Best Central/South American Restaurant Denver 2012 - Maria Empanada
5209 W. Mississippi Ave.
Lakewood, CO 80226
Three years ago, Buenos Aires native Lorena Cantarovici decided to open a catering business using her mother's recipes for empanadas and other Argentine specialties. The business went so well that by last fall, she needed a bigger kitchen. She found it in a strip-mall storefront that looks oddly like a log cabin. Inside, she has just enough room for two tables and a counter, where she keeps a glass case stocked with a dozen or so different types of empanadas plus dulce de leche-based desserts, tartas (savory pies) and eggy Spanish tortillas. But that's all she needs to keep diners happy. Cantarovici's empanadas are the real deal. The flaky crusts — shiny from a finishing brush of oil or butter and crispy on the edges — give way to a mouthful of fillings that range from corn to ham and stretchy mozzarella or braised beef with just a little kiss of heat. These empanadas offer the true taste of Argentina — and it's delicious.
Readers' Choice: Cafe Brazil