Venezuelan food might not be the best-known South American cuisine, but it just might be my favorite. Why? I’m addicted to arepas: griddled corn cakes slit open and stuffed with stewed beef, black beans, cheese, avocado, fried plantains, and really anything else you can image. It was high on my list to find a great arepa spot once I moved to New York, and I’m happy to report that last night, I did just that.
Why You Should Check It Out
First of all – have I mentioned this already? – arepas are AMAZING. They are delicious and wonderful and one of my favorite things to eat. If you have never tried one, you really need to do so. Second of all, arepas are CHEAP! Well, New York-cheap. All of the arepas cost between $8 and $9, and as somebody who fills up pretty quickly, one is plenty. Caracas has a $9.50 lunch special that I haven’t tried, but would like to (so hit me up, seriously); that price gets you an arepa plus the salad or soup of the day, and it’s available from noon to 4 every weekday. Finally, for all you rum lovers out there, the Williamsburg location has a pretty nicely-stocked Roneria, with over 30 different sipping rums from the Caribbean Islands and Central and South Americas. Those looking to try something new can taste a pricey cocktail like the $12 Rum Manhattan, while purists can sip on a $30 rum tasting flight. In my humble opinion, when your alcohol is more expensive than your food, ladies and gents, there’s a problem. Enjoy your under $10 dinner, then go home and crack open a bottle.
As far as arepas go:
De Pabellón: The most popular and classic arepa on the menu. A combination of tender shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese, and fried plantains. This is what I ordered last night, and I would definitely recommend it – it’s filling, but not over the top, and perfectly combines the plantains’ hint of sweetness with the saltiness of everything else. Delicious!
La Sureña: My friend ordered this last night, and was completely enamored with it, especially the self-described “always enigmatic” spicy chimi-churri sauce. It’s stuffed with grilled chicken, chorizo, and avocado slices, which adds a nice creamy moisture to the drier texture of the arepa. I liked the De Pabellón better, but I have to admit that this was a great one too.
La Mulatta: Next time I go, I’m definitely giving this one a try. Griddled white cheese encompasses sautéed red peppers, sweet plantains, black beans, and jalapeños. It’s described as pretty spicy, but I can’t resist the thought of that bubbling, melt-y cheese!
Leek Jardinera: SeriousEats names this arepa the best vegetarian option on the menu. You can substitue any of the meat options with baked tofu, but this one’s apparently a stand-out! It’s certainly unique – grilled leeks, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions and soft guayanés cheese. I’d love to experience this complex mix of flavors.
Photos of the arepas are in the order they're listed. And then, arepas aside, there are also some so-called “Sidekicks” that deserve a mention:
Guasacaca & Chips: Excellent, fresh and flavorful guacamole with homemade plantain and taro chips. The taro chips go super well with the guac!
Tostones mochimeros: Fried green plantains smeared with mojito mayo, then sprinkled with salty cheese. Here, the plantains are less sweet, and more of a bready, dry consistency. But according to reviews, these are the BOMB.
As I’ve mentioned before, arepas run between $8 and $9. Sidekicks are cheaper: $7.50 for the guasacaca and chips; $5 for a side of simple fried plantains with cheese; $7 for the tostones mochimeros. The alcohol’s got a pretty high price tag, so drink at home. Our meal for two, which was plenty of food, consisted of 2 arepas (2 x $9) and the guacamole ($7.50), so altogether cost around $30, or $15 per person. Not bad! But next time, I’m just going for a simple take-out arepa that I eat on the walk home. $9 for a satisfied craving and a hell of a one-dish meal.
There are two: East Village and Williamsburg. I’ve only eaten at the Williamsburg location. Tuesday night around 7:30 pm, we had no trouble getting a table, although the adorable patio was already full. Things heated up not long after. As for the East Village location, it sounds like the inevitable wait for the tiny space might not be worth it.
291 Grand St. (between Havemeyer and Roebling st)
Trains: L to Bedford ave or L to Lorimer st. or G to Metropolitan ave, JMZ to Marcy ave.
Hours: Everyday 12-noon to 11-pm
93 1/2 E 7th St.
Trains: L to 1st ave, F/V to 2nd ave, 6 to Astor Place, N, R to 8th st.
Hours: Everyday 12-noon to 11-pm
See the full menu on their website.