Baked empanadas, premium tequila and cocktails fit for the kings....
These are a few of my favorite things.
Luckily for Raleigh, Lily Ballance, her husband Dave and longtime friend Ken Yowell have just opened Calavera Empanada & Tequila Bar in downtown on the corner of Martin and Blount Streets.
Calavera, Spanish for skull, is associated with the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead. Upon entering the restaurant you will notice over 100 hanging candles and more ceramic skulls than I could count. All of the decor was brought back by Lilly and crew via numerous trips to her home town of Mexico City. If that's not authentic I don't know what is.
I started off with the Watermelon Catrina cocktail, which combines housemade watermelon puree, asian basil, lime and blanco tequila. Refreshing, light, delicious and extremely dangerous. (I could've had 10)
From there I ventured into the soon-to-be-famous empanadas. Because they are baked, these flavor-packed pockets of goodness are light on the stomach and at $3 a piece, light on the wallet as well. After working my way through the entire menu I'd have to say my favorite was the Piggly Wiggly, stuffed with smoked North Carolina-style pork.
Often times restaurants can get in trouble when they overcomplicate their concept. Calavera has only a few focal points, all executed extremely well. That, in addition to an ownership team with more than 50 years of Raleigh service industry experience makes me very confident Calavera is here to stay.
To Dave, Ken and Lily, a big congratulations! I cannot wait to come back.