Food truck brings Puerto Rican street food to Muncy

This winter, residents of Lycoming County can experience a touch of warmth, thanks to a unique food truck – The Empanada Shack – that serves up hot Puerto Rican beach foods. Owned by Orlando Rodriguez and his wife Jessica, the food truck has become a local sensation, offering a variety of pastry goods with flavorful twists, ranging from traditional fillings like beef to inventive combinations like macaroni and cheese.

Originating from Puerto Rico, Orlando describes empanadas as a delightful fusion of a taco and a pierogi having a deep-fried baby. The Empanada Shack stands out by serving the Puerto Rican version of these small baked or fried turnovers filled with meat.

Dubbing their offerings as "Puerto Rican Beach Food," Rodriguez explains the inspiration drawn from the numerous shacks and vendors near the beach in their hometown. The journey of The Empanada Shack began in 2019 as an extension of Rodriguez's outdoor recreation business, Rich Port Adventure Company in Muncy, offering kayak rentals, shuttles, and river tours.

When winter set in, Rodriguez sought a way to sustain his business during colder months and identified a need for diverse food options in the community. Jessica's exceptional cooking skills became the focal point, and after successful trial runs at events in the summer of 2022, The Empanada Shack officially hit the road in September 2022.

While some locals were unfamiliar with empanadas, Rodriguez found a growing Hispanic population in the region that welcomed the ethnic cuisine. The couple also introduced unique flavors, ranging from traditional beef and chicken to bold combinations like Buffalo dip with macaroni and cheese, jalapeno cheeseburger, guava, and Nutella.

The Empanada Shack has not only become a hit with first-timers but has also filled a void for those seeking more ethnic cuisine in the area. Rodriguez shares stories of customers originally from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Columbia, with some even traveling to the Poconos for empanadas.

Beyond the culinary offerings, Rodriguez has fostered a sense of community by hosting food truck rallies and forming partnerships with other local food trucks. As the business expands, The Empanada Shack now caters events, allowing for a broader menu that includes traditional dishes like rice and beans, pork, and chicken.

Looking ahead to 2024, Rodriguez plans significant upgrades to the food truck, expanding the menu with popular specials from the past year. The Empanada Shack will continue to be a familiar sight at local establishments and events, contributing to the vibrant community spirit Rodriguez cherishes.

Despite the growth, Rodriguez emphasizes the importance of family, with Jessica playing a crucial role in cooking, and his brothers and hired employees contributing to the success. Rodriguez's passion for customer interactions remains a driving force, making each event feel like a vacation and building connections with regular customers turned friends. As The Empanada Shack looks towards the future, Rodriguez envisions bringing the Puerto Rican flavors to more locations along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, continuing the adventure with kayaking and boating as part of the Rich Port Adventure Company. The journey continues, filled with the support and love of the community, making every effort worthwhile for The Empanada Shack.

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