Inevitably, there are a few things that Ariel Barbouth must clear up for customers at his Times Square empanadas stand, Nuchas.
First of all, his empanadas are baked, not fried like the Columbian or Dominican versions of the crunchy, meat-filled hand pies. Second, as it turns out, Argentines are every bit as snobbish about empanadas as New Yorkers are about pizza.
“You just don’t buy empanadas from everybody,” Barbouth cautions.
Third, you can ask all you want but he will not, cannot, supersize his empanadas. Ever.
And fourth — most importantly — is that while his empanadas can easily fit into the palm of your hand, you should not consider them a snack or even a meal but an experience, the warmth of the dough and the taste of the meaty pulp as unexpectedly transformative as a bicycle ride on a cooing spring day, or a work of art that snatches your breath away. What Barbouth is going for is the unmistakable look — equal parts joy and bewilderment — that appeared on the faces of two friends when they visited him in Buenos Aires six years ago and took their first bites of the freshly baked empanadas he’d just fetched from a corner bistro.
“It’s kind of like Forrest Gump said, you know — when you open up a box of freshly baked empanadas,” the 40-year old Barbouth said on a sunny spring afternoon outside his bustling food stand. “It really is a box of possibilities. In Argentina we take it for granted, but when I saw the reaction on their faces in that moment, I knew I wanted to take empanadas mainstream.”
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