Some Empanadas and Penguin Juice at El Sanjuanino

On nights when I don’t want to treck it to Palermo but still want to partake in some low-key merriment here in Recoleta, I usually go for El Sanjuanino. There are many reasons why it is my dive of choice: 1) a pinguino (nifty penguin-shaped porcelain jugs which can hold an always-surprisingly amount of crappy house-wine) costs like 30 pesos, 2) the empanadas are 6.50 pesos (a dollar twenty-five) and delicious, 3) it is 3 blocks from my apartments, 4) my roommates also love it so I never have to make the walk there alone, 5) it was the first restaurant I ever went to in BsAs.

To elaborate a bit on point 5)… On my first night in BsAs, exhausted from the trip and having zero friends to dine with anyway, I opted for delivery empanadas and a liter of Stella from Pizzeria Angelica. Looking back now on the post I wrote about this experience makes me blush a little bit at my own dim-witted naivite. I actually called the mozzarella “higher quality than what I was expecting” and referred to the carne filling as “slightly spicy.” I know now that there is no way that empanada could have been anything near even “slightly” spicy. I’m 99% sure that it was dry and flavorless and needed salt. I’m also 100% sure that I actually didn’t like it that much and that the fact that the whole “dinner” cost me an (at the time) excitingly low $7 was what actually drove me to have such positive things to say about it.

 Anyway, my first real meal in BsAs occurred the following afternoon, when my duena (an endeering thang to call your landlady) got back from her weekly trip to her farm, took pity on my lonely, hungry soul and brought me to El Sanjuanino with one of her friends. I realized quickly that empanadas can be delicious if bought at the right place – here. I went back many times but for some reason never wrote on article about it….until now.


The trick with this place is to go downstairs, at least that’s what I do. Because when consuming a gigantic pinguino of Trapiche, I like to stare idly at the only-kind-of touristy, tango-inspired paintings they have down there of all different kinds of gente enjoying life alongside me. Being regulars at El Sanjuanino and almost always “inspired” by the gigantic qualities of vino consumed, my friends and I have given names and biographies to nearly all of the charismatic characters in these paintings. It’s a fun way to kill time until the empanadas arrive.

That’s one good lookin’ capresse, huh? And it’s actually as delicious as it looks. Soft and delicate, yet not undercooked, dough wrapping around melting, gooey cheese with bits of warm tomato peeking out. Fresh out of the oven and, a brave little soldier, arriving at the table sizzling hot and ready to soak up all that penguin vino. Nothing fancy and kind of a no-brainer (gooey, greasy, soft, warm) way to trick your palate into thinking it is experiencing something way better than it actually is. But definitely satisfying, nonetheless.

My personal favorite, always the pollo. But here it’s especially well-done and delicious. A generous amount of juicy, moist shreds of chicken mixed with slightly sweet spices and chopped olives and packed inside a perfectly cooked, neatly folded little pocket of golden brown dough. Baked to a mouthwatering warm temperature and served at that temperature immediately after coming out of the oven. Always a pleasure to sink my teeth into one of these, especially at El S.j.

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