Fast food with a Latin flair

Empanada Dorada brings a new choice to diners

Posted: Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bus travelers waiting for their rides at the new Downtown Transportation Center now have a place to get in out of the cold, not to mention grab a snack for the road.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Samuel Marchena Glass and his wife, Cristina, opened Empanada Dorada on Friday. The Glasses have been waiting to bring this project to fruition since 2008 so they could introduce a new style of fast food to Juneau.

The food shop’s name, which means golden empanada, says it all. The specialty there is the empanada, a Latin American form of stuffed pastry. The proprietors serve these treats — meat and chicken plus other fillings baked in dough. While empanadas can be fried, Glass said they are only baked here because he wants to make the food healthier.

“That way the public can get acquainted with the Latin equivalent of fast food,” he said, adding, “Soon I hope it will become as popular as tacos.”

“We’re going to give something new to them that I hope people in Juneau will enjoy,” said Cristina Glass.

The bus stop shop’s beginning was a long time in the making. Glass said he and his family moved here from California about three years ago and were not here long when he first saw the City and Borough of Juneau’s notice soliciting vendors for the future transit center. He said he submitted his bid in December of 2008 and got the notice he was selected two months later.

He said it was then a waiting game as the center was constructed. The family waited almost two years before opening day.

Glass said he got the call last Wednesday he could move in. On Thursday, he was already bringing in the equipment, and the business officially opened the next day. They had the equipment and food ready because the family was prepared; they were told the move-in date was imminent after the center became operational.

“It was really a matter of the construction folks putting finishing touches on the waiting room here,” said Glass. He said the city kept them up to speed on the progress.

He said everything came together quickly but efficiently and made for a smooth opening. He credited Steve Pfister of the City and Borough of Juneau for helping with that.

Glass said now he has to let the travelers know the place is there, as most are not used to having a food outlet at the bus stop. He said business has grown steadily within its first few days, as many curious passengers stopped in and were pleased at the find. Some have already become repeat customers.

He said besides the food, their shop also provides a warmer place to wait for buses, which folks have already been discovering.

Glass said he’s always had it in the back of his mind to go into the food business.

“It’s something novel to Juneau, which is one reason I wanted to do it,” he said. “Latin food has such a wide range, but one of main themes is empanadas. So we wanted to add that particular food to Juneau. You pretty much get a taste of Latin cuisine that way.”

Glass said the most unique thing there is the dessert empanada, which is filled with guava and cream cheese. He is planning future menu items, such as vegetable and pork empanadas.

Besides the Latin snack, the shop serves other to-go choices, such as bagels, scones and hot dogs.

The shop is open early and late, from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, then 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It’s open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sundays.

“We’re basically following most of the bus schedule so folks waiting for the bus can wait and have a snack,” said Glass.

Despite the lengthy operating hours, Empanada Dorada remains a family-run business without outside employees. Glass said besides the two of them, their 17-year-old son, Alex, will help out after school.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or

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