Borne from a loving abuelita’s kitchen, Tico’s Empanadas has undeniable Latin American roots, but also a down-home quality that is pure South Shore cuisine.
Located on Montauk and Highway and Blue Point Avenue, the restaurant features a spacious, open kitchen and is emblazoned with graphics of the Robert Moses bridge.
The branding, while cool and contemporary, belies a true love of the hometown of owner Ruben Santiesteban, of Babylon, and his newfound settlement of Blue Point.
With Superbowl Sunday rounding the corner of the winter holidays, The Suffolk County News sampled some empanadas (and of course, tostones) to let our readers know the best varieties to try.
Bacon ranch cheddar
In this heartland of America concoction, the bacon ranch cheddar combination is equal parts nostalgia and invention, as the cool dressing contrasts with the warm bacon. Unlike other ranch dressings that can be too thick and overwhelm the other ingredients, Tico’s has found the right combination of zest and lightness.
Sweet chili beef
With a strong hint of Asian flavors, the sweet chili beef is refreshing and a good palette cleanser for heavier empanadas. The tanginess of the sauce creates interest, but doesn’t go so over the top that it’s comical in its interpretation of the flavor.
This empanada will have you cheering your team all the way to the end zone with its bursting flavor! Although a little more heat would have been nice, the buffalo seasoning is delightful and a welcome alternative to wings.
Beef and potatoes
Recommended by Santiesteban as the most traditional of the varieties offered at Tico’s (of which there are over a dozen daily), the beef and potatoes straddles the comfort food of a stew and the on-the-go nature of tacos. The potatoes were the perfect consistency of holding shape while being tender, which can be tricky with empanadas as the filling is re-cooked during the frying process.
As a Filipina, the tostones were always going to be the most important metric for me, and they were fried impeccably. With a small side of fried plantains, the side dishes are also a must at Tico’s.
Jarritos, a traditional Mexican soda sold at Tico’s, is the best complement to Latin American food.