Back when I discovered Maria Empanada, a pint-sized shop in Lakewood that turns out magnificent, freshly baked Argentinean turnovers filled with both sweet and savory feelings, I loved everything about the place, but the tiny quarters -- there was but one table -- made me wistful that I couldn't linger, especially since its delightful owner, Lorena Cantarovici, is the kind of person who makes you want to stay a while. But early next year, Cantarovici will shutter her Lakewood storefront and relocate to a much larger -- and more central -- location, namely the former Buffalo Doughboy at 1298 South Broadway.
"I knew I needed a bigger space, and while the Lakewood location is busy, people have to travel a long way to get there, and when I saw the Buffalo Doughboy building, it was everything I wanted: bigger, a lot more convenient to the city, close to my house and really cute," says Cantarovici, who signed the lease on October 1.
And with a larger space will come an expanded menu, reveals Cantarovici, who will add breakfast empanadas, something she featured at the Lakewood store but pulled, she says, because the demand wasn't there. "For whatever reason, breakfast didn't work well for us in Lakewood, but I think that our new neighborhood will be a better fit for that," she adds, noting that along with breakfast empanadas, she'll also also offer more tartas and, for the first time, medialunas -- "half moons" that are similar to croissants but slightly smaller and sweeter. "There's a touch of caramelized sugar on top that gives them a delicious sweetness that croissants don't have," she explains. Salads, soups and combination plates will be a part of the broadened menu, too.
Her new space, slated to open in January, will seat sixty -- 52 more than what her current store seats -- and while she plans to do some remodeling, she's keeping the details secret. "I can tell you that it's definitely going to be different, and that there will be some fun surprises, but you'll have to wait and see what they are," she teases.
In the meantime, Cantarovici will pursue a beer-and-wine license, another perk that the Lakewood location lacks. "This isn't going to be a bar," she stresses, "but it'll be a great way to expose some really great Argentinian wines," she says, adding that she'll also outfit the bar with a handful of locally brewed beers.
"This is a really big step for us, and while we've had a fantastic response from people in our Lakewood location, there are still people who don't know about us, and I think that the new location will only increase our presence," she says. "It's very exciting for us, and I can't wait to bring what we do to a vibrant neighborhood."
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When she unveils the shop, hours will be from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and she has plans to open on Sunday, as well, giving her legion of addicts another reason to linger.