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Lyndhurst's Mobile 'Empanada Lady' Opens First Shop

Cynthia Soto. Photo Credit: Cynthia Soto
Cynthia Soto with family and friends at the grand opening of her restaurant in West Milford. Photo Credit: Cynthia
Cynthia Soto and her chef. Photo Credit: Cynthia
A customer eats an empanada at Soto's new restaurant. Photo Credit: Cynthia Soto

LYNDHURST, N.J. —Buffalo chicken with gorgonzola cheese, mexican chorizo with black bean, corn, and queso fresco, and taylor ham egg and cheese.

Those are just some of the empanada creations being served at Escala — a new restaurant by Cynthia Soto — " The Empanada Lady ."

After six years peddling her popular quarter-pound empanadas around northern New Jersey, Soto, 40, is setting up shop at the Greenwood Lake Airport in West Milford.

"I want this to feel like a place that feels like home to people," said Soto, a Lyndhurst resident with Dominican roots.

The New York native launched her empanada business in 2009 after being laid off from her corporate job during the recession.

She enrolled in culinary school at Hudson County Community College all while selling empanadas to local Jersey City bars.

When she realized her traditional cuisine was a hit, Soto expanded to Bergen and Passaic Counties, making up to 100 each day.

Locals dubbed her "The Empanada Lady" — and it stuck.

"I would just drive around selling empanadas out of my car, and they were in high demand," Soto said. "It got to the point where I was making 200 empanadas every other day."

By 2012, she was selling the empanadas at 15 different farmers markets every week. The business grew again in 2015 when she bought her first food truck.

Soto sells more than 3,000 empanadas a week, and she says she's just getting started.

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