I discovered empanadas—savory, stuffed Latin American turnovers—in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was there for a month, and I ate them every day. My favorite was the beef mixed with green olives and raisins, which tasted similar to Cuban picadillo. That was nearly 20 years ago but ever enchanted by the foodstuff, I still try empanadas any time I see them.
More often than not, the pastries are soggy, overworked, or haphazardly filled—in short, disappointing. Not so at the three-week-old Maria Empanada. Located on the corner of Sheridan Boulevard and Mississippi Avenue, this tiny shop offers 15-plus, freshly baked, savory flavors. There's traditional beef (yes!), as well as mushroom with three-cheese sauce; sweet corn; blue cheese with olives and walnuts; and "tango" (which tastes like a Denver omelet without the omelet). Owner Lorena Cantarovici's pastry is flaky, buttery, and light. Her fillings are expertly spiced and well portioned. Order a side of herby chimichurri and the spicy, Sriracha-like asado grill sauce for dipping.
Bonus: Don't miss the alfajores—one of my all-time favorite treats. Cantarovici's citrus-zested shortbread cookies are sandwiched with dulce de leche and rolled in shredded coconut. They look exactly like this picture.
5209 W. Mississippi Ave., Lakewood, 303-934-2221
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