I had my first empanada on a food truck a while back and immediately fell in love with them. Something about the flaky crust with the gooey cheesy insides made me feel warm inside. It’s comfort food, it warms your heart and belly. When I heard about Cala vela, I was intrigued and excited to give it a try.
Overall: 2.75 out of 5
Food/Beverage: 2 out of 5
Ambiance: 3.5 out of 5
Value: 2.5 out of 5
Service: 3 out of 5
Cala vela is on the corner of Blount and E. Davies St. It has a nice outdoor area with some picnic table style seating. There aren’t any umbrellas, so I’d guess in the summer it would be a tad hot. On this particular night, there was the threat of rain and a slight chill in the air, so we opted to sit inside. We may have been warmer out there – it was FREEZING inside. I own’t count that against the ambiance, however when I mentioned it to the server, she kind of laughed and said “yeah.” Nothing changed. So, the decor inside is Day of the Dead themed.
I loved the little skulls on the table, and the candle lighting was nice as well.
The hanging twinkle lights were very cool as well! I didn’t have a chance to go upstairs during this visit. There was a party of 15 which turned out to be a high school spanish class. Not really what I was in the market for on this particular night.
Since they rave about their tequila, we decided to give the margaritas a try. I went with the strawberry lime and my dining buddy ordered the mango. Both were fresh and delicious, with a sugar rim and fresh fruit. It was good, but didn’t taste like there was much tequila in it. While some would think that’s a good thing, it made me suspicious that I was overcharged. For $9, I expected more.
So, this place doesn’t bring chips and salsa to the table…which is a bummer…so we ordered the chips and guacamole. For $6.99, it was a very small portion of guacamole. The taste was good, but man that’s a small amount of chips and huac for that price.
My buddy ordered the Elote ($3.00). It’s corn on the cob topped with mayonesa, cayenne pepper and cojita cheese. It tasted awkward to me. I felt like may be they forgot to cook it fully, or they cook the corn then coat it with the ingredients and serve it. They toppings seemed out of place, either way.
For dinner, I ordered two empanadas: The Champ (portobello, shiitake, cremini mushrooms, onions, celery and oxacan cheese) and the Poblano Loco (tequila marinated poblano pepper, onion and duranguense cheese). The fillings were delicious, but the pastry itself wasn’t quite as flaky as I’d hoped. They tasted kinda like they had been cooked earlier in the day, then reheated for serving. I really did like them, just wasn’t blown away by them. My dinner buddy ordered the Picadillo (ground beef, potato, onion, tomato and green chili). She enjoyed it. The empanadas are served with a salsa verde and a red salsa. The verde was very good, heavy on the cilantro with a nice kick. The red, to me, was bland and watery. Each of the empanadas were $3.50 each. They were a little bigger than the size of my hand and left me still a little hungry at the end of the meal.
Tuesday nights they have tamales on special for $2 each, served with the salsa verde and red salsa. They were good, not great. On this particular night they were chicken tamales. The chicken was bland, and it was pretty cold when they brought it to our table.
So, overall I would potentially go back, if a group was going and everyone else wanted to go. I’m not in a huge hurry to get there and could potentially go the rest of my life without going back and not feel sad. The word on the web is that they used to have a different name and the quality really went down after the name change. I never had the chance to go before the name change, so I can’t comment on that except to say don’t expect to be blown away.