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Oct 5, 2009 06:41 PM

Cold Weather = places to try

I've had Luzmila's, La Caraquena's, Tutto Bene's and Pike Pizza's.

Want to try My Bakery, Victors Grill....has anyone had them? Any other recs.

Viva la saltena!

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  1. My favorite continues to be El Pike at 50 and Patrick Henry in the Willston Shopping Center. Also very good humintas.

    22 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      I've got to disagree with you there Steve. I've been on a saltena kick this week, and having had ones from My Bakery, Luzmila's, and El Pike, I'd have to put Pike's at the bottom. The filling is properly soupy and theirs have raisins, which i like, but the pastry is all wrong. I find it way too bready.

      My bakery's saltenas are ok. Nice crust, well-seasoned filling (more cumin than most- almost indian tasting)....but they arent soupy enough.

      Pike Pizza, Luzmilas, and La Caraquena (inspite of being ridiculously expensive) are my top 3

      1. re: CoconutMilk

        I'm not a saltena expert and haven't had them at any of the places you mention except for Luzmila's. But I have had several delicious batches of saltenas made by Bolivian friends, which were delicious. I haven't noticed the filling being soupy. I guess I would describe the saltenas I've had as a thick, juicy savory mixture--closer to stew than a soup. I guess I'm wondering why you think the saltena's filling should be soupy?

        1. re: Gigi007

          Actually saltenas are supposed to be filled with soup or be very juicy/soupy, though I guess a definition of that could differ. They are usually served in a bowl with a spoon, if you are eating in. Also, unlike empanadas, they are football shaped, a bit sweet, and the shell is hard on the outside but (somewhat) bready on the inside. I guess the breadiness is a matter of taste as I like the pastry shell at El Pike and CoconutMilk doesn't. I do notice that the liquid is not as spicy as it used to be, unfortunately, so you do have to add in the hot sauce they give you on the side.

          It's true they are not the masterpieces they once were becuase they are not as spicy and have less egg/olive than before. But I get the impression that El Pike bakes a lot of these for other restaurants/ markets, and I still feel that they are the freshest around. But all three of CoconutMilk's favorites are very good places to go, for sure.

          I like the photo and description in the link below:

          1. re: Steve

            Steve, like I said, I've had saltenas prepared by Bolivian friends and at various restaurants, so I'm definitely familiar with what they look and taste like. And certainly, I'm aware of the difference between saltenas and empanadas as well. None of the saltenas I've eaten have had liquid-like fillings. Juicy, yes, stew-like, possibly. Also, my Bolivian friends (one of whom is a professional cook) doesn't serve saltenas in bowls.

            1. re: Gigi007

              I'm partially Bolivian, my Grandfather is Boliviano and my Mother was born there and have eaten many a saltena in my day and I found Steve's description of a saltena to be dead on. A traditional saltena has all the ingredient "chunks" ie. the egg, meat etc. but the sauce inside is definitely on the "soupier" side. Often if they sit for a while the sauce will congeal enough that it won't drip all over the place. They are definitely nowhere as dry as an empanada. I would put it somewhere between stewey and soupy. You have to remember that different regions of Bolivia, and even Northern Argentina have their own style of saltena which can be different to what one is used to.

              I haven't hit all the locations, but I was somewhat disappointed in Pike's the last time I went. I have found myself going back to Tutto Benne most often recently, they have the largest (almost too big to be a saltena) and have the right level of juiciness and the shell has always had the right texture, not too crispy and not too soggy.

              If anyone has any other reccomendations I'll definitely be keeping my eye on this thread. Anyone know the best place to get some falso conejo while we're on the Bolivian subject?

              1. re: WestEnderJMU

                Thanks for your comments, WestEnder. It could be that the saltenas my Bolivian friends and the chef make are a different regional take. (IIRC, the chef is from Santa Cruz and not La Paz). I guess I wouldn't describe the filling as soupy exactly because of what you just mentioned--usually the sauce congeals enough so that it doesn't drip all over the place (maybe that isn't the case if you eat them right out of the oven). And once the filling/sauce has congealed, at least to me, it's not very soupy, unless you're thinking of a very thick soup, almost a stew. Perhaps one person's soup is another person's stew or thick sauce. And I've travelled around the north of Argentina, so I'm familiar with the Argentine version. Plus a good friend of mine here in DC is actually from Salta, and both her saltenas and empanadas are quite unique.

                As for falso conejo, perhaps you can check El Antojito, the Bolivian carry-out in Olney, referenced earlier.

