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Weekly Planner: Brunch News Edition

Brunch News Edition Lowcountry Adds Brunch Fasten those bibs, because brunch is served at Lowcountry. The South Loop outpost of the boil-in-a-bag seafood concept, which specializes in Cajun-style shellfish, has added weekend brunch to its popular portfolio. A slight departure from its usual eat-with-your-hands bag-centric menu, the brunch offerings span a spectrum of Southern comforts, from […]

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Jun 18, 2018 09:51 PM
Best Restaurants in Boystown

With June being Pride Month, there’s no better time of year to spend dining and drinking in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood. The vibrant Lakeview area enclave is best known perhaps for its clubs, drag brunches and rainbow pylons, but the neighborhood is becoming a serious dining destination in its own right, thanks to restaurants like these: […]

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Jun 11, 2018 10:32 PM
Weekly Planner: Taco Joint’s Specials and ROOF on theWit’s Movie Series

Happy Hour at Punch Bowl Social Happy Hour at Punch Bowl Social Happy hour is the happiest of all when you’re surrounded by bowling alleys, bocce courts, karaoke rooms and dart boards. The West Loop’s brand new Punch Bowl Social, a behemoth dining and gaming complex out of Denver, has jumped on the happy hour bandwagon, […]

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Jun 05, 2018 06:53 PM

First Taste: 5411 Empanadas

Empanadas will always have a special place in my carb-loving heart. My infatuation all started at Epcot, where one of my fondest Disney memories actually centered around the South American hot pocket. I remember exploring Epcot's multifaceted food pavilion with my family, stopping in one of their South American restaurants (maybe Brazil? That sounds right) for a snack. That snack was empanadas, marking my first foray into the delicacy. And it was love at first bite. Over the years in Chicago, I've scoured the city for exemplary empanadas that might live up to my childhood memories. The closest I've come is 5411 Empanadas, a food truck-cum-storefront with a location in Lincoln Park, and as of late, one in Wicker Park. After eating my way through the latter, here's my report. 

5411 Empanadas
(As delicious as they are cute)

The Concept

5411 Empanadas, in case you're not acutely privy to South American dial codes, is a special homage to Argentina. The restaurant originated in 2009 as a food truck helmed by three Argentine expats and friends. It's so named for its special adherence to Argentine traditions, seeing as 54-11 is the number you'll need to dial when making a casual phone call to Buenos Aires. The truck was so successful it eventually spawned a brick-and-mortar storefront on the border of Lincoln Park and Lakeview. The space is slick, clean, and uber casual, featuring a focused menu of baked empanadas and some sweet desserts. Recently, 5411 expanded with a new location in Wicker Park, featuring more booze and later hours perfect for the Wicker Park bar-hopping crowd. 

The Space

The restaurant perfectly toes the line between casual and upscale. It's counter service, but with more formality than your typical quick service haunt. First of all, it's not that quick. Empanadas are prepared to order, which takes time and patience. You will be rewarded with fresh, hot empanadas brimming with vibrant innards encased in a flaky, rich crust. While waiting, you'll find yourself immersed in a chic setting unlike most anything in Wicker Park. The bright storefront features a row of window-side tables and a bar outfitted with stools. It can be pretty tight and crowded come dinnertime, but during the day it's usually quite tranquil and open, whether you're dining in or getting food to-go. Behind the bar is a couple tap handles, one of which is that staple South American spirit, Fernet. They sure make it easy to inject this fiery potable into your mouth. There's also craft beer aplenty and some agua frescas.

The Empanadas

Do the empanadas at 5411 live up to my Epcot dreams? Handily. My childhood self would be enamored with the eclectic array of classic and modern empanadas, each one shaped differently so as to appropriately differentiate. They even offer a handy empanada guide to help diners discern between flavors simply via the shape of the dough. Smaller than most bulbous empanadas in town, these guys are a little bit smaller than most palms; two make for a nice snack while three or four could quantify a meal. Some of my favorites include the luscious Malbec beef, filled with carrots and onions for a sort of boeuf Bourguignon feel. The bacon-date-goat cheese is crazy good, tasting like an indulgent riff on the bacon-wrapped date cocktail party staple. Mushroom-thyme-blue cheese is a bit too aggressively heady for my liking, and ratatouille tends to be too watery and numbingly hot thanks to summer squash's knack for absorbing heat, but spinach-cheese and BBQ chicken are two more delicious standbys. 

Whether I'm in need of a quick snack or a leisurely meal, 5411 Empanadas is a superb taste of Argentina/Epcot in Wicker Park. 

- Matt Kirouac

Neighborhoods: Wicker Park

What started as an Argentine food truck focused on empanadas has evolved into a mini Chicago empire of South American flavors. Following the success of its Lincoln Park storefront, 5411...

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