had planned to wait until after her twin daughters left for college. But plans change.

“Since I wasn’t working or teaching I said ‘okay, I’ll start doing this,'” she said.

Lagos now sells her take-and-bake empanadas by the dozen, collecting orders via Facebook for pickup which happens two Fridays per month. In a typical week, Lagos sells up to 70-dozen empanadas in a variety of flavors. Current offerings include chicken, mushroom and leek, spinach and cheese, beef, and corn.

Empanadas are a popular weekend food in Argentina, said Lagos, and each region has a its own variation. In the south, some people add potatoes, while empanadas in the north sometimes include raisins for a sweeter result. In Mendoza, located on the eastern side of the country, beef is the most common filling.

Though it’s traditional in some Latin American countries to fry empanadas, Mendoza’s are made to be baked. However, Lagos said some customers have had success cooking theirs in an air fryer. Empanadas from La Mendocina can be baked immediately or frozen for up to three months.

Empanadas are $35 per dozen and each order comes with a 2 ounce container of homemade chimichurri sauce. After submitting an order, customers receive an email with more information about pickup location and baking instructions.

All four empanada flavors are still available for the next pickup date on Friday, Aug. 26. A link to the signup sheet can be found on the La Mendocina Facebook page.

Lagos, who runs La Mendocina by herself, said she has no plans to expand the business at this time.

“I’m very comfortable the way I am,” she said. “I think it’s very manageable, what I’m doing is very flexible and it’s given me the opportunity to meet people in my community, in my neighborhood.”

Riverwest Filling Station closed in July for at least the remainder of the summer due to staffing shortages. It’s unclear whether the gastropub will open again in the fall, but Lagos said she plans to continue operations in the space for the foreseeable future.

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