Fairfax City continues to be a destination for worldwide cuisine, and one of its newest restaurants is My Empanadas. It’s at 10394 Willard Way, in the Courthouse Plaza shopping center, and recently held its ribbon cutting – followed by samples of its tasty offerings.
“Who doesn’t love an empanada?” asked Mayor Catherine Read. She then told owner Sherley Stuva, “Your Peruvian empanadas are a favorite at farmers markets, and we welcome unique businesses to the City. I have a feeling you’ll also be popular with the college students living behind your restaurant [at The Flats on University]. You’re bringing a varied, international and delicious cuisine to the City. Welcome to Fairfax and thank you for choosing us.”
Councilmember Tom Ross said it’s also a great location because it’s near the popular Chubby Squirrel Brewing Co. and several residential neighborhoods. And Tess Rollins, Old Town Fairfax Business Assn. executive director, told Stuva how exciting it is that she opened her restaurant here.
“In Fairfax, we can eat food from all around the world,” added Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Rose. “And now, we can carry your food down the street with us, as a handheld. So welcome and congratulations.”
City Treasurer Tom Scibilia told Stuva, “On behalf of the Treasury Department, I hope you crush it. And it’s nice that so many of your friends and family members are here to celebrate with you today.”
“Small businesses are the backbone of the community,” said Revenue Commissioner Page Johnson. “And we’ll be a partner with you in your success.”
A customer even spoke up from the crowd of well-wishers there for the ceremony. “As a Peruvian national, I’m proud of Sherley,” said Yuri Agostini. “I hope you all enjoy the food.”
Stuva previously had her restaurant in the Manassas Mall but closed it and reopened in Fairfax. Her business manager, Eric Moye Gordon, learned this space was a former bubble tea spot and the owner wanted to sell. And, said Stuva, “I knew this area would be a good place to bring empanadas.”
She’s originally from Peru but has been in the U.S. for 30 years. My Empanadas is open daily, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., except on Tuesdays. Stuva said business is growing and the menu items are well-known and enjoyed by both Peruvians and non-Peruvians.
“We’ve received a friendly reception here; people have been really nice,” she said. “We offer quality food that’s fresh out of the oven – nothing left over. Everything is made in the moment from scratch. And our empanada dough is very special and has a unique texture.”
But that’s not all this restaurant offers. One of the most popular main dishes there is Lomo Saltado – marinated slices of beef stir-fried with onions, yellow Peruvian chilis and tomatoes, served with French fries and rice. “We use real Peruvian ingredients, such as the yellow peppers, and the meat is very tender – and that’s what makes the difference,” explained Stuva.
She said customers also like the Peruvian Ceviche, made with fresh fish cooked in lime juice and served with toasted Peruvian corn, sweet potatoes and onions. And for breakfast, a popular dish is Pan con Chicharron – fried pork and crispy sweet potato with red-onion relish on a Portuguese roll (which has a light, golden crust and a soft, chewy texture).
Another customer favorite is the restaurant’s Huancaina sauce made with aji amarillo peppers, which provide a cayenne-pepper-type heat and tropical-sweet undertones. One of the entrees it’s used in is Tallarines a la Huancaina con Lomo Saltado – pasta with this sauce topped with strips of beef tenderloin sauteed with onions and tomatoes.
The large menu also includes chicken dishes, Peruvian tamales, a variety of beverages, and desserts such as tres leches cake, alfajores (powdered-sugar-coated cookies filled with dulce de leche), orange cake and chocolate cake.
Agostini especially likes the Ceviche. “It’s the national dish of Peru and is good and fresh,” he said. “And the Lomo Saltado is very tasty and is a typical Peruvian dish originally brought to Peru by Chinese immigrants.”
Enjoying lunch together at a table outdoors were Marco Gonzales, his daughter Kai, 5, and his mother, Maribel Lecca. Kai had Salchipapas – French fries with sliced sausage, and both she and her dad liked it.
Gonzales ordered a Peruvian-style chicken-salad sandwich. “We came here for my birthday today, and my sandwich was really tasty,” he said. “It had a good flavor, different than the typical chicken sandwich.”
Lecca, who had the Pan con Chicharron, also said her sandwich was delicious. “This is good Peruvian food and it’s not that expensive,” she said. “We’re from Peru, and we’re happy this restaurant came here. I’d been looking for empanadas nearby.”
Gonzales said he’d recommend My Empanadas to others because“There aren’t that many restaurants in Fairfax City that offer traditional Peruvian food, except for Peruvian chicken.”
Meanwhile, Julissa Siegel was having lunch inside the restaurant. Several dishes were offered buffet-style, after the ribbon cutting, and she chose several to sample. She had Papa Rellena, a mashed-potato ball stuffed with beef and deep-fried; Tallarin Saltado de Pollo, linguine with stir-fried chicken and vegetables; and both chicken and beef empanadas.
“It’s all amazing,” said Siegel. “The empanada dough isn’t salty, but a little sweet, and the chicken and onions taste really good. I would 100-percent recommend this place to others. If you want something good to eat – and delicious, well-made empanadas – come here.”