There's no denying it. Island Empanada is an empire in the making. The popular eatery, whose locations in Medford and Ronkonkoma have created something of a fanatic following, opened a third in Rocky Point last October, and now two additional franchised locations are imminent. Monday will mark the opening of an Island Empanada in Deer Park, and a fifth eatery will open Jan. 25 in Huntington Station.
"I offered to be his first franchisee," said Scott Rosenberg, an experienced restaurateur whose own empire already includes SoBol, Nathan's and Toxic Wings franchises. He will operate the Deer Park location, which will be cobranded with Toxic Wings, he said.
"The stores will have slightly different menus, however all 30 empanadas will be offered at every location," explained Roy Pelaez, who started Island Empanada with his wife Kathy in 2011.
"I'm from Puerto Rico, and was born and raised on empanadas," said Joey Ramos, who will manage the Huntington Station location, "and finding a decent one on the Island hasn't been easy." Ramos has been a regular customer at Pelaez's Ronkonkoma location for years, even though getting there requires a 45-minute drive. "There's not one in the area that has the variety and taste that Roy's has." The Latin shrimp empanada is Ramos' favorite, by the way, while Rosenberg's tastes run toward the beef-and-cheese and spinach-and-feta varieties.
"We've got these opening a week apart," noted Pelaez, "and then behind these we will have locations in Shirley and Merrick." He estimated that the latter eateries will open in three to four months, "and with Merrick we'll have our first Nassau County location."
Island Empanada's new locations are at:
29 Rocky Point Yaphank Rd. in Rocky Point, 631-849-6849
1912B Deer Park Ave. in Deer Park, 631-940-8917 (opens Jan. 20)
146 W. Jericho Tpke in Huntington Station, 631-923-0707 (opens Jan. 25)