Looking for a quick, cheap bite to eat late at night in downtown Raleigh? Today’s review might be just the spot for you. Calavera Empanada and Tequila Bar keeps it simple with over ten empanadas, more than thirty tequilas, and a few odds and ends (like Mexican street corn – Yum!). Calavera is open until 2am every night of the week, so when the late night munchies hit around midnight we headed over to satisfy the hunger.
Each savory empanada on the menu is $3.50 – what a deal. We started things off with the Al Pastor Empanada. We asked the waiter what his favorite was and he told us this was it. Each bite contained just enough spice to make your tongue burn slightly, but not so much that it’s not enjoyable. It had some flavor but wasn’t quite as good as I’d normally hope for with Al Pastor meat. We’ll sum it up as decent I suppose. Next up was the Chicken Tinga. The chicken in this one was quite dry and generally lacked flavor. It was a definite miss. The worst of all the empanadas was the Picadillo. Picadillo is like taking ground beef up to the next level. Normally picadillo is ground beef with some spices and green olives mixed in for good measure. This Picadillo Empanada might as well have contained bargain basement ground beef. It lacked the level of flavor that even mediocre ground beef would normally have. Skip it for sure. The last savory empanada we tried was the Buffalo Chicken Empanada – roasted chicken, gorgonzola cheese, and buffalo sauce. It was the best of the bunch. The heat inside the pocket slightly melted the cheese and made each bite creamy. Flavor burst through, followed by just enough spice hitting you on the back end of every bite.
In addition to empanadas, we gave the Elote (mexican street corn on the cob) a try. For $3 we were delivered a HUGE ear of corn. Too often Mexican street corn is slathered in a mountain of mayonnaise. While mayo is delicious, I prefer the simple preparation that Calavela uses on their elote – lime and cotija cheese with just the thinnest layer of mayo. This affordable side dish is just perfect.
For dessert we gave the Key Lime Pie Empanada a try. Whipped cream and powdered sugar sit atop a crispy empanada crust filled with key lime pie filling. What more could you need in life? Even if you’re not a hardcore key lime pie lover we think you’ll enjoy this one. If you are a die hard key lime pie lover and need it to be so tart it makes you crinkle your nose in order to enjoy it, this one might be a slight let down. If we rated the tartness on a 1-10 scale it’s probably about a 5. That’s just right for my sweet tooth.
If you’re headed out to eat after midnight on a weeknight, Calavera will do the trick. If you want something fun, simple and cheap to eat and drink Calavera is also a good choice. If you’re looking for amazing empanadas, you can probably find better.