Downtown Mesa, get ready to welcome a new restaurant specializing in pan-Latin cuisine to the 'hood.
According to manager Marco Meraz, Republica Empanada has been in the works for a while now but is ready for a soft opening launch on Friday, June 21 from 6 to 10 p.m. And the restaurant's home is a mid-century modern building that's pretty unique for the downtown Mesa community.
Meraz, who's parents Edmundo and Jinette are the restaurant's owners, says the menu at Republica Empanda was inspired by his travels through Central and South America. He'll be floating between the front and the back of the house and his mother will serve as the restaurant's executive chef. Together the two came up with the restaurant's menu.
"She's the genius, shes the one with the palette and the gift in the kitchen," he says.
As far as the cuisine goes, Meraz describes the food as "pan Latin" or "Latin American comfort food." He says there will be regional fare from all over South and Central America, though he'll avoid Mexican cuisine for the most part since Arizona has great Mexican eats already. Their specialty will be South American style empanadas -- and Meraz says they'll be the first restaurant in Phoenix to focus on that dish.
"The concept people usually have is the empanadas we get at Mexican bakeries, you know, with fruit filling? Something you eat for breakfast," explained Meraz.
But that's not what this place is about. They have a selection of savory, meat filled pastries (reminiscent of Cornish pasties) not the sweet breakfast treats people maybe imagining.
The menu's appetizer selection includes Yuca Frita, or Cassava fries that will be served with crema & avocado sauce ($4.99), as well as Tostones, or green plantains. A small selection of salads features a Black Bean Salad with with Cilantro Jalapeño Ranch ($8.5) and a Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad ($9).
When you get to the selection of deep fried wheat flour empanadas things get interesting.
There are traditional sounding options like the Pernil, with slow roasted and specially seasoned pork, in addition to an Achiote Potato, stuffed with potato blended with the delicate annatto seed seasoning. And then come intriguing selections like the Mushroom Chicken empanada with Rebublica shredded chicken prepared with fresh mushrooms & kalamata olive, or the Hawaiian, which boasts ham, pineapple and mozzarella cheese. All of the empandas cost less than $3 a piece.
There will also be options to satisfy your sweet tooth, but they're pretty original, too. There's a Fig Cheese & Caramel empanada filled with figs with mozzarella cheese & South American style Dulce de Leche, and a Nutella & Banana empanada that offers a distinctively French vibe.
On Friday, June 21 from 6 to 10 p.m. the restaurant will have a soft-opening launch to the public before they open for regular summer hours on Monday, June 24.
Meraz stressed that they're taking this in phases and that things are definitely still in the works, though will be be open. "We want to take some time to work out the kinks," he explains, since this will be the family's first foray into the restaurant biz. He hopes to have a liquor license by the end of September (in time for the start of restaurant season) and has plans to add to the menu. If things go as planned, the grand opening won't be until the fall.
Through the summer the restaurant will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Republica Empanada 204 E. 1st Ave. Mesa, Arizona 85210 (480) 969-1343