Atlantic City is a truly multi-cultural city made up of neighborhoods each with their own flavor. And this is especially true of the Chelsea neighborhood. To promote its cultural diversity the ACDEVCO and the Chelsea Economic Development Corporation have designated August as Empanada Month in Chelsea.
To celebrate they are sponsoring the Best Empanada Challenge throughout the month of August. They have partnered with ten neighborhood restaurants including Mexico, Sabor Salvadoreno, Queens, Mr. Taco, El Gran Chalan, Rincón Catracho, El Patron, Lenox Café, Chismosa’s Kitchen at Celebrity Corner, and Boom Market Café. The contestants reflect the flavors and customs of El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru, Honduras, and Colombia. The organizers are hopeful that the Empanada Contest will introduce locals and visitors to the International Food District of Chelsea.
For more information about each of the restaurants, visit the Chelsea Economic Development Corporations site.
How the "Best Empanada Challenge" Works
To take part, purchase and taste an empanada from two or more, or better yet, all ten of the participating establishments during the month of August. Then vote for the best at www.ChelseaEDC.org.
Additionally, you can vote by scanning a QR code at the participating restaurants. Tell your server you want to vote using the QR code. Scan the code with your cellphone camera. This will take you directly to the website where you can choose from a dropdown menu of restaurants. Select your choice and hit submit. It’s easy peesy!!
Make it Even More Fun with a Tasting Tour by Bicycle
A small group of us got together on a Saturday afternoon and did a tasting tour by bike. It was a lot of fun and we burned off some of the calories between locations. But of course, nowhere near what we consumed.
If you don’t own a bike you can rent one from a number of places along the boardwalk or stop by AAAA Bike Shop in Ventnor (5300 Ventnor Avenue). They are a full-service family owned bike shop.
If you will be biking and plan to ride any portion of the route on the boardwalk, please make sure to observe permitted bicycling hours. This is for everyone’s safety.
Not feeling the bike tour? You could easily walk this route as well. If you hit all the locations It is about a two-mile walk.
We’ve put together a bike route that hits all the locations participating in the challenge. Visit all the stops or just a few. The day we headed out, we visited four restaurants: BOOM Food Market, Sabor Salvadoreno, El Gran Chalan and Rincon Catracho.
Here’s What We Found
BOOM Food Market
BOOM Food Market (3601 Ventnor Ave, Atlantic City) serves a Columbian empanada. We tried two varieties of empanadas at BOOM Food Market; chicken and beef. These pockets are loaded with a meat and creamy potato filling. The outside is more like a cornmeal outer shell than a flour “pie” crust. The outer shell provides a delivery system for the filling without competing.
Six empanadas come in an order. Grab them to go and enjoy them in O’Donnell Park across the street.
El Gran Chalan
The Peruvian-style empanadas at El Gran Chalan (2641 Arctic Ave, Atlantic City) are unique in that they are baked rather than deep fried. The filling is a finely chopped meat in a crust pocket that is egg-washed and then baked. This provides a crisp and substantial shell for the lightly seasoned filling.
In addition to the empanadas, we sampled the ceviche at El Gran Chalan. The consensus among the group was that the quality and taste of the dish was on par with any fine restaurant in the city.
These Honduran empanadas are delicious. They have a sturdy outer crust and a savory filling. Rincon Catracho (2801 Arctic Ave, Atlantic City) offers beef or chicken varieties. Like the empanadas at BOOM, the meat in these pockets is mixed with potato. However, rather than a “mashed” potato they use chunks of the root vegetable.
In addition to selecting your preferred meat, Rincon allows you to choose between a flour or corn pocket. Both options provide a tasty deep-fried crust. We sampled both chicken and beef as well as the two different shells. In the end, we agreed that we preferred the chicken filling with the corn pocket.
The chef at Sabor Salvadoreno (3213 Atlantic Ave, Atlantic City) put out quite a spread for us. We were able to sample an array of different types of empanadas, including a plantain dessert empanada. Our sampling included a Mexican empanada that was served topped with avocado, lettuce, and crema. Additionally, we tried both a chicken and beef pocket, as well as a traditional Salvadorian empanada with a chicken and carrot filling.
It was the consensus of the group that the traditional empanada was a favorite. That is if you don’t count the plantain dessert. Because who doesn’t love dessert?? These do not have an outer crust. They are prepared with just a few ingredients including plantains, rice flour, milk, and cinnamon. We highly recommend them.
We don’t want to influence your vote so we’re not going to rank the empanadas we tried or explicitly state our preference. You will need to go out and try them for yourself. Whatever you decided, don’t forget to vote for your favorite empanada in Chelsea.