Don Pablo’s Kitchen & Bakeshop, an eight-month-old virtual Chilean restaurant in suburban Glenview, will soon open a counter cafe in Chicago proper and fill a void in the city’s empanada scene. Spouses and co-owners Pablo Soto and Julie Morrow-Soto plan to launch Don Pablo’s by the second week of February at 1007 W. Argyle Street in Uptown with a menu built around Chilean empanadas: savory pockets of baked dough or fries that are larger than their cousins from Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela.
Chilean empanadas can be hard to find in Chicago restaurants, especially after the 2012 closure of Rapa Nui in Irving Park. It is a sad situation that the couple wants to remedy. “It gives us tons of responsibility,” says Soto, who immigrated to the United States 25 years ago from Santiago, Chile. “The whole reputation of homemade Chilean empanadas is in my hands here in Chicago, and I have to deliver.”
fans of the operation of the ghost kitchen, founded in May 2021, will recognize a number of items on the cafe’s menu. There will be seven or eight empanadas such as Poeta (shrimp, corn, cheese, basil) and Greek Tragedy (artichoke hearts, cremini mushrooms, kalamata olives, feta), as well as breakfast-themed options . Sweets will also be available, such as buttered alfajores and caramel-filled milhoja. Over time, the couple plans to add Chilean ceviches, soups, salads, and more.
At around 800 square feet, Don Pablo’s will seat 10 people, but is primarily designed for takeout and delivery. The restaurant space is brand new, with wooden floors, counters and furniture meant to create a cozy atmosphere — “rustic, like our empanadas,” Soto says. When warm weather arrives they will add 10-12 more tables outside for patio dining.
Found in nearly every restaurant, convenience store, or roadside stop in the country, Chilean empanadas are square in shape and thus distinguishable from their crescent moon-shaped relatives found throughout South America. Soto spent three weeks in Santiago at an empanada boot camp with his aunt, learning the recipes in order to create a taste as close to the original as possible.
“We respect the tradition, the heart and the soul of this Chilean cuisine,” he says. “We are the only ones here to offer this on a larger scale. I hope we will be up to it. I hope that in the future we will have a good competition, which I always look forward to.
Don Pablo’s kitchen and bakery1007 W. Argyle Street, scheduled to open mid-February.