Greensboro, NC: Couple’s food truck offers a taste of Puerto Rico

By Jacqui Haggerty  |  News-Record

Manny Tosca and Maria Casiano at Empanadas Borinquen. Photo by Jacqui Haggerty
Manny Tosca and Maria Casiano at Empanadas Borinquen.

Photo by Jacqui Haggerty

My love for Puerto Rican cuisine started with a single empanada on Isla Verde beach, and it continues today.

I couldn’t have been older than 6 when I started to gather my first memories of family trips to Puerto Rico.

Standing on the white-sanded beach, frozen in place, I stared at a food vendor with his cart perched against the corner of a cobblestone wall. He was blasting salsa music through a gigantic boom box, its three-foot antenna jutting to the sky, its 10 DD batteries barely bolstered together with layers of clear packing tape.

He wasn’t at all like the ordinary hot dog man you’d see stationed on a street corner. Oh, no. This man was dancing and singing and having an all-out party, right there on the beach! I was enthralled by his spirit, his passion. It was as if his energy were sending a pulse through the whole beach, a rhythm that resonated from deep within the ground.

I begged my mom to take me over and buy me a “hot dog.” We walked over, and she, unfazed by this animated character, shouts to him in Spanish over the blaring congas and trumpets, her words shooting off like a rampant machine gun. The vendor looked down at me, smiled and carefully handed me a mysterious item wrapped in foil.

I peeled back the aluminum to reveal a pastry-like pie, take a big ol’ bite, and instantly, I’m in savory bliss. I look up at Ma and she told me, “This is called an empanada.”

When I moved to Greensboro, it was not easy to find the amazing food from the island that I loved so much.

For years, I was on the hunt, driving as far as Charlotte and Raleigh just to find some plantains. Then, after years of waiting, finally, a gift from the gods themselves — Empanadas Borinquen.

Want to go?

What: Ethnosh NoshUp, a local gathering to spotlight ethnic restaurants

Where: Zeto Wine, 335 Battleground Ave., downtown Greensboro

When: 6-8 p.m. Tuesday

Cost: $5 at the door gives you access to a tasty mix of signature samplers. Zeto Wine will feature beer, wine and other beverages for purchase.

Information: Visit to sign up on the mailing list or to learn more. Write

This NoshUp is sponsored by Greensboro Downtown Yoga.