Lula’s Empanadas Opens Takeout Window in Downtown Haddon Heights


After four years of popping up at farmers markets and breweries across South Jersey, Yaslyn Lora is serving customers directly from her Station Avenue commissary space.

By Matt Skoufalos | June 26, 2024

Exterior of Lula’s Empanadas in Haddon Heights. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

If you’ve attended any of the local farmers markets or street festivals in Haddon Heights or Haddonfield in the past few years, chances are you’ve encountered Yaslyn Lora’s home cooking.

The young entrepreneur behind Lula’s Empanadas has worked out of a Haddon Heights commissary since 2023, bringing her signature flavors to customers on the go.

On Saturday, June 29, Lora will celebrate opening up that same space to serve her customers directly five days a week.

“So many people have been asking us where to pick up, we’ll just open up a window at the commissary,” she said.

The business is named for Lora’s mother, Lula, who gave Yaslyn her foundation in cooking. Its flamingo mascot represents the influence of her father, Martin, who “always told me to stand tall in any room that I enter,” she said. They’re set upon a field of pink, her favorite color.

“That incorporates all three,” Yaslyn Lora said. “They taught me everything I know, and they’re the reason that I am the woman that I am.”

Lula’s cooking drew family members to the Lora home every Sunday, especially if she was serving oven-roasted chicken with rice and beet potato salad. Even the friends and family who didn’t know Lula personally knew her reputation as a chef.


Lula’s Empanadas come in a variety of flavors. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“The women in my family cook a lot,” Yaslyn Lora said.

“The younger generation, what we’ve been doing now is just modifying it.”

While Lula taught her daughter how to cook for herself, Martin made sure Yaslyn grew up with a palate that could handle whatever it encountered.

In and around her hometown of Paterson, that could mean roast beef, pastrami, burgers, or anything else that wouldn’t necessarily come out of their Dominican kitchen at home.

Yaslyn Lora was further shaped into a foodie by the broad cultural influence of her 4,000 high-school classmates at Passaic County Technical Institute, whose culinary perspectives she says are reflected in her menu today.

Lula’s Empanadas spans 19 different flavors, with 10 to 12 regularly available at the Haddon Heights location.

Most of them harken back to the different tastes of Yaslyn Lora’s youth; “all these cultures that are around us, and that were around us, and had influence,” she said.

There’s traditional American recipes, like Philly cheesesteak, Cajun shrimp mac and cheese, and Buffalo chicken. Yaslyn Lora also dials in Asian flavors like Thai sweet chili chicken, teriyaki garden, and curried chickpea alongside Latin American-inspired fillings like Cuban ropa vieja braised beef, Dominican scallion and cheese, and Mexican chorizo.

Although the Lora family occasionally made empanadas for special occasion, Yaslyn first tried making them during her college years at Rider University. Late-night “dorm-dashing” turned out to be a great way to fundraise for her sorority.

Outdoor seating at the patio outside Lula’s Empanadas in Haddon Heights. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

In graduate school, she was still selling platters to make some extra cash when one of her customers asked Yaslyn Lora whether she’d considered cooking as a full-time career.

She hadn’t, but after thinking about it, empanadas seemed like an approachable way to begin.

“I do like to cook,” she said. “Cooking gives me sanity.

“Empanadas. Why wouldn’t I narrow my focus on that?”

So, in late 2019, she invited 25 close friends to an Airbnb, printed out surveys, and cooked a variety of empanadas for them to sample. The following week, she was in business.

Their original plan to open a brick-and-mortar storefront gave way to the chaos of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the business pivoted to mobile vending and catering.

After gaining traction in area farmers markets, breweries, and special events, Lula’s Empanadas will begin takeout service in the rear yard of 516 Station Avenue in Haddon Heights.

The business operates from a small window counter overlooking a grassy patio. Two picnic tables topped with bright pink umbrellas offer cozy outdoor seating, and customers are invited to BYOB and relax there.

The menu of rotating empanada flavors will also expand to include homemade iced tea and tomato avocado salad, with new items by the fall. Yard games will follow as the business finds its footing; so will delivery services.

Yaslyn Lora at the window of Lula’s Empanadas in Haddon Heights. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Most importantly of all, Yaslyn Lora said she’s maintained her love of cooking as the business has grown in the past four years.

“It’s true, that saying that if you love what you do, you don’t work a day,” she said.

“It’s a lot of sleepless nights, but it’s worth it when you see that customer take that first bite.

“Then they come back with their friends. It’s so worth it.”

Lula’s Empanadas is located in the rear of 516 Station Avenue in Haddon Heights. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

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