Photograph from harrisj on Flickr

After watching the women from the Caracas Arepa Bar beat Bobby Flay on Throwdown, I knew I had to go downtown to the East Village and try the winning De Pabellón arepa. Arepas are cornmeal patties that may resemble English Muffins at first glance. According to what region you're eating them, they can be grilled, deep-fried, or baked and then slit open to be stuffed with any combination of meats, cheeses, vegetables and condiments. Caracas serves up Venezuelan-style arepas and its best-seller, De Pabellón, is filled with shredded beef, fried sweet plantains, black beans, and cotija cheese.

2008630GuavaJuice.jpgThe main restaurant of the Caracas Arepa Bar is located adjacent to its smaller take-out location, where I stopped by just in time for the lunch special: one arepa and a natural juice for $8. The juice of the day was guava and I had to go with De Pabellón after enviously watching all the people on Throwdown fawn over them the night before. It wasn't an easy choice in the least—other variations include: La De Pernil, roasted pork shoulder with tomatoes and spicy mango salsa; the Muchachos, grilled chorizo, white cheese with jalapenos and sautéed peppers; and La Sureña, grilled chicken and chorizo, avocado slices, and spicy chimi-churri sauce.

Though a sign warned, “Our food is 100% HANDMADE. Please be patient. This is NOT a FAST-FOOD restaurant!” it didn’t take very long for my hot-off-the-griddle arepa to get into my hands. The beef was very tender and flavorful, and combined with the slight sweetness of the plantains, the creaminess of the black beans, and the cotija’s salty bite, it was fantastic.

They may seem small but they’re filling, and washed down with guava juice it was a great lunch. Now I just have to get back to try everything else on the menu, including those Yoyos—deep-fried balls of mashed plaintain stuffed with cheese.

Caracas Arepa Bar

91 E. 7th St., New York NY 10009 (nr. First Ave; map)


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