To have lived in Miami for about three and a half years, there are still quite a few types of Latin American cuisines I have somehow never sampled – Venezuelan being one.
I walk by Caracas Arepa Bar frequently and typically find the restaurant packed with patrons, overflowing to those waiting on the sidewalk in front. Their specialty are arepas, which are sandwiches of a flat cornmeal patty where the cornmeal can be grilled, baked, or fried. These tasty treats are even wheat-free.
My friend and I opted to begin the meal with an order of the guasacaca and chips, a Venezuelan take on guacamole and chips. They often serve plantain chips, but this evening they were using taro root instead. The use of this tuber was very unique and made for a perfect compliment to the incredibly fresh guacamole. Most of the chips were slightly crispy and even the ones which were a little softer just tasted so fresh it could never be misconstrued as soggy. The dish is $5.75 and I would say worth every penny.
We opted to share one of their empanadas as well – and went with the “de cazon” (their shark empanada) to try something different. The empanadas clearly are