Empanada Intifada

A trio of fried half-moon pastries at Café Red Onion (3910 Kirby, 713-807-1122) is waging a holy war on the archaic assumption that any self-respecting pie must be served for dessert. With innovative fillings and three different sauces, the worst part about this dish ($5.95) is the agonizing decision, from bite to bite, which empanada to taste next. One is filled with chicken and black olives and haunted by a mysterious piquancy, the source of which is not visible to the naked eye; it swims in cream of poblano sauce. Another, stuffed with ground beef, chunks of potato and white cheese, comes on a bed of pico de gallo along with corn fresh off the cob. The third, no doubt the leader of this empanada uprising, brings together the tantalizing combination of guava and goat cheese; this powerful little pie is served in a small pool of queso. Each one is drizzled with crema fresca and sprinkled with slivers of cilantro. This tasty trio is enough for a light lunch, but beware -- an hour later you might be hungry for power!

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Carol Rust