Technically, the empanadas at Lincoln Park's Lito's Empanadas are not balls, rather more like half moons. But they're definitely deep fried and good. Colombian-born Carlos Escalante and his wife, Eve, used to make the deep fried stuffed dough packets for raving friends, earning so much cred that they finally opened a legit business. Based on some early buzz and the allure of a shoe box sized storefront selling nothing but empanadas I stopped by to sample the wares on Friday.
Rolled, stuffed, and deep fried fresh daily, the crust, which has a crispy and dimpled exterior like a McDonald's apple pie wrapper and a melty, moist, and pliant interior reminiscent of the inside of a fresh custard donut, is probably the best of its kind in Chicago.
The only thing that stops Lito's from taking over the local empanada trade altogether is the underseasoned fillings. All of the protein and the veg, from the roasted peppers in the veggie version to the succulent slow cooked pork in the barbecue version to the moist beef punctuated with sweet raisins and briny olives in their classic empanada is cooked to perfection. They all just need a smidge more salt. Though since all the hot pockets here are priced at around $2, you'll have plenty of change left over to buy some flakes of Maldon sea salt and season on your own terms.
Address: 2566 N Clark Street, Chicago IL 60614 (map)