Oh, Empanadas!

by Matt on August 30, 2006

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“Hey, check this out! Alton Brown is in Hawthorne at some Argentinian deli,” Adam called from across the room while flipping channels on the television.

“Grab the car keys!” I replied.

I don’t really need an excuse to drop what I’m doing and head out in search of food. If anything, I need a reason to stay put and not over indulge. But what fun is that, I ask? So with directions in hand and an empty stomach we headed to the city of Hawthorne, just a few miles southeast of LAX. While not the most glamorous part of Los Angeles, Hawthorne and its neighboring cities are filled with small ethnic restaurants serving everything from Peruvian and Salvadorian to Japanese and Eastern European cuisine.

Like most things in Hawthorne and the surrounding neighborhoods, one must hunt to find what they are looking for.  No big parking lots and no flashy signs, just row after row of smog checks, store fronts and courtyard apartment buildings and residential homes lovingly decorated with security gates and iron bars. After checking the street numbers we found Continental Market, located right next to a laundrymat. From the street you’d never know it was a deli and bakery – it appears to be your garden variety Latin grocery store. And even once inside you must navigate through the rows and rows of Latin staples and chips and candy to find the deli counter, but once there, nirvana.

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Continental Market offers sliced cheeses and deli meats, just like any other local deli. But perched on top of the counter in a small hot case was our jackpot – Argentine empanadas. Well worth the hunt, they were just as exquisite as anything I tasted in Argentina (minus the high tops unfortunately–see photo). Heaven happens when you take savory fillings like spinach, spicy beef or flavorful stewed chicken and wrap it in pastry dough. And for 99¢ you taste a variety of these perfect little snacks.

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Adam discovered one of his favorites on the menu – Milanesa. In this case it took the form of a milanesa sandwich, a breaded and fried thin cut of meat that is traditionally served on bread with cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Again, delicious. But my draw dropped and a tear ran down my cheek when I spotted the stacks of one of my favorite things on earth, sandwiches de migas. A sandwich de miga is a very basic Argentine sandwich with basic fillings like ham and cheese, egg, roasted red pepper and butter, the possibilities are endless. The sandwiches feature a crustless edge on white bread–just like a tea sandwich but a bit larger. To me they are the perfect sandwich and I can never turn one down. And when I say I can never turn one down, I found myself eating them last year in Argentina whenever I passed by a bakery. Even if I just crossed the street from another bakery. I’ll never let a good thing pass me by.

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If you find yourself in Hawthorne and in desperate need of an empanada (even if they do not dance), do stop by Continental. Ciao!

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Continental Gourmet Market
12921 Prairie Avenue
Hawthorne, CA 90250
310-676-5444