Sitting down to share her story, Ana Valdemoros begins, “My passion is to build community, to make neighborhoods better.” Arguably, opening downtown Salt Lake’s first empanada shop adds value to the increasingly diverse nature of the city’s core, but Ana’s vision of civic improvement extends beyond introducing Utahns to a ubiquitous food from her native Argentina.
Since earning her master’s degree in city and metropolitan planning, Ana is now the director of community based economic development for the local non-profit, Neighborhood Works.
“In Argentina, empanadas are everyday food, like pizza is here,” Ana explains of the South American filled pastry. Missing her home country’s mainstay, Ana decided to sell the grab-and-go tradition at the Downtown Farmers Market and see how the community palate responded. Utahns apparently were hungry for empanadas. Ana also started baking custom orders for groups and private functions.
Entering Argentina’s Best feels like walking into a well-composed Pinterest photo. The fixtures, decor and color are warm and artful. A series of Ana’s personal photos, including one of the house she grew up in, hang on the wall next to a heavy, wooden farm-style table. Atop the buffet-style counter sits the case with the fresh-baked goods.
Crafted in small batches, Argentina’s Best sells a fixed selection of flavorful empanadas, including Argentina’s traditional beef, and a lemon beef pastry common to Ana’s native Córdoba region. Ana strengthens the community network by locally-sourcing high-quality ingredients, and her prices are the same as they were when she started selling at the Farmers Market.
“I started my planning career with the city, learning and working with rules. Then I began focusing on economic development by working for the non-profit, Neighborhood Works. Now, through a grassroots process, I have a downtown business and am experiencing owning a business in the city from that perspective.” §
Argentina’s Best Empanadas is located downtown SLC at 357 S 200 E. Open Tues-Fri, 8am-2pm.