Cherry Street Kitchen, Trenton, NJ USA
1040 Pennsylvania Ave., Trenton, New Jersey (NJ) 08638
A hot new food business is parking its food truck in Hamilton, New Jersey. Not only is the spiciest empanada served out of this truck, but also a variety of themed empanadas such as the Beefanada, Bean and Cheeseanada, Buffalo Chickenada, Cubanada, and the Goldanada.
Husband and wife Joshua and Andrea Pantoja spent 5 years putting their culinary and graphic design background into this business.
"I make it look good, she makes it taste good," said Joshua. "I'm involved in every aspect of design like the menus and the truck, and she makes the food taste phenomenal."
The first step in creating this culinary reality was getting a truck. The Pantojas were searching tirelessly for the right truck with the right look at the right price, and eventually befriended a former driver at Mac Tools who had received a truck as a retirement gift from Mac Tools that he had no intention of using.
"We bought the truck in Philadelphia, and that thing smoked all the way from Philadelphia to Hamilton, New Jersey, where we were going to park it, and hopefully in the near future start building it."
The truck needed a brand new engine, portable kitchen equipment, and a makeover and a half. With full time jobs, a limited budget, and "the grace of God" as Joshua says, the truck was service ready after five long years of assembly.
Before establishing Hotpanada, though, there was Arepa Express where Andrea's Venezuelan background would come through. The main dish of the truck would be Arepas, but they also decided to make empanadas to highlight Joshua's Puerto Rican background as well.
With a serviceable truck and a conceptualized menu, they were excited to put Arepa Express on the market. At the Mercer County Cultural and Heritage Festival, the Pantojas parked their truck along with other food trucks and food vendors.
"We noticed that our truck was developing a little bit of a line, but not for our arepas," said Joshua. "They were developing a line for our empanadas. We will never forget this."
Although other food trucks were specializing in, promoting and selling empanadas, Arepa Express quickly became the go-to truck for empanadas. Even after the festival, Joshua and Andrea realized their Arepa business wasn't taking off as they had hoped it would. As the couple reflected what their next move would be and the financial burden they were in after committing to Arepa Express, they considered selling the truck.
"My wife and I, we spoke about it because you know, that was our baby," said Joshua. "We didn't want to sell it because of all the work we put into it. We were literally tearing up talking about the possibility of selling the truck."
After rigorous reflection and an attempt to sell the truck that didn't work out, Joshua turned to Andrea and said, "How dare we."
"How dare we. Why can't we just strap our boots on, rebrand, and see how it goes because the empanadas did really well," he said.
Joshua was throwing a number of ideas at Andrea, like selling the world's spiciest empanada, one that would be red and would be called "Hotpanada."
"We haven't sold one spicy empanada out of that truck," said Joshua. "But it was how it began, the root of the name, and how that idea exploded into many ideas."
From the world's spiciest empanada to the Asian-style eggrollanada to the Italian sausage and peppersanada, Joshua and Andrea had an endless list of empanada creations for the food truck.
"We've just been creating themed empanadas and haven't looked back," said Joshua. Not only were the empanadas selling out, but also the desserts and drinks. The flantastic is a fan favorite, and they recently added Puerto Rican Coffee that does not disappoint, either.
With this newfound concept on the market, COVID-19 swept the world and worried the confident couple as restaurants all around them were struggling with maintaining business.
"The pandemic is something terrible that has happened all over the world," Andrea said. "But it also opened this door for us."
The Pantojas' journey is one for the books. CSK is grateful to have been there for them, and for the business relationship that has developed.
Located at, the Old Kmart Shopping Center at 1087 Whitehorse Ave. In Hamilton, Hotpanada's hours of operation are 11am to 4pm. Come by for a sweet or savory treat!
© Cherry Street Kitchen, LLC, All Rights Reserved, 2016-21.