Monday, November 7, 2011

Venezuelan in NY: Caracas Arepa Bar

Paul and I have gotten into a food rut.

When we first moved to New York, I made it a point to try a different restaurant almost every weekend. And not just a different restaurant, but a different country's food. We made the rounds, quickly sampling the best of Thailand, Korea, Afghanistan, Mongolia and more.

But now we have our favorites, our go-to spots that we often get in the mood for: East Japanese for sushi. Woorijip for Korean. Grand Sichuan for Chinese. My Thai for Thai. The list goes on and on.

But what we haven't tried too much of in New York is South American food. So last month it was time to check off a Venezuelan restaurant that's been on my list almost as long as we've been here: Caracas Arepa Bar in the East Village.

I'll be honest -- I didn't have a very good understanding of what arepas even were. Turns out they're corn cakes stuffed with tasty fillings. We ordered a sampler platter with three traditional areaps -- split open, they resembled crammed pitas.

Our favorite was La de Pabellón, a mixture of shredded beef, black beans and cheese, along with plantains, which gave the whole thing a sweet kick. La Reina Pepiada -- an arepa with a chicken and avocado stuffing -- was surprisingly bland, but La Mulata was a delicious and slightly spicy arepa of cheese, jalepeños, red peppers, black beans and those yummy plantains.

Caracas is in an area of town we visit pretty regularly, so we've often walked by and have seen the huge crowds outdoors waiting for a table inside. It's easy to see why -- the food is as tasty as the dining room is tiny. The whole space couldn't have fit more than about 30 people, all sitting elbow to elbow. Caracas also has a takeout-only location a couple of doors down. On a nice summer evening, I can see getting a De Pabellón to eat in nearby Tompkins Square Park.

So anyway: Venezuelan, check. Only about 10 more South American countries to go.

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