WOOD-RIDGE, NJ -- The front windows of 251B Valley Boulevard in Wood-Ridge are still covered with brown paper.   

But inside they’re putting on the finishing touches of The Empanada Shop, scheduled to open in early December. A formal grand opening will come at a later date.

Joni Caldera and Nelson Contreras are owners of the new eatery.  Residents have been able to get their empanadas only at Wood-Ridge community events like the Trunk or Treat and junior football games. But soon the general public will be able to sample the popular meat pies.

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“We will serve gourmet empanadas made from homemade recipes passed down for generations,” said Caldera. “Our recipes are family recipes derived from Dominican and Italian backgrounds.”

What’s on the menu? Selections will include both savory and sweet options. Foodies can choose from classic Latin beef, chicken and pork empanadas. They add Italian flair by offering sausage, peppers and onions, tomato, basil, and chicken, and garlic shrimp empanadas.  Additionally they put an All American twist on the Latin treat by filling the empanadas with buffalo chicken, broccoli and cheddar, spinach and feta, and even chili mac 'n cheese. For dessert, the shop will offer apple pie or guava and cheese empanadas.  They will also serve pressed Cuban sandwiches and tropical smoothies.

What accounts for the skyrocketing popularity of empanadas on the American food scene?

“Empanadas are popular because they are delicious and not something you can easily make at home,” said Caldera.  “They are easy to eat with your hands and make a great quick meal while on the go.”