Travel the globe on LI with empanadas & sandwiches at the new Caminito


Sara Damian is a world-traveled chef who arrived in New York more than 20 years ago after being raised in Argentina by Korean parents.

Now, she is bringing those influences and flavors to Caminito, her newly opened Port Washington café that specializes in Argentinian empanadas and sandwiches, but which also brings in tastes from around the globe.

“Right after my kids, I think this is the biggest step I have taken for me and my profession,” Damian told Greater Long Island. “I love cooking.”

Since opening in late October near the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington station, the café on Main Street has been turning commuters and locals into customers with favorites from Damian’s native Argentina.

“The whole concept is the empanada and I have a lot of traditional flavors you find in an Argentinian panaderia, like ground beef with onions and peppers,” she said. “But there are also some Peruvian dishes, there is some Thai influence, some Korean influence.”

Caminito currently offers 18 different types of baked and fried empanadas, including a Peruvian-influenced pork empanada filled with slow-cooked carnitas with cream of cilantro, a “very Mediterranean” version with prosciutto, goat cheese and fig jam and a Korean-style serving with thinly sliced beef bulgogi.

“It’s delicious,” Damian said. “It’s very tender, marinated with soy sauce and with onions and scallions.”

The menu also includes sandwiches, including chicken and beef milanesas and the grilled chorizo choripán with chimichurri sauce on fresh-baked bread from North Shore Farms.

Damian describes Caminito, which is open Wednesday through Sunday and offers delivery and pick-up options, as the high point in her 15-year culinary career.

“This is the concept I always dreamed of,” she said. “In Argentina, the empanada is super popular — it’s the competition of the pizza, so when people get together on weekends, they order empanadas and they order pizza.”

What lead to this

Photo credit: Caminito Kitchen on Facebook

Damian’s journey has taken her from Manhattan to Manhasset — after being schooled at the Institute for Culinary Education in the city, she worked at Perry St., a sleek Jean-Georges restaurant in the West Village.

She also spent a decade cooking for global leaders at Greentree, the 400-acre estate that Payne Whitney purchased for his bride in 1903. There were also stops at a Roslyn golf club and at now-closed The Olive Room Meeting Pointe in Port Washington. 

After putting her cooking career on hold to raise two children — a 7-year-old daughter and a son, 5 — Damian decided to return to her passion, with adjustments focused on family.

“When I tried to come back to the field, I realized my schedule was not the same that it had once been,” she said. “I didn’t have the 80 hours a week that I used to work.”

Port Washington

Damian ultimately settled on opening in Port Washington, where she, her husband and their children moved shortly before the start of the pandemic in 2020.

“We love Port Washington, so we decided to open a little store in town,” she said. “It’s been very positive, with lots of word of mouth about the store.

“And when the people come in, I enjoy going out and talking with them, hearing what they think.”

But Damian concedes she’s still getting the hang of running a business while making every empanada by hand.

“The classic beef has one folding, the chicken has a different folding and last week, I made at least 1,000 by myself,” she said. “So little by little, I am trying to delegate and get help.

“But it’s been very fun. I love the reaction — people will come for one and right there on the spot, they order two more or take some for their families or their gatherings.” 

In the future, Damian hopes to expand Caminito’s menu and perhaps expand the business to kiosks.

“Argentinian food doesn’t have to be an $80 steak,” she said. “I wanted to do something more accessible and I just want to pair good flavors with the dough.”

If you go

Caminito is located at 87 Main Street in Port Washington and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Top Photo: Caminito Kitchen on Facebook

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