A few steps off the main stretch of shops on Golden’s Washington Street lies a taste of Argentina. When you walk into San Telmo Market & Deli—a storefront marked by baby-blue-striped Argentine flags that features a big communal table at its center—you can’t help but feel welcome, no matter whether you’re a native of Argentina or simply seeking house-made empanadas.

This was exactly what co-owner Leonela Aguada intended when she opened the store three years ago in June 2021 with her husband, Leandro Matayoshi. At the store, you can find non-perishable items like bags of earthy yerba maté tea leaves and tubs of rich dulce de leche, as well as fresh goods such as cuts of asado (steak), queso cremoso (a creamy cheese used to top pizza), and convenient pre-cut disks of empanada dough—all sourced directly from Argentina via the store’s warehouse in Buenos Aires.

The patio at San Telmo Market & Deli
The patio at San Telmo Market & Deli. Photo courtesy of San Telmo Market & Deli

Aguada moved to Golden to pursue a master’s degree in geology at the Colorado School of Mines only six months prior to launching San Telmo, which was originally intended to be an online shop to bring Argentine goods to people all across the United States and Canada. As an international student, Aguada found herself in a new country seeking connection during the pandemic—and she was also out of her favorite Argentine staples, including yerba maté and alfajor cookies.

“I realized I needed to do something about it because the closest places we could find some of these goods are far and quite expensive and not Argentinean places,” says Aguada, who is originally from the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Before their move to the United States, Aguada, a geologist, and Matayoshi, an industrial designer, owned two burger joints in Buenos Aires Province and were planning to open an empanada factory. But they decided to sell everything to build the store in Golden.

Leonela Aguada
San Telmo Market co-owner, Leonela Aguada. Photo courtesy of San Telmo Market & Deli

Though the online shop is still a large part of the business—it can ship over 1,500 Argentine products to addresses across North America in one to four days—the popularity of San Telmo Market’s in-store pick-up program made it clear to Aguada and Matayoshi how much customers enjoy having a physical space to shop for products and feel connected to Argentina. Within a few months after opening, the couple added in the store’s first shelves and eventually expanded the space into the market it is today, complete with indoor and patio seating. They’ve also added a deli, which cooks traditional Argentine recipes for empanadas, milanesa sandwiches, and chimichurri-slathered choripan sandwiches. On the day Aguada and Matayoshi opened the deli, they offered samples of their empanadas, resulting in a line out the door.

“You are not expecting to see something like this in our little town. Maybe you are expecting to see something like this in Denver, but not in Golden,” Aguada says. Everything down to the spices used to make flavorful spinach and cheese empanadas and the chorizo for the choripan are made from 100-percent Argentine ingredients. In addition to the food offerings, the shop is filled with furnishings that celebrate Argentine culture, such as a ceiling collage of the country’s iconic advertisements and posters of local fútbol legends Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona.

Leandro Matayoshi
Leandro Matayoshi with his and Leonela Aguada’s baby, Valentino Aguada Matayoshi

Today, the store constantly receives new customers from all across the state, largely by word-of-mouth. Aguada notes that Argentines will drive hours from Aspen or even from other states just to come by to have a choripan or empanada. “And you can tell by looking at their faces how happy they are,” Aguada says. “It’s like they are teleported to Argentina.”

As a student who applied to and was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship for international exchange, Aguada knows the importance of cross-cultural experiences. She was the first Fulbright recipient to study at the Colorado School of Mines and is passionate about helping others have similar opportunities. In particular, she wants the store and deli to be a place where, even if you are not from Argentina or have never been there, you can still enjoy the country’s food and gather with and learn from others. “You are not alone anymore, that’s the idea,” Aguada says, noting the affectionate, welcoming nature of Argentine people.

Empanadas from San Telmo Market in Golden
Empanadas from San Telmo Market & Deli. Photo courtesy of San Telmo Market & Deli

For those who are new to her native country’s cuisine, Aguada recommends trying alfajores, a generous helping of dulce de leche (a rich, thick confection similar to caramel) sandwiched between two shortbread cookies and coated with chocolate. Another must-try dessert is the chocotorta, a pastry made from chocolate cookies (chocolinas) soaked in coffee and layered with dulce de leche cream cheese frosting.

“Argentinean cuisine is indeed like a mixture of different types of cuisine,” Aguada says. “In Argentina, we have a great influence from Spain, from Italy. For other countries around the world, when [people] immigrate to Argentina because of the wars and we receive them, and then we have this cultural exchange with them… That’s why I think cultural exchange is so important for us.”

The store hosts various events to help connect community members. That includes conversation exchanges, where attendees can meet and share their cultures and languages and learn more about Argentina. These events will be held over merienda, a light meal in the late afternoon or early evening when friends and family gather and chat over yerba maté, coffee, and snacks such as sweet medialuna pastries or tostado sandwiches made with ham and cheese.

Aguada and Matayoshi are constantly working on improving the experience of the store, whether that means hosting events, sprucing up the outdoor patio, or extending the store’s closing time to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday to reflect the later eating customs in Argentina. Aguada notes that the upgrades are motivated by the customers who visit from near and far. “To me, the most precious thing that you have in your life is not the money, it’s the time,” she says. “So, people doing the long commute just to come here, it warms my heart.”

To stay up to date about the store’s happenings and menu items, follow San Telmo Market’s Instagram. And for those interested in a taste of Argentine cuisine, Aguada and Matayoshi will commemorate the shop’s third anniversary with a pizza day on Saturday, June 29.

813 14th St., Unit B, Golden

Allie Sivak
Allie Sivak
Allie Sivak is a freelance writer, baker, and food scientist based in Denver. Through her writing about the intersection of food, storytelling, and culture, she shares about the joy and importance of food in our communities.