Half Moon Bakery Delivers Perfect Empanadas and More

Over the years, husband-and-wife team Gerson Velasquez and Lyz Otero have worked alongside such notable chefs as Michael Symon, Zack Bruell and Adam Lambert. Based on the foods they are preparing at the new Half Moon Bakery, it's clear that they were paying attention.

The aptly named Half Moon is a passion project years in the making. The owners leaned into their Puerto Rican and Guatemalan heritage to create a line of empanadas, which they have been perfecting and selling at pop-ups while simultaneously working toward opening this bakery. Located across the street from the MetroHealth campus on the near-west side, the cheery storefront is largely carry-out, but does have about a dozen seats at a window counter overlooking the new hospital construction.

The empanadas come in three main styles, but with numerous filling options. Argentinian empanadas are deep-fried, flaky-crusted pastries stuffed with savory fillings like seasoned ground beef ($2), shredded chicken ($2) or veggies ($2.50). Buy them by the bag because they're incredible. Columbian empanadas swap the wheat-based dough for corn meal, resulting in a different but heavenly taste and texture similar to an arepa. They come filled with shredded chicken ($3) and paired with aji, a spicy green chutney. Rounding out the empanadas are the tacos, which turn the crispy Argentinian empanadas into open shells that hold combos like ground beef ($3) or shredded chicken ($3) with lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese and sour cream.

While the turnovers are the stars of the show, the sandwiches are no mere afterthought. Here, Cubans and tripletas are packed with meat, pressed and heated. The tripleta ($8.99) is layered with thin-sliced salami, mortadella, pastrami, slaw and garlicky aioli. The kitchen took the extra step to pan-fry the meats before assembly, resulting in a subtle crust. Great hand-cut fries are included at no extra charge.

Before heading out the door with your lunch, make sure to pick up some dessert. The bakery part of this operation produces chocolate or vanilla flan cakes, frosted cupcakes in flavors like strawberry, salted caramel and cookies and cream, and flaky quesitos filled with sweetened cream cheese.

Get to Half Moon prior to 11 a.m. and you can snag omelets, breakfast sandwiches and empanadas filled with sausage, egg and cheese. Daily lunch specials have included chicken tortilla soup, arroz con pollo and grilled pork chops with pigeon peas.