Frytanga Café Is All About Tradition in Westchester

Empanadas. Photos by Jena A. Butterfield.

Frytanga Café serves up traditional Colombian fare including cornflower empanadas and coffee in Ossining.

Sure, you can order a smoothie. And the Colombian coffee is the fuel that makes this café go.

But the real reason to make the trek to Frytanga Café on Ossining’s historic Main Street is to sink your teeth into the deep-fried, traditional Colombian fare made fresh daily by emerging empanada maven, Martha Sanchez.

In her former career as an outpatient therapy aid at Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, Sanchez garnered quite the following for her home-made cornflower empanadas. Those in the know would order them in large quantities; a reaffirmation of a beloved family recipe that had earned a fan base years before.

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Sanchez learned to make the flaky, flavor-packed pillows from her mother, Graciela Cruz, who, as fate would have it, used to sell her empanadas to the same café location.

Empanada

So, in September 2022, the family took over the spot formerly known as Picante Quimbaya and relaunched last spring with a new look and a new name. It was a full circle moment for the entire Sanchez clan.

“We always dreamed of having a place for mom [to sell her food] and it finally happened,” says son Steven Sanchez, who runs the counter at Frytanga while his mother cooks up the food she learned to make from her mother back in Santiago de Cali.

Martha Sanchez’s food is certainly the inspiration for Frytanga Cafe, but the “guiding force” is yet another son, Jonathan (a.k.a. Coach Johnny), a community stalwart and beloved JV soccer coach at Ossining High School. Jonathan shares the love of his childhood cuisine and wanted a place where he could bring his food and his neighborhood together.

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The community came out in full force to help. Frytanga’s eye-catching website was designed by a former Ossining high school student as a project for a college digital marketing portfolio. Another community member helped with the new décor. The café feels fun and welcoming. “Todo en exceso es malo, excepto, ¡Las Empanadas!,” reads a cheeky neon sign. “Everything in excess is bad, except empanadas!”

cafe

Checkerboard squares of faux greenery on the wall help the space feel cheery, fresh, and modern.

But the food is all about tradition.

The crisp, flavor-packed empanadas are sinfully good; hearty yet ethereal. And there are other tasty fritanga (fried foods) to swoon over.

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The beef papa rellena is a well-salted bomb of pea-flecked mince, encased in mashed potatoes and deep-fried to crispy perfection. It’s a pilgrimage-worthy beast of a ball that also comes filled with chicken. Then there’s the yucca flower cheese breads, pan debono and almojabana, as well as maduro aborrajado, a caramelized, cream-cheese-filled plantain. Meatier offerings include homemade chicharron and pan-fried chorizo.

bread

The family calls Frytanga Café a coffee shop with a twist. “We take pride in our coffee but we wanted to be unique.”

What, we ask you, could be more unique then a cartoon-style portrait of their grandmother, Graciela, the empanada OG, looking down upon her legacy from the painted ceiling. That smile on her face is surely for Martha Sanchez.

“She’s there every day, carrying on the family tradition,” says Steven Sanchez.

Frytanga Café
193 Main St. Ossining; 914.432.7129

Related: 7 Places to Score Mouthwatering Empanadas in Westchester

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