Chicago's 5411 Empanadas has become so hot in the past two years that other food truck owners call them "rock stars." The owners credit their fans, Twitter followers and the growing food truck community. Stefan Holt reports.
What does 5411 Empanadas stand for, besides tasty stuffed pockets served from a popular, 2-year-old Chicago food truck?
"It's the international dialing code for Buenos Aires, Argentina," owner Nicolas Ibarzabal said. "That is where I am from, and that is where the empanada style we make [originates]. We make them the Argentinian way."
That means baked, not fried with a dough that is just a little bit thinner than others.
"I like the baked option rather than the fried," Ibarzabal said. "It is a little healthier and it is tastier."
Like many trucks in the city, 5411's offerings are made at a brick-and-mortar kitchen. Until last July, food trucks could not cook on board and only a few trucks recently were given permits to do so.
"We have our stand-alone store," manager Ricardo “Ric” Perez said. "We bake fresh daily, from oven at the store to this hotbox directly to the customer."
A tour of Chicago's food trucks wouldn't be complete without a stop for empanadas at 5411, but be prepared to wait in line. The truck did so well last summer that the owners opened a restaurant on Clark Street to get through the winter. Now sales are warming up with the temperature.
"We maybe have been doing it the longest," Ibarzabal said. "I think we have a unique product that you cannot find very easy, so I think that is our edge."
Their edge has become more widespread. A second storefront is in the works, and the owners started an empanadas delivery and catering company.
Ibarzabal credits their success to fans, Twitter followers and a growing food truck community.
"The best thing is every day, as soon as we stop, there are people already waiting for us," he said. "When we are leaving the shop, we tweet, 'Hey, we are on our way, we will be there 15 minutes.' It's impressive."