By Jessica Allen
The traditional Venezuelan cornmeal cake known as an arepa can be eaten plain, dipped in a spicy chutney, or split and stuffed with meat, cheese, and veggies. The restaurants listed below serve our favorite arepas in the city and range from simple and delicious to creative and delicious.
47 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009
Don’t let the “factory” part of Arepa Factory fool you: you aren’t in for any kind of assembly line-style food here, served on a plastic tray. Instead, this East Village restaurant sees in the arepa endlessly versatility, something that encourages “us to think creatively, break conventions, and discover new comestible possibilities.” Indeed, you can choose from among three styles of arepas: classic cornmeal, spinach or oatmeal, flaxseed, and chia, along with fillings like goat cheese, pineapple chutney and basil.
33-07 36th Ave.
Astoria, NY 11106
Putting “arepa” in the name of your restaurant means you better do them justice or else you’ll have some angry customers on your hands. Happily, this Queens restaurant, just a few blocks from the Museum of the Moving Image, makes arepas exceptionally well. We’re pretty partial to the domino, a simple, yet oh-so-flavorful combination of black beans and Guyanés cheese, as well as the pernil (pork). And we always start with the mini-platter, featuring small versions of empanadas, fried yucca, and tequeños.
44 Irving Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11237
Many moons ago, the owner of Arepera Guacuco brought his mother over from Venezuela to head up the tiny kitchen of this Brooklyn restaurant. Whenever we’re there, we have the same thought: with cooking this good, why’d he ever leave home? Whatever the answer, the arepas here are excellent, especially the egg, cheese and bean brunch concoction, as well as the reina pepiada, in which shredded chicken is mixed with avocado. Order a cocada too, a coconut milkshake sprinkled with cinnamon.
Caracas Arepa Bar
91 East Seventh St.
New York, NY 10009
Perhaps no restaurant in the city has done so much to introduce Venezuelan cooking to New Yorkers as Caracas Arepa Bar. What began as a little storefront in the East Village has expanded to larger locations in Brooklyn (this one’s got a rum bar too!) and Queens, and this success is a testament to the excellent food served throughout. If you’re not into meat, don’t worry: you can substitute tofu in most of the meat arepas, or try La Del Gato, featuring sweet plantains, cheese, and avocado.
228 West 18th St.
New York, NY 10011
When critics call restaurants “transporting,” they’re talking about places like El Cocotero: the cozy Chelsea space features fresh flowers on the tables, palm trees on the walls and bright colors used as accents throughout. It feels like you’ve left NYC and landed somewhere far, far away, where the sun never ceases to shine. Among the many (many) options for arepas are La Rumbera (slow-roasted pork and cheese), Asado Negro (Venezuelan-style pot roast), and Las Mercedes (tomato and cheese).