Lunch for $2.45 is synonymous with fast food, right? Well, yes and no. There’s nothing quick about the craftsmanship that goes into the savory pastry pockets at Maria Empanada. Shop owner Lorena Cantarovici takes no shortcuts when it comes to her handmade dough and fresh ingredients. In short, this small Lakewood bakery does empanadas, the Latin American foodstuff, justice.
Instead of agonizing over which empanada to choose for your meal, pick a half-dozen for $13.50 and have enough for two lunches. Or eat them, as I did in Argentina, for afternoon tea. Fillings range from sweet corn to ham with mozzarella, but my favorites include the traditional beef—a mix of beef, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and raisins—and the earthy, satisfying mushroom. The most decadent of all is the blue cheese, which along with olives and walnuts, oozes with blue, mozzarella, and queso fresco cheeses.
Order as you will, but don’t miss the alfajores. These treats—citrusy shortbread cookies sandwiched with sticky dulce de leche—might just be the best cookies ever invented. 5209 W. Mississippi Ave., Lakewood, 303-934-2221, mariaempanada.com
Our favorites: Traditional Beef Empanada $2.45; Special Mushroom Empanada $2.45; Classic Spinach Tarta $4.95; Alfajor $1.45