CRANFORD - Tania Marissa Maranhao is looking to bring a taste of the Caribbean to Cranford.

Maranhao will be opening "Yumpanadas," a gourmet empanada restaurant, at the former Fromage Grillé location, 101 Miln Street, with a target date of early to mid October. Using family recipes from her Haitian and Dominican background, Maranhao has created over 60 different empanadas from savory to sweet. 

"Yumpanadas is a concept I came up with three years ago taking family recipes and adding a little variation to them," said Maranhao. "Everybody can make empanadas, but not everybody makes dessert ones."

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Maranhao has been featuring her empanadas at Farmers' Markets throughout the state and says despite the hardships restaurants have endured during the COVID-19 pandemic, the overwhelming positive reviews of her product gave her enough confidence to expand her business into a storefront. 

"I did the farmers' markets for two years and got such great feedback," said Maranhao. "I actually really took off during COVID. While everyone else had to shut down, here I am as a catering business working out of a commercial kitchen. It took off so much that the commercial kitchen couldn't keep up with me booking with them. I started doing deliveries during COVID and I realized how unanimously everyone kept telling me they prefer my empanadas than the competitors. I said you know what, let me take it a step forward."

Some empanadas Maranhao features include Jerk Chicken, Meatball Parm, Bacon Egg & Cheese, Banana Foster, Boston Creme, and many more. Along with empanadas, the menu will feature "patacon" sandwiches in which fried plantains serve as the bread, and creole bowls. 

"I hope that my food when you taste it makes you feel like you're on an island on vacation," said Maranhao. "To have this opportunity to open in Cranford is a blessing."