Eating international fare locally eliminates the woes associated with transatlantic travel, such as jet lag and oar splinters. Stamp your palate’s passport with today’s Groupon: for $6, you get $12 worth of empanadas and traditional Spanish fare at Juan & Maria’s Empanada Stop in the Rochester Public Market.
Welcoming Spanish couple Juan and Maria Contreras stuff delectable dough with meats, cheeses, and vegetables to form traditional Spanish empanadas ($3.69 each) that have earned praise from City Newspaper. Instead of munching on the paper menu to quiet growling stomachs, diners can chose from 10 flavors of empanadas, including beef and onions, seafood, and pizza. Rice and beans hug each other in lunch-size portions ($3.69) and complement dinners accented with pork or chicken and a toasty empanada ($8.31). Spanish rice and beans ($3.69+) brim with hearty favorites, while pork, chicken, or egg offer optional companionship. Wash down a feast with a freshly brewed cup of Spanish coffee or a house-made juice with oranges, carrots, or coconuts.
Juan and Maria’s vibrant shop is filled with aqua-blue walls and the festive sounds of authentic Latin American music. In addition to dining in, visitors may take home meals and house-made hot sauces ($5.51/bottle), which, like T-shirts airbrushed with hot fudge, function as edible souvenirs.
Juan & Maria's Empanada Stop
At Juan & Maria's Empanada Stop, a bell chimes regularly throughout the day, ringing along with the festive Latin music in the background. Its sound does not indicate the time, however—it greets every 50th customer to the empanada hot spot and rewards him or her with $5 worth of complimentary Spanish cuisine. When Chilean couple Juan and Maria Contreras opened their stand in 2000, they rarely had the opportunity to use the bell, as they were serving between 10 and 20 empanadas on any given Saturday. Today they dish out a minimum of 1,000 empanadas each day, vying to beat their current record of 1,504 empanadas sold in eight hours.
Their popularity stems in part from a commitment to traditional, healthy cooking methods. Each of their empanadas is handmade and stuffed with one of 8 types of filling, including 90% lean beef and pork as well as vegetarian options. The deep fryers are filled with light salad oil, and none of the menu items include chemicals or preservatives. Juan and Maria extend the same homemade treatment to their fruit juices, which can be frozen and sold as "Juan-sicles," and their five hot sauces: green gold, red gold, chipotle red gold, spanish mayo and spanish ketchup.
Attitude accounts for a second element of the pair's success. Their mix of hospitality and cultural pride draws diners to the turquoise shop, where Juan exuberantly lists the specials to newcomers. They have hosted the Juan & Maria's International Spanish Festival for the past four years, showcasing customs from 20 Spanish-speaking countries alongside their empanadas.