Empanadas will be the signature dish at Empacho, a new Argentinian street food style restaurant. (Courtesy photo)

At the end of the month Argentinian street food style restaurant Empacho, will open in Detroit in a remodeled space on the Dennis Archer Greenway. 

Every aspect of the restaurant will offer a taste of Argentine culture, from light shades made from plant gourds to a traditional game on one of the shelves for customers to play: You try to throw coins into the mouth of a small frog and get the highest score. The restaurant will also offer gourd cups with straws for customers to drink “tereré” – a cold-brewed yerba mate – the traditional way. Yerba mate is like tea or coffee and is made from plant leaves that contain caffeine.

“We’re going to show the real experience of how we do it,” chef and owner Gonzalo Collazo told BridgeDetroit. Collazo owns a catering company based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and said he’s been traveling and cooking in Australia, Finland, and other European countries, and has businesses all over the world. 

At the end of the month Gonzalo Collazo will open his first restaurant, an Argentinian street food restaurant on the greenway. (BridgeDetroit photo by Jena Brooker)

“I found Detroit and it was an opportunity. Also, I love the community. It was something that caught my attention,” the chef, who lives in Detroit, said. 

The grand opening is expected April 30. The restaurant will offer an assortment of traditional dishes, but the spotlight will be on its empanadas. 

“We want to make people share the food, to make that ritual,” Collazo said, whether that means ordering a bundle of empanadas to take to a party or eating them at the park in the sunshine. 

“Make the empanada an experience of where to eat it, because we do it like that,” said Collazo, noting they’re even good cold. 

“Go for a hike and you get your empanadas in your backpack and they’re cold and it’s so good,” he added. “It’s always a good moment to eat it.” 

Empacho joins Barda, an upscale Argentinian restaurant that opened in Core City in 2021 and was nominated for a James Beard award in 2022. 

Originally from Argentina, Collazo said he moved to Detroit in 2021 and frequently visits Argentina to stay close to his culture. 

Collazo told BridgeDetroit the restaurant name “empacho” is Spanish for the feeling of being full because you love the food, like on the holidays or at good restaurants. 

“You feel your gut like, ‘Oh, I’m full, but because I decided to be full,’” he said. “You decide to be in that situation because you love the food.” 

Empacho will make both meat and vegetarian empanadas served with sauces, in addition to snacks like “chipa”, a small gluten free bun made with tapioca flour and cheese. For dessert, they’ll have “alfajores,” small round cakes filled with chocolate and dulce de leche, or caramelized milk. 

“Dulce de leche is something that we eat a lot,” Collazo said. “That’s something that we eat in everything,” he said while laughing. 

The restaurant on Jefferson is next to The Red Hook and Breadless along the Joseph Campau Greenway Connector, renamed in 2021 to honor the city’s former mayor, is a vital link between the riverfront and Jefferson built in the last few years to improve access to the river for residents. Construction on the greenway began just four years ago and the connector has now become a thriving mini-corridor of restaurants and small businesses.

Ryan Salter, co-founder of Breadless, said he’s looking forward to Empacho’s opening. 

“The new establishment will bring great opportunity to the area, some customers to see what we’re all about as well as Breadless and we welcome our neighbors to our establishment,” Salter said. 

Collazo said the unit he’s renting wasn’t being used and was formerly an office. 

“It used to be a parking lot and a building that didn’t have much going on,” explained Todd Scott, executive director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition. 

“I think that’s a good use for it,” Scott said of the restaurant. “It’s great if people can arrive by bike to go there, so that’s awesome.” 

Collazo said the walls inside were plaster when he began leasing, but he and his business team tore it down, revealing beautiful brick walls. The updated space includes brand new commercial kitchen appliances, a wrap around wooden counter, two wood bars for seating, and checkered tile flooring. 

Collazo said he plans to add patio seating so people can enjoy food inside or outside. 

“I’m so excited and anxious and happy to show Argentinian food here in Detroit in this area, and we hope you like it,” Collazo said. 

Jena is a BridgeDetroit's environmental reporter, covering everything from food and agricultural to pollution to climate change.

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