A taste of Costa Rica has arrived in Blue Point with Tico’s Empanadas

Tico's Empanadas

Ruben Santiesteban has been wowing people with his empanadas since he was a young teenager.

The son of Costa Rican immigrants who came to Queens before settling in North Babylon in the 1980s, he grew up in a home that revolved around delicious cultural foods, often sitting in the kitchen with his mother as she cooked meals.

And his favorite, hands down, was her beef and potato empanada, or “Picadello de Papa.”

When he was 14, his Abuelita visited from Costa Rica to live with them for a year, during which time she taught him how to make tortillas and empanadas.

He’s been making empanadas for friends and family ever since.

Now, after 25 years in construction, Santiesteban, 41, of Holbrook, has brought his family recipes and his own empanada creations, such as buffalo chicken and cheeseburger, to Blue Point.

Tico’s Empanadas opened at 55 Montauk Highway in Blue Point, where Gyro Island operated from 2018, this spring.

As for the name, Tico is a term for a Costa Rican male, while the women are called Ticas.

If you go

Visitors to the new Tico’s Empanadas get to choose from an array of empanadas, some traditional, some not — such as the Bacon Cheddar Ranch. Click here for the full menu.

Additionally, there’s Loaded Baked Potato and Spinach and Artichoke Dip, plus a spread of appetizers like Tostones, Arepas with Cheese, and Rice and Beans, among others.

Everything is made fresh daily and in-house with the empanadas made to order.

Note: Chicken and Beef Teriyaki and Pulled Pork empanadas are coming soon.

A family affair

Santiesteban has kept it in the family, which has been a huge help as he’s made the lead from a home kitchen to his own storefront.

As he makes empanadas and rolls up four to five bowls of masa behind the counter all day, his wife,
Christina, works the register and his mother, Doris, presses corn tortillas in the kitchen.

“We’re trying to give people something that’s unique and different and fresh,” said Santiesteban, who pointed to the 2014 film “Chef,” about an ex- restaurateur who starts operating a food truck with his son, as a major inspiration to him.

“When you go to a food truck or even a street vendor, obviously you want good food, but it’s also about that experience watching them in the truck, the hustle and bustle of getting it together,” he said. “You get that here. You can come in and watch us doing it and you’re seeing us go back and forth and communicating. You get an experience.”

Ruben Santiesteban (center) gets daily help from his wife, Christina (right), who works the register and his mother, Doris, presses corn tortillas in the kitchen. (Photos by Kevin Redding.)

“Ruben’s love for it and his energy, that’s what makes it. His personality is so bright and people like talking to him,” Christina added.

And he loves serving them the freshest of empanadas.

“We’ve had lots of people come in to say, ‘Oh we don’t mind waiting if it’s fresh,'” she said. “We want it to be fresh and we want you to enjoy it. “I know it’s hard [to believe] a significant other saying ‘My husband makes the best empanadas!’ but he really does.”