What Started as a Way To Cope With the Pandemic Has Quickly Become One of the Most Celebrated Food Trucks in Highland Park
We grew up with comida en la casa, but we also want to support those who make us comida en la calle. That’s why this Latinx Heritage Month, mitú has partnered with El Jimador to spotlight small business owners to aid the Latino Community Foundation. Juntos, we build on our efforts to foster inclusivity and amplify Latinx voices.
Operating out of Highland Park, Janet Sochynsky-Flores and her husband Javier are the owners of Empanadas Chimi, a popular food truck offering traditional Argentine empanadas with a curated selection of fillings.
The truck only offers six different fillings in total, with a focus on authenticity. “If you were to go to Argentina, you would find the same fillings as if you were to come to our trailer,” Sochynsky-Flores told mitú.
The business was born from necessity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, after “the business that we [had] was shut down for about 16 months,” she explained. “We didn’t really have the intention for it to become a business, you know, to profit from it,” adding, “We had to figure out how to make ends meet.”
At first, the empanada business was exclusive to family and friends, based on the empanada recipes Sochynsky-Flores had learned from her mother. “I grew up with my mom’s empanadas so I think for her, it was very special,” she said. Even still, her family had doubts that the empanadas, as delicious as they were, could help them build a successful business. “It’s just so nonchalant and casual to us Argentines. I guess because we just eat that every single time we’re together.”
Despite that, Janet and Javier had the full support of their families, who cheered them on as Empanadas Chimi became increasingly popular within the community. “We have a lot of support, not just from my parents who are from Argentina, but also from my husband’s [parents], who are Mexican,” she said.
“When we first started, we only had four fillings,” she explained. Initially, Empanadas Chimi focused on beef empanadas before adding chicken, ham and cheese and corn. “Those were the ones that I always grew up with,” she said. “Those are the ones my mom always made or my aunts made.”
Months later, Empanadas Chimi would begin offering a spinach option “because that was one that people kept asking for.” As the truck’s reputation in Highland Park continued to grow, the introduction of an original filling they called a chimiqueso empanada quickly became a fan favorite, especially because there was nowhere else in town to get one.
“Chimiqueso is actually one of our top sellers right after beef. It’s basically a cheese empanada but we add our chimichurri sauce inside,” Sochynsky-Flores explained. “People go crazy for it.” Since chimiqueso is “not a typical Argentine filling,” the new recipe was masterminded by Janet’s husband Javier, working with the monterey jack cheese that is featured in three other menu items as well as a house-made chimichurri sauce.
Janet attributes a major part of the truck’s success not only to their delicious food, but the loyalty they’ve shown to the Highland Park community. “We started in Highland Park, we’re still in Highland Park. That’s our home, where we started, where we grew, where we’ve had people know us,” she explained. “Highland Park is our home.” Even though the truck only operates on weekends, people know that Empanadas Chimi will always be “parked in the same location off York Boulevard.”
In the future, they plan to “add a couple of sandwiches and some salads to [the] menu, keeping it very traditional, very basic. In Argentina, [they] eat a lot of milanesa,” which is a breaded steak or chicken that’s deep fried, similar to chicken parmigiana.
Janet and Javier want to ideate a milanesa sandwich, in addition to a skirt steak sandwich, and “a gaucho salad, which is a super delicious and super basic salad” that they plan to top with either steak or chicken.
Ultimately, these menu expansions are for the longtime customers “who’ve been with us since we started,” she explained. “They’re waiting for something new.”
To learn more about how you can help elevate the Latinx community alongside El Jimador and the Latino Community Foundation, visit LCF.
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