Chicken salad isn't something I think of as a crave-worthy food, but that's probably because I haven't eaten the Venezuelan version often enough. Aside from beef, cheese, and chicken-filled arepas, Cafe 81 in the East Village serves a reina pepiada arepa ($4) stuffed with shredded chicken mixed with with avocado and mayonnaise. Although I plan on trying the other ones in the future, I can't believe they would be better than the combination of creamy chicken salad sandwiched between hearty, crispy corn cakes. Don't be fooled by its flat shape—it's pretty filling.
If you want something more gut-busting, get the traditional pabellón crillo ($10), a plate of tender shredded beef, fried sweet plantains, black beans, and white rice. It also comes with mini arepa plops in case you want to fashion your own little pockets stuffed with meat and carbs.
For those who like a little booze, Cafe 81 also has good drink deals, including $3 drink recession specials.
It's easy to overlook Cafe 81 as a spot for Venezuelan food considering that the name nor the space fail to give any indication of there being arepas and emapanadas in the kitchen. While the bar seems to be a focal point for Cafe 81, its menu hasn't always stayed the same (ignore Menupages, which says it still serves Italian food). The Venezuelan menu has only been in effect for about six months, but I hope it sticks around for a while.
81 E 7th Street, New York NY 10003 (between 1st and 2nd; map) 212-473-4900
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