Home Food + Drink Empanada Guy: Serving Delicious + Flaky Treats at Pier 13

Empanada Guy: Serving Delicious + Flaky Treats at Pier 13

by Megan Joseph
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A popular indulgence for Hudson County residents {and beyond}, the empanada is a perfect combination of flaky pastry and flavorful filling. Coming from the Spanish verb “empanar,” which means to coat or wrap in bread, you can find these Spanish meat pies at an iconic red truck pretty close to home. And no one knows more about them than the infamous Empanada Guy. His unique recipe is a mixture of Caribbean and Mexican spices with a touch of Southern heat.

Carlos Serrano is the founder and owner of Empanada Guy, bringing a Spanish product to many cultures and different regions from his food truck. He values his customers and their experience over anything else. A self-taught chef, Carlos tells Hoboken Girl everything there is to know about his life, business, and future plans. Keep reading to learn all about Empanada Guy, serving up delicious + flaky treats at Pier 13. 

empanada guy hoboken 1

What’s On The Menu

At the Empanada Guy truck, there is something to satisfy anything the heart desires from the beef, chicken, and cheese classics to more unique options like Mexican chorizo, lobster {a seasonal item}, guava + cheese, and apple cinnamon empanadas. Right now, Carlos says he’s absolutely hooked on the guava + cheese {it’s equal parts sweet + salty, the balance between the two flavors is just right}. 

empanada guy pier 13 food

{Photo credit: @empanadaguy1}

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The Cuban sandwich is also a fan-favorite, made up of roasted pork with Caribbean zest mojo, ham, and swiss cheese topped with mustard and pickles on a grilled sub roll. The truck offers snacks and sides to go along with your meal too — white rice and beans, plantains, papa rellena, sweet corn tamales, and yuca fries. And definitely, don’t forget about a few churros for dessert.

Location + Hours

empanada guy hoboken pier 13

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Carlos says individual owners run his trucks from da- to-day, while he oversees the business with his wife Gigi. Bart Yannossky oversees the Pier 13 truck in Hoboken and is one of his closest friends.

“Bart came to me as a total stranger after I catered his son’s wedding party,” Carlos said. “He told me he wanted to experience the happiness and entrepreneurship that comes with owning your own truck.”

Empanada Guy has two home base locations throughout the year: Morris Plains and Woodbridge, as well as one summer home base in Bradley Beach. Of course, the truck is available for private events and festivals. {Psst: current wedding planners.}

The Morris Plains location is open from 11:00AM-3:00PM all week and the Woodbridge location is always open at 11:00AM, but closing hours vary. Check out the website for more details. 

See More: Best Empanada Spots in Hoboken + Jersey City

About The Owner

empanada guy hoboken owner

{Photo Credit: Carlos Serrano}

While working at Spectrum for Living, an NJ not-for-profit which assists adults with developmental disabilities, Carlos came up with the idea to sell empanadas out of a fluke. He brought his Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch and shared some with his manager at the time. When his manager tasted the empanadas, he was in awe at how delicious they were. In Hillside, NJ at the time, this food was not sold in stores.

“He said to me, ‘You can’t get these anywhere around here, you need to sell them everywhere,” Carlos said. 

On his way home that day, Carlos thought more and more about the idea. It took about a month to really solidify his decision and a year later, he resigned from his full-time job.

empanada guy food truck hoboken

{Photo Credit: Carlos Serrano}

Then, while working part-time at United Airlines, Carlos started preparing empanadas out of his garage which he converted into a full-fledged kitchen. His goal was to make about 400 per month which he sold to diners, restaurants, and at festivals out of his tent. {Fun fact: now the trucks make over 400 empanadas per day.}

It wasn’t until he and his wife attended a festival in Linden that Carlos decided he wanted to buy his first food truck. Carlos says that to him, it was like discovering fire and he wanted to brand the truck so that his customers remember the food. It took about a year of social media hype and relationship building, but in June 2012, Carlos bought his first food truck for Empanada Guy. 

Within six months, Empanada Guy was on the Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay,” Lifetime’s “Supermarket Sweep,” and countless well-known newspaper restaurant reviews. 

Although Carlos had a rough childhood, he was able to pick up various cooking techniques from his grandmother, mother, and father. His grandmother owned a restaurant, always in the kitchen crafting Puerto Rican flavorful dishes. His mother had a passion and joy for cooking and even though she only knew a few recipes, Carlos says those were the best five meals you’d ever have. His biological father worked in a restaurant and made food at a much faster pace than Carlos’ other relatives. From all three of them, Carlos learned flavor, precision, and speedy cooking techniques that make his customer’s so satisfied today. 

Read More: A Visit to Empanada Cafe in Hoboken

Empanada Guy Today

As with everyone in the hospitality industry, Carlos says the hardest part is staffing and finding dedicated employees who can handle the rush. Keeping the original recipe and care Carlos puts into the product, his recent solution to many challenges has been outsourcing and franchising.

He is open to mentor anyone who wants to franchise for him, but explains they really have to have the grit and dedication.

“The opportunity, sense of community, and profit is worth it.,” Carlos said. “You have to know, or learn, plumbing, electric, mechanics, customer service, and you also have to clean up at the end.”

empanada guy hoboken

Right now, Empanada Guy sells his products to restaurants in NJ, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, but he’s really looking to expand. They just recently got USDA approved, so they’re able to sell and franchise outside of the state. Carlos plans for Bart, the owner at Pier 13, to be his ambassador for franchising once the idea really takes off.

Visit Pier 13 to get these one-of-a-kind empanadas locally or any of their other tri-state area locations. As Carlos would say, “Chase your dreams, NOT your problems.”

Have you paid a visit to Empanada Guy yet? Let us know in the comments! 

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