48: The Dizzy Fig Empanada at República Empanada in Mesa.
An empanada, in many ways, is the perfect food: highly portable and deliciously carb-y, versatile enough to be made sweet or savory (or simultaneously savory-sweet), and frequently irresistible.
Since opening its doors in 2013, República Empanada in Mesa has showcased the versatility and creative potential of the classic pan-Latin comfort food snack. The restaurant, run by the Meraz family, offers what might be the biggest selection of savory and sweet empanadas in Arizona. The modern empanadería has also helped energize the downtown Mesa food scene, turning a somewhat run-down venue in the historic Southside Heights neighborhood into a stylish spot with midcentury appeal and an uncommon menu.
There are more than 20 empanadas on the República Empanana menu, which includes a strong selection of dessert empanadas. We have a soft spot for the Dizzy Fig, though. It’s stuffed with Mesa-grown figs and mozzarella cheese, and touched with a dab of rich dulce de leche – an Arizona-inspired turnover by way of South America. This small, ambrosial empanada achieves a sophisticated balance, in turns sweet and savory. It's designed to be demolished in a couple of bites, but will probably linger in the recesses of your memory for much longer.
The Essentials so far:
50: Tequila Sunrise at the Arizona Biltmore
49: The "Dragon" Dumpling Burger at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour