The Sainted Arepa Lady is Opening a Restaurant in Jackson Heights

Arepas from The Arepa Lady

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Great news for fans of the Sainted Arepa Lady—street food legend Maria Cano and her family will be opening a year-round brick and mortar restaurant at 77-02AA Roosevelt Avenue later this year, close to her normal 79th and Roosevelt street corner.

The Arepa Lady came to fame in the '90s when Chowhound founder Jim Leff justifiably beatified her buttery, cheesy cornmeal cakes. In the decades since, Cano and a small team have come out late Friday and Saturday nights during the warm months of the year to her small street cart, where hungry crowds scarf down arepas just off the flattop. Though limited availability and a fun late-night meal is no doubt part of the Arepa Lady's appeal, her food doesn't disappoint.


Maria Piedad Cano, the Arepa Lady. [Photograph: James Boo]

Like running the cart, the new restaurant will be a family affair. Cano's children and children-in-law will operate the 300 square foot space, which will fit a few seats and also offer take out. Her son Alejandro explained, "We want to help my mom more, and the only way to do that is with a permanent location. The cart's permit only runs from April to October, and we can't quit our jobs for something temporary." A brick and mortar will also allow for an expanded menu, such as new meat and vegetable toppings for the arepas.

The Canos are still building out the space and are looking to have it ready for city inspection by the end of February. As of now, they're planning to open "hopefully in the Spring," and once it's open, the original cart should still operate on its normal schedule. We'll post updates as we hear them.

1 Minute Meal: "Arepas del Viaje" from James Boo on Vimeo.

In the meantime, do take a moment to watch (or re-watch) James Boo's 60-second video profile of Cano, which details the unlikely journey of a Colombian immigrant with no professional food experience to a country where cooking humble street food was her best way to make ends meet. Also take a look at the .gif below, which sums up how we're feeling about this news.


[Animation: Robyn Lee]