Denver's five best empanadas
Just about every culture in the world makes some kind of savory stuffed pastry, and in South America, it's the empanada that's king. No two countries make the same type of hot pocket; whether an empanada is deep-fried or baked and what it's stuffed with is a clear market of where it came from.
Mark Manger The empanadas at Maria Empanada are Argentine.
This city showcases an array of different varieties of empanadas from several different countries, but here, in no particular order, are Denver's five best empanadas from South America.
Frijoles Colorado Cuban Cafe, 4 West Alameda Parkway, Lakewood
This beachy strip mall joint serves up all several Cuban specialties, including the island's version of empanadas, which are fried. The restaurant features a case that's perpetually stocked with several flavors of the snack, including ham and cheese and the ropa vieja -- succulent, spicy shredded beef. But we're partial to the guava and cheese because the crackly pastry encases a particularly delicious molten combination of sweet guava paste and tart cream cheese.
Maria Empanada5209 West Mississippi Avenue, Lakewood
It took Lorena Cantarovici -- the owner of Maria Empanada, which I review this week -- a long time to adapt her mother's Argentine empanada recipes and make it work in Colorado, but she finally mastered it, and with excellent results. Her baked pastries feature crusts at once brittle and chewy encasing spicy green olive-studded shredded beef, juicy shredded chicken, gooey ham and cheese and, our very favorite, sweet corn infused with the savory earthiness of mild bell peppers and a hint of heat from crushed red-pepper flakes.
Empanada Express Grill, 2600 East Street, Golden
The Empanada Express Grill got its start as a street cart hawking arepas and Venezuelan empanadas, puffy half moon pockets made of corn flour that are crispy on the outside and crumbly within. The place offers more than a dozen traditional fillings, including black beans with sweet plantain, cheese and avocado, carnitas and fish. But the one you really shouldn't miss is the Pabellon Criollo empanada, a pocket filled with tender, juicy braised beef, black beans, plantains and cheese.
12095 W. Alameda Parkway, Lakewood, CO