Platte Street is changing so fast that most Denverites wouldn't recognize the modern business district being erected where once a sleepy row of boutiques and restaurants existed. But amid the gleaming office buildings and high-density apartments, there will be at least one recognizable name adding a little comfort. Maria Empanada will open its fourth metro cafe at 1700 Platte Street, on the ground floor of a building that will also house British Petroleum's U.S. headquarters and a tech company called Workiva.
Maria Empanada was founded by Argentinian Lorena Cantarovici, who opened a tiny bakery in Lakewood in 2011 before moving to a big, sunny cafe at 1298 South Broadway in 2014. Since then, the chef has added outposts in the Denver Tech Center and inside Stanley Marketplace, and last year her company received a $3.5 million cash infusion from venture capital firm Colorado Impact Fund, allowing Cantarovici to plan future growth.
The chef's husband and business partner, Daniel, has been overseeing plans for the new Platte Street version of Maria Empanada. "It will be fully operational by September," he explains. "It will be more like the Broadway cafe, with beer, wine and sangria. Lorena wants each one to be different, so the design will be inspired by the surroundings."
The new location will be 1,975 square feet, with design from Cadence Design Studio (which also planned the other three locations) and buildout by Jordy Construction. Like the original, this one will serve an array of Argentinian empanadas and other pastries — both sweet and savory — for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It will also offer full espresso-bar service and the penguin-shaped wine carafes called pinguinos that make drinking malbec instantly more adorable.
"If people have not been to Platte Street recently, it's going to really change," Daniel points out. "The contrast between the modern and historic will make it one of the city's most unique districts."
Change has been part of the evolving street ever since Denver's viaducts were knocked down in the 1980s and ’90s and the formerly warehouse-heavy zone was converted into a more residential area with the addition of apartments, Commons Park and Confluence Park and anchor stores like REI. Pedestrian bridges over the Platte River and I-25 have connected the street to the surrounding neighborhoods, but change has also meant the loss of favorites like Paris on the Platte, which closed in 2015.
This year, Maria Empanada was named one of Nation's Restaurant News's Breakout Brands 2018, and Lorena Cantarovici was named Colorado Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration last year. In addition to the Platte Street location, the company is also adding a commercial kitchen at 1229 South Broadway (across the street from the original location) to its stable to help meet the growing demand for its hand-folded empanadas.
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