At the heart of Venezuelan cooking is the humble arepa, a dense cornmeal cake that can be filled or topped or dipped or eaten plain. The restaurants listed below serve some of the best arepas in the city. Make sure to order a cocada too, a coconut milkshake topped with cinnamon all but guaranteed to banish winter blues. By Jessica Allen.
When news broke that this beloved street food vendor in Jackson Heights would be opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant near her regular corner on Roosevelt Avenue, the Internet, or at least the portion of it devoted to the NYC food scene, almost broke down. Until the restaurant opens in the spring, you can stop by her cart for some of the freshest arepas around on Fridays and Saturday nights (usually during the warmer months). Follow her on Twitter for updates and information.
Just a few blocks from the Museum of the Moving Image is Arepas Cafe, a cheery restaurant devoted to arepas and more. Definitely come here hungry, as you’ll want to start with the mini-platter, a huge selection of fried yucca, mini cachapas (corn pancakes with Venezuelan cheese), tequenos, and empanadas. Then you’ll want to move onto your arepas, including the spicy catira (shredded chicken with cheddar cheese) and camarones (shrimp and cilantro cooked in a tomato and onion sauce).
The owner of this Bushwick stalwart brought his mother from Venezuela to oversee the kitchen in this bright restaurant, decorated with knick knacks from the old country, including a pocket copy of the constitution. And while you have to wonder why, with cooking this good, the owner ever left home, you also have to be grateful that he did, and opened a restaurant here. We’re super-fond of the scrambled egg, bean, and cheese arepa served at brunch, but really everything here is delicious.
Cachapas y Mas
Who are we to argue with a restaurant that bills itself as “the most authentic Venezuelan food in Northern Manhattan”? (There’s a second location on Dyckman Street in Inwood.) The “mas” in the restaurant’s name includes yoyos (two slices of fried plantain mushed together with soft white cheese, then dipped in egg and fried), patacones (sandwiches that substitute huge hunks of plantain for bread), tacuchos (Venezuelan-style burritos), and arepas, made with cornmeal cakes that are almost the size of your head.
Caracas Arepa Bar
Caracas Arepa Bar opened in the East Village in 2003. Almost immediately the lines formed, and they’ve blocked the sidewalk along Seventh pretty much continuously ever since. Eventually the owners opened a second location in Williamsburg, which seats 75, and another in Far Rockaway. Among the several types of arepas on offer are the reina pepiada, which blends avocado and shredded chicken, and the de pabellón, which combines black beans, white, salty cheese, and braised beef.