                EDIT: Re: falso conejo, I also think that Luzmila's has it, but I don't know how good it is there.

                1. re: WestEnderJMU

                  Llajtaymanta has a really good falso conejo. thanks for the Tutto Bene rec, I've been there once, but i didn't have the saltena. Must rectify that.

                  Most saltenas are cooked in the morning and should probably be eaten by lunch time, unless a place has so much business they can make them more than once a day. A saltena that has congealed is an old saltena.

                  1. re: WestEnderJMU

                    It is funny, but I think I like the stale saltenas better than the soupy, fresh ones. I think it is because I used to get my saltenas at La Union on Lee in Arlington. They were made in MD and brought down early every morning and they were a delicious mess of stewy dark meat chicken, raisins, olives, egg and just plain deliciousness. The shell was kind of empanada like, but not over baked like Pike does them. And you could eat them out of your hand, because the ingredients were thick enough that they wouldn't flow out if you ate from the end of the football down to the bottom of the football, so to speak. I have had them at Pike's and at Luzmilla's and they were good, but not great like the way they used to be at La Union. Which has a pretty nice selection of empanadas, corn tamales and pupusas for a pretty good price. Kind of out of the way but good.

                    1. re: Ziv

                      Are you sure what you ate was stale? A saltena baked a few hours earlier or even the night before, IMHO, is hardly stale or even old, for that matter. I've eaten a lot of saltenas that were perfectly fresh, but not soupy (as I've posted before). A Bolivian chef friend of mine once made a batch in the evening and served them at lunch the following day. They tasted quite fresh and had a stewy filling, which did not leak all over the place when you bit into them.

                      1. re: Gigi007

                        Sorry, but I do not subscribe to your ideas about eating and serving saltenas, despite the experience you had with your Bolivian chef friend. In a bakery or restaurant, not a private lunch or pot luck, the saltenas should be made fresh that morning.

                        I prefer how this Bolivian food blog explains it.....


                        "In fact, that’s why you won’t want to buy a salteña in the afternoon at any bakery either because they’ve most likely been drying out."

                        And from the previous link:

                        "...are usually gushing with liquid."

                      2. re: Ziv

                        hey ziv — tell me more about la union. are you sure it's not the one on wilson? and is it good? i just moved right over near it. what's good there? besides salteñas.

                        1. re: littlew1ng

                          Same bunch of guys, but the one on Wilson is mostly cafe with catering avalable, and Old Lee is mostly grocery with a heat and eat option at the butchers station. They no longer carry the saltenas from Maryland, which is too bad because they were delicious. I shouldn't have referred to them as stale, they were probably a few hours old and kept in a refrigerator til the owner would nuke em hot for you. La Union still has very good pupusa revueltas with cabbage and salsa, and their empanadas are good, tho they look more like lebanese kibbeh than the empanada in the picture below. But their corn tamales with sour cream take the prize, just delicious and cheap.
                          Anyway, I just got back from Luzmilla's, and they serve saltenas Steve Style, really soupy. The chicken one was good with the olive and egg not getting drowned out, but the beef was only fair and the spicy empanada was kind of bland and under whelming.
                          Chicken saltena is the clear winner at Luzmillas, but I kind of like the thicker stewy type of slightly less fresh saltenas, they are easier to eat and the flavor kind of blends together better.

                  2. re: Steve

                    If that's how saltenas are supposed to be, then I'd expect them to be served in a bowl with a spoon. I just imagined them as street (i.e. "hand") food and one of the things that makes the ones from My Bakery OK with me is that I can eat one from my hand.

                    Call me a gringo, but I like what I like. <g>

                    1. re: MikeR

                      At La Caraquena they are served with a spoon and in a non-shallow dish. It is not a very liquidy saltena, but even then I would suggest some caution. I like the idea on the bolivian food blog about biting off one end and slurping out the liquid, (like you would do with xiao long bao) so in that case the spoon is maybe not essential. But a great saltena is not something that I'd eat like an empanada.

                      1. re: Steve

                        Steve, I have no doubt that you know saltenas better than I ever will, but I am with MikeR on this, I like the saltenas that have soaked up the soup, and turned it into a thick stew that is edible by hand. I can't believe I am saying this, but the hot out of the oven saltena I had from Luzmillas was not as enjoyable as one that had been in a refrigerator, then nuked to a toasty state of culinary bliss.
                        World turned upside down...

                        1. re: Ziv

                          I would just love to be able to get a saltena in DC that looks and tastes like what I've read about the saltenas in Bolivia.

                          1. re: Ziv

                            Ziv, as I posted before, the Bolivians I know here in the U.S. make and eat saltenas the way you are describing (thick stewy filling and a pastry that you are able to eat with one hand). I have no doubt that in many places in Bolivia, saltenas may be served in bowls with spoons, but that isn't what I've seen here (in restaurants or at homes of Bolivian friends). No one I know here, including a Bolivian friend who is also a chef, serves saltenas in bowls with a spoon. In fact, The difference may be due to the life style. The Bolivians I know also don't consider saltenas that have been resting a few hours to be stale or old and regularly serve them at lunches, as snacks, etc.

                            1. re: Gigi007

                              Quite frankly, you post as if I am making these things up on my own! Yes, I was served a spoon two days ago at La Caraquena, I swear. And last week at El Pike also. And both times in a dish designed to catch the liquid. And I also did not invent the websites of or or their content.

                              I said nothing about resting a few hours. Many delicious baked goods throughout the world are made early in the morning and purchased a few hours later. But I would prefer my saltenas not be left over from the day before.

                              1. re: Steve

                                I have started a thread on the General Topics Board for the general discussion of how saltenas should be prepared:


                  3. re: CoconutMilk

                    With all this talk of saltenas, I just had to try the version at La Caraquena. At $5, it is twice the normal going rate. Also, it may be a bit smaller than usual. But the pastry is the best I've had with a properly browned and doubly delicious ridge. Also, this is a less sweet version than the usual NoVa take, so I am very happy I tried it.

                    Thanks for the rec.

                    1. re: Steve

                      i'm glad to hear you enjoyed them, maybe i'll give that spot another shot. i was more than a little underwhelmed by the arepas.

                2. I've always wanted to try some other things at My Bakery but I never get past the saltenas. They're nicely spiced, juicy (but not too juicy to eat) and cheap. If I'm not really hungry, one is usually enough for me.

                  1. i hear through the grapevine that tutto benne in ballston serves salteñas on weekends. never had them but worth investigating.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: littlew1ng

                      They have them, and are currently my favorite in the NoVa area.

                    2. Just wanted to add that I've heard that the saltenas at El Antojito, a Bolivian carryout in Olney are fabulous.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Gigi007

                        I just forwarded this over to some Bolivian relatives who live about 15 minutes from there on Route 108. I'll let you know if we get another report.

                        1. re: Gigi007

                          Excuse my ignorance but from what I can see on the menu at El Antojito (which I will visit in the next few days) the difference between saltenas and empanadas seems to be the empanadas are fried and the saltenas are baked. What are the differences?

                          1. re: Trip Klaus

                            DId you take a look at the link I provided above? there is a picture of what a really good saltena looks like.

                            Empanadas are sometimes fried, sometimes baked. I have never had a good fried empanada, so I guess I prefer mine baked - with a flaky pie crust. Saltenas are always baked, but the saltenas around here do not have a flaky crust.

                            1. re: Trip Klaus

                              Hi TK, Steve's description of saltenas above is a pretty good one (with the caveat that I see the filling as more of a thick stew than a soup). Saltenas are football-shaped savory pastries that are baked, while empanadas (depending on the country) take various shapes (triangular in the case of Chilean empanadas and half-moon shaped for Argentine empanadas) and are baked or fried. The dough is also different with the saltena's being slightly sweet, sometimes with a flaky crust. The dough/crust for empanadas depending on the country can vary as well. Chilean empanadas, for ex, usually have a thick dough and not a flaky crust.

                              I haven’t eaten Bolivian empanadas so I don’t know much about them, but have had a lot of Chilean empanadas which are usually baked (typical filling: ground beef, olives, hard-boiled egg, raisins, and onions), Argentine empanadas that have been fried, and some Bolivian saltenas (baked).

                              Looking at the description on El Antojito's menu, it sounds like El Antiojito’s empanadas are fried. I would guess that they are also drier like most empanadas compared to the saltenas.

                              P.S. You may find these links helpful and;or interesting:



                          2. Sounds like there are many saltena experts here, at least saltena lovers like me! I've tried several in the area, and agree with the poster who likes Pikes. Tutto Bene's is also great.
                            Marcella's Bakery in Del Ray/Arlandria on Mt. Vernon Ave makes very good saltenas. Chicken or beef. They also sell at the Del Ray farmers market in season.
                            Interestingly, I noticed that they started calling them empanadas instead of saltenas. They fly off the table with the name change. I think it's a familiarity thing perhaps, with people being more familiar with empanadas.

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: monavano

                              Sounds like time for The Saltena Smackdown so everyone can reconcile the national differences with direct observation.

                              1. re: chowsearch

                                It's a good idea, although I am not sure which place I would point to as serving a great saltena right now. They used to at El Pike, but on my visit last week it was too sweet and they had obviously cut down or eliminated the olives and hard boiled egg and spices, so I was disappointed.

                                I rate almost everything they serve at My Bakery as dead last.

                                1. re: Steve

                                  My Bakery's branches managers didn't seem so nice to the counter staff. Occasionally an item would be fresh and good if I hit it just right at the Wisconsin Ave. location. When many were discussing MD pollo places which were largely tiny, spread out, changed over time of day and confusing, we had a virtual smackdown, many went to the places we could find and reported back until we got tired of it and found there were many great places with variations in turnover, parking and taste...we reached a sort of crowdsourced recognition of the whole genre. I even still like pollo.

                                  1. re: Steve

                                    A Saltena Smackdown would be a good time, but I think Steve has a point. There isn't a place that I have been lately that was all that good. La Caraquena is good, but it has prices that make the meal a bitter pill of sorts. Pike just isn't that good any more, my last couple there have been overcooked and missing the complexity that olives and egg and spices should give it. I like Luzmilla's chicken saltena but they just weren't all that.
                                    We need a new champion in the Saltena competition!

                                    1. re: Ziv

                                      i just did a tasting for (which is why i posted the original query)...i'm not claiming it's the final say on the issue, but I think eating from several places over a few day period leads to some good insight.

                                      As i stated in an earlier post, my conclusion was that pike pizza, luzmila's, and la caraquena all dish out a good saltena. tutto bene and my bakery are ok. I didnt even include El Pike in the article because i didnt care for theirs.

                                      also, if this means anything, the salsa verde at la caraquena is leaps and bounds above every other place...though i tend to prefer to eat my saltenas without the green sauce in most cases even though i love spicy food.

                                      1. re: CoconutMilk

                                        I agree about the salsa verde at La Caraquena. Also important is that some places serve the salsa ice box cold which is lousy on warm food.

                                        Most Peruvian places in the area make a far better salsa verde than their Bolivian counterparts in NoVa.

                                        1. re: Steve

                                          Steve, good news, this problem has been identified by the CIA and Centcom and they have released the following report on the Saltena issue, it seems to come down firmly on your side of the soupy vs. stewy debate, but it is good to see that they are taking this seriously...
                                          That was actually a pretty funny take on the saltena fracas.

                                          1. re: Ziv

                                            ...and I thought I had too much time on my hands! That is very funny. At least now I know just how complicated the strategy is. I'll have to print this out and refer to it the next time i'm having a saltena. Thanks for finding it.

                                        2. re: CoconutMilk

                                          Of the places mentioned, I've only tried Luzmila's saltenas. I have Bolivian friends who are kind enough to share their homemade goodies with me, so I don't often get them at restaurants. Some of these friends have told me that on the rare occasions that they buy them at restaurants, they like Luzmila's and La Caraquena's. They don't like My Bakery.

                                          I also prefer to eat saltenas without the salsa verde although I love it on Peruvian chicken.

                                  2. re: monavano

                                    Macela's Bakery on Mt. Vernon Ave. in Arlandria(?) are better than those found n Bolivia. The lady who makes them is from Bolivia and, yes, they sell them at the Farmer's market in Del Ray on Saturdays where, happily, we "discovered: them. Yum!

                                    1. re: DPGood

                                      Is it Marcella's or Macela's? At any folks should try them!

                                      1. re: monavano

                                        I tried Macela's. Good stuff, about the same as Pike Pizza or the Pan American Bakery (next door to Pike Pizza).

                                        1. re: Steve

                                          Went to Pan American Bakery today for the first time and had one beef and one chicken saltena. Both were really, really good--perhaps the best I've had outside of la caraquena.

                                          These saltenas had a few things going for them...they were a little bigger than average....the fillings were way more generous than typical saltenas, which usually have a pocket of air...the fillings were nicely spiced with a good amount of heat...and, lastly, the crust wasnt overly sweet.

                                          Only downside was the texture of the crust, which was good not great, a little too bready IMO.

                                          Nevertheless, a worthy saltena. Other pastry items, soups, and breads looked very promising and the place was PACKED with Bolivians.