After opening this past November to resounding praise, Kingfield’s Boludo is a known delight packed into a tiny footprint. From its gleaming tiled interior, an altar to Messi shines like a beacon standing in for so many things Argentinian, and taking a seat at one of the handful of cafe tables spilling onto Nicollet harkens to a vacation far away that had a way of slipping through our fingertips.
Boludo’s menu is minimal: a handful of covetable pizzas and immaculately folded empanadas, plus churro donuts and flan for dessert. They don’t do brunch (thank god). When you can’t go wrong, choosing what to order becomes the hardest part.
Navigating those “turbulent” waters is where we come in. On a recent afternoon, we shouldered this “burden” for the greater good by ranking Boludo’s perfect empanadas from worst to best.
Over-excitement can backfire… and I was pretty pumped for this pocket of creamed leeks and gorgonzola, only to find that rankness I so often enjoy in gorgonzola overpowered the leeks’ delicacy. Without a textural element or prominent third flavor (besides butter, duh) to break up that interplay, Boludo’s confetti-esque chimichurri did maybe too much of the heavy lifting here.
Everything in this empanada was executed to a T, from its oregano-infused tender, pulled chicken chunks to the calabrian-leaning peppers – crayola red and sweet, with only a hint of spice – plus that back-of-the-throat fresh rain taste reminiscent of bell peppers. Juices flowed so much that they shot up one of our nostrils. So how is the Pollo middle of the pack? American chicken is for Californians. The non-fried stuff leans hard on its neighbor ingredients for flavor, even when they’re done well. The cautious will order it and emerge absolutely, 100 percent pleased.
This is the delicate, meatless empanada I’d dreamt of and anticipated would appear dressed in Puerro’s clothes… but no. Espinaca’s reggianito cheese plays more nicely with wilted (not limp!) spinach and fresno peppers, which retain a mere hint of piquancy and tooth. Once the chimichurri’s parsley is introduced, the package comes to life like a tarot reading conducted by your witchiest friend.
To be very honest, in the end, it was a toss-up for first between the Carne and the Espinaca. Ultimately the Carne’s combo of beef picadillo, ají molido, and olives just edged out its spinach-y competitor in a rock-paper-scissors throwdown. No wheels were being reinvented here, it’s just that it was so well done. The pastry withstood the picadillo’s (surprisingly sparing!) grease, and the combination of spices, garlic, and finely chopped olives played really nicely off of the ground beef itself to create something that felt primordially nice to chew. A drizzle of the chimichurri to finish really took it over the top.
(DNS) Jamon y Queso
The spiced, fried ham and mozzarella darling did not compete in this race. When asked whether she thought the little bugger had sold out due to overwhelming deliciousness or its perceived safety among the rest of its competitors, the world’s sweetest empanada slinger giggled and said, “Oh no. It’s…. Our fryer’s broken.”
Every good competition needs a wild card entrant, and a reason to come back for more, right?
*To be clear: “Worst empanada” is a laughable distinguisher at Boludo. They’re all heavenly, and priced at just $3.95 apiece, so re-conducting this experiment to tell us our opinions are garbage is… achievable! Just, please, ensure each bite is balanced with proportionate amounts of chimichurri and gratitude for the caliber of fare this little slice of joy churns out so casually.
3749 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis