What a relief it was to walk through the doors of the newly opened Maria Empanada on South Broadway. My last experience in the space, when it was Buffalo Doughboy was so terrible, I was upset for a week. Now, however, the large interior has been transformed into an airy Argentine cafe, the staff is welcoming and cheerful, and the food—handheld pastries, tortilla espanolas, and savory tartas—is fresh and excellent. Given the bustle, it’s clear I'm not the only one thrilled Lorena Cantarovici decided to move her tiny Lakewood empanada shop to a more central, larger location.
If you order nothing else, don’t miss the savory handheld pastries that Cantarovici makes using her mother's recipes. My favorite is the beef classico, which is stuffed with ground beef, olives, hard-boiled eggs, and peppers. The flavors remind me of picadillo, the cinnamon-y and briny Cuban comfort food. The price for this all-in-one meal is just $2.95, which makes it easy to add another version like the beautifully wrapped corn with cheese sauce or the vegan veggie with chimichurri. Or, go straight to the towering tortilla espanola, a Spanish-style omelet layered with mandolin-thin slices of potato and onion.
Tip: Kids love the fresh-squeezed orange juice, the empanadas (they get to eat with their hands), and the table inside the playhouse-like bus.