Porteñas is a new concept, never seen before in Williamsburg nor anywhere else: a bar that specializes in empanadas and yerba mate. But what are those?
We’ve probably all heard of empanadas, those delicious pastries filled with seafood, meat, cheese, vegetables or fruit. They’re wildly popular throughout Latin America.
Our empanadas are done in the Argentine style with an international twist—slightly fried and then baked—to make them light, flaky, and delicious. Argentineans eat empanadas everywhere: on the go, at friendly gatherings and birthday celebrations, as well as at home with the family any night of the week. Single people order them in dozens, because they can eat two or three, then keep the rest in the freezer for later, baking them back to freshness. They’re just as good, even days later.
Now, in some corners, Argentineans have a reputation for being snobs. Maybe it’s true: we demand only the finest. But why not? It means that the finest is what you’ll get! At Porteñas, we offer ten empanada flavors specially designed to appeal to the cosmopolitan and highly discerning palates of our Brooklyn patrons. We take quality, organic ingredients and carefully crafted recipes as our baseline.
But the experience wouldn’t be complete without an invigorating cup of yerba mate, served with a straw in an authentic gourd. And what is yerba mate? It’s a tea-like beverage from South America, where it’s often called “the tea of the gods.” Its history stretches back to pre-Columbian Paraguay, where it was first enjoyed by the indigenous Guaraní, later spreading to the Tupí people of southern Brazil. Yerba mate’s appeal spread widely during European colonization, and in the 17th century its production blossomed throughout Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. It was even used as currency along with honey, maize, and tobacco! Today, Argentina is the largest consumer in the world, but mate consumption is also popular in Syria and Lebanon.
Yerba mate is the intelligent alternative to coffee. It stimulates the brain, increasing lucidity and slowly releasing sustainable energy throughout the day, and without the “crashing” effect you feel with coffee. It even has medical benefits, as the Guaraní knew long before the arrival of Europeans. Yerba mate stimulates the immune system, combats inflammation and obesity, reduces cholesterol, and is packed with vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, B3, B5 and B complex. It also contains many essential minerals, fatty acids, flavonols, and antioxidants.
But it’s more than a drink: mate is a way of life. Mate is friendship. Mate is connections. Mate is openness. Mate is love. People meet over mate to spend time together. Pair it with a mouth-watering empanada, and it could be a life-changing event.
In Buenos Aires, the ladies are known as “porteñas,” and fittingly, the team at Porteñas is all-female. Founded by Chef Fernanda Tabares and entrepreneur Carmen Ferreyra, the restaurant’s mission is to empower female workers at every level, from our store manager Lucía Méndez, a Mexican immigrant, to our intrepid waitresses, to our fleet of mighty female bikers who will deliver our delicious empanadas to your home.
WHO IS BEHIND PORTEÑAS?
Fernanda and Carmen have been friends for over twenty years, despite living in two different continents. They come from Buenos Aires, a city known for long-lasting friendships.
Fernanda is the amazing chef, sommelier, chocolatier and restauranteur that brings to Porteñas over 20 years of experience. She has worked as maître of the internationally renowned Los Notros Hotel near the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia; she was the Assistant Academic Director of the Gato Dumas School, the most prestigious chef academy in Argentina; and since 2010 she has run her own restaurant, Raíces, which specializes in traditional Argentine food and brought her national fame.
Carmen left Buenos Aires almost twenty years ago, and is an entrepreneur with extensive experience in management and start-ups: in 2015 she founded a thriving non-profit organization, the Curatorial Program for Research, which has spread from Brooklyn to over twenty cities around the world, from Bogotá, Colombia to Tromsø, Norway. Having lived in Williamsburg for over thirteen years, Carmen has enjoyed the neighborhood’s great wealth of food offerings, from the local Italian restaurants that opened back in 1900 to the Nordic cafes that keep popping up every day.
If there’s one thing Carmen kept missing from her home in Argentina, it was the smell of warm yerba mate. Mate is one of the best-kept secrets of Argentina—a drink you share only with friends and family. So one day, during a visit to Fernanda’s restaurant in Buenos Aires, she looked at her favorite drink and said, Why not share this with everyone back in New York?! And so, with the same adventurous spirit that brought her to the U.S. all by herself at the age of 23, Carmen started looking for the perfect place for their mate bar—though this time she had her friends to help her, and one of the best chefs of Buenos Aires.
We’re currently remodeling our first store in Williamsburg, located at Lorimer Street corner to Metropolitan Avenue, where we plan to offer you a cozy spot to share your mate with your friends.
We want to share with the world the unique energy and flavor that yerba mate offers. There are so many options and recipes, for hot weather and cold! We strongly believe that if we deliver a healthy, invigorating beverage with a filling and organic meal, and keep it at an affordable price, then we can share a bit of the passionate Argentine spirit that everyone has heard of. We are committed to providing customers with affordable and healthy meals, and to make empanadas and yerba mate the next sensation of the quick-service food market.
Mate is a terrific source of vitamins and minerals, reduces bad cholesterol, and is a powerful antioxidant. In fact, yerba mate provides 90% more antioxidants than green tea, due to its high concentration of polyphenols, which improve the body's natural defenses and protect it from cell damage.
To learn more about its benefits, watch the video below from the National Institute of Yerba Mate of Argentina. The Institute supports us in our endeavor to bring yerba mate to everyone curious to try it in our first store in Williamsburg.
We will open to the public in Fall 2018, and we plan to be open seven days a week, 11am-11pm. We are currently training our personnel to make sure customers receive the best service and can enjoy our products either at our bar or at home. We have the recipes ready, the website ready, and are right on the other side of this screen waiting for your contributions! While we will serve empanadas only locally (at our bar or by delivery), in October we will begin shipping yerba mate nationwide. We plan to open our second Brooklyn store during Summer 2019!
Right now, we need your help raising the funds to strengthen our financial foundation, complementing our savings and loans. The funds raised by this campaign will be used to purchase our cooking and refrigeration equipment, import authentic mate gourds from Argentina, and begin preparing Porteñas’ first line of organic yerba mate. Any additional funds will be used to purchase inventory for Porteñas to use moving forward.
Risks and challenges
Many people are leaving the neighborhood because of the L train closure. We are not. We will use the time of this L train shutdown to focus on the local community; by the time the train reopens, we will have a strong foundation from which to serve the larger population.
We promise transparency. We all know that things don't always go as planned, but we will communicate openly with our supporters during this great and exciting process. Everyone who backs this project will receive updates on the progress of our remodeling, making you the first to know all the latest news about our highly-anticipated opening. With your help, we can make this happen!
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