Maria Empanada has been familiarizing Denver with Argentinian cafe culture since founder Lorena Cantarovici moved her tiny Lakewood bakery to 1298 South Broadway in 2014. Thanks to the growing business, which has since added locations in the Denver Tech Center and Stanley Marketplace, we're now familiar with Buenos Aires-style empanadas, the little caramel-filled cookies known as alfajores, and malbec served in penguin-shaped decanters called pinguinos.
So it wasn't with curiosity but rather anticipation that Commons Park workers and residents greeted the newest Maria Empanada when it opened on Monday, December 17, at 1700 Platte Street. Customers quickly lined up to scarf down breakfast empanadas filled with egg and potato and other combinations and packed the bright space for lunch to sample both traditional and newly created portable pastries.
Those already familiar with Maria Empanada will recognize the enormous sun emblazoned on the wall near the entrance, the espresso station, and the bakery cases filled with empanadas, tartas, Spanish tortillas, gallegas and other Argentinian pastries both savory and sweet.
New to this location is a vintage stained-glass window that was originally created in Argentina before Cantarovici's husband, Daniel, found it at an antique store on South Broadway. A few of the panes were broken, so the Cantarovicis hired a Denver artist to replace some of the hand-painted designs on the glass. Customers will also finde beer and wine on tap and two TVs for watching soccer.
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Cantarovici founded Maria Empanada in 2011 in a little storefront at South Sheridan Boulevard and West Mississippi Avenue. While the company and selection of baked goods has grown, the recipes haven't changed, and each empanada is still made by hand, folded and crimped into traditional shapes that let Argentinians know exactly what's inside. Fortunately, the shop labels its products so you don't have to memorize the shapes, but Maria Empanada also provides a handy chart on its website in case you want to study up.
Like the original, the newest Maria Empanada will open daily at 7:30 a.m., but this location plans to stay open later — to at least 9 p.m. — since the area has a more active nightlife. Weekends haven't been set, but expect shorter hours on Sundays.