Colombian food lovers should head to the Morris Park area of the Bronx where La Masa restaurant is dishing out empanadas, arepas and more.

La Masa, which means "the dough" in Spanish, sets itself apart from the sea of red, white and green flags in the predominantly Italian neighborhood. Known for their extensive menu of traditional and not-so-traditional empanadas -- a stuffed fried or baked turnover found in Latin American kitchens -- La Masa is putting a modern twist on street food.

While hungry patrons can get classic fillings, like beef or pork, they can also order delicious modernized treats, including the mouthwatering four cheese mac 'n' cheese with bacon. And non-meat lovers need not worry: there are gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options available as well. 

Husband and wife owners, Laura Valdez and Josh Montalvo, said they pride themselves on preparing the freshest food possible to their customers. 

"Every day we buy the ingredients from Queens and prepare what we're going to sell for the day," Valdez said. 

And once they sell out of a menu item customers have to return the next day for their empanada fix. 

Freshness matters. For instance, the patacon -- a shredded meat sandwich with fried plantains as the bun -- can easily taste stale if prepared a day in advance. Instead, here it is crunchy and filling. 

La Masa treats customers like part of the family, using eclectic decorations and pop music to make diners feel as if it's a casual night out even if it's only mid-morning. The restaurant used to open at noon, but customers started to line up at least an hour earlier. They now open their doors at 10 a.m.

"It's not just about the food," Montalvo said. "If the food is good but you have a bad experience, you may never eat there again."

The owners, who hosted a customer appreciation day on the eatery's one-year anniversary, said they aim to be community-oriented.

"We get a lot of regulars and want to show them our appreciation for supporting us," Valdez said.

 

For your empanada fix, stop by La Masa, 1000 Morris Park Ave., 718-822-6272, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.