TASTE OF SPAIN: Churreria de Madrid brings memories and Spanish cuisine to Stanley Marketplace

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A tiny piece of Europe has arrived in Aurora in the form of Churreria de Madrid, a new Spanish-style churro restaurant at Stanley Marketplace.

The restaurant opened in December and is an offshoot of Maria Empanada, a local empanada joint that also has a booth in Stanley just across the corner. The new churro shop is helmed by chef Jose Manuel Marquez, a native of Spain who was the kitchen manager at Maria Empanada for five years.

For years after coming to the U.S., Marquez dreamed about opening up a Spanish-style churro restaurant. He eventually brought up the idea to Lorena Cantarovici, the owner of Maria Empanada, and her husband Daniel. The couple thought it was a great idea, and teamed up with Marquez to launch Churreria de Madrid.

“We told the people at Stanley years ago that if a place ever opens up, we’ve got a concept,” Daniel Cantarovici told the Sentinel. “Business is so good here that nobody ever leaves.”

But as luck would have it, the donut shop that previously occupied the stall ended up leaving, and they jumped at the chance to launch the restaurant.

Aurora has no shortage of Mexican and Latin American restaurants thanks to the city’s diverse heritage. What sets the Churreria’s churros apart from something you might get down south or at another local restaurant is the dipping sauce they’re served with, akin to hot chocolate but richer.

The restaurant also serves stuffed churros, with fillings such as dulce de leche, cream and a rotating special flavor. For the savory-minded it has patatas bravas, a Spanish dish of fried potatoes with a choice of sauces, including spicy mayo and chipotle aioli. A variety of Spanish soft drinks, horchata and candy is available for purchase as well.

Cantarovici said that the team is trying to encourage more people to come for breakfast. In the United States churros and chocolate is considered a dessert, but it’s a popular breakfast in Spain.

“They call it the Madrid breakfast,” he said.

Marquez said the dish reminds him of his childhood in Spain. During Christmas and Holy Week his father would bring churros to the house in a big package, and on the weekends his family would go downtown and eat them.

“My grandfather would bring me into the city and we always had a breakfast on Sunday with churros and chocolate,” he said. “It was very, very traditional. In my mind, it’s a reminder of my grandfather.”

He hopes that the restaurant will help introduce Coloradans to Spanish culture and cuisine.

“It brings a bite of the Spanish tradition,” he said. “When people try it, they love it.”

Churros are popular as a family dish, and are also a late-night hit for people coming out of bars and clubs. Patatas bravas are considered a tapa, or snack, and frequently enjoyed over a beer. 

Cantarovici said Churreria de Madrid wants to position itself as an “all day snack place,” and is served well by its location at Stanley, which has foot traffic throughout the day.

The restaurant’s three-person staff makes the churro dough and then fries the individual pieces in oil to get it to the perfect crispy texture, which are then fished out with a ladle and dusted with sugar. 

Outside the stall, customers can gather over Stanley’s long tables to share their food while watching a soccer (or football, in European parlance) match displayed on a TV above the stall.

The restaurant has been a big hit for European immigrants to the Denver area, Cantarovici said, who have flocked to Churreria de Madrid on the weekends.

Of course, “the most fanatic are the Spaniards,” he said.

The stall has also been a hit with kids due to its low prices, he said — a single churro is only 85 cents, and a filled churro is $2.75.

“They come with a crinkled dollar and they get a churro and change,” he said.

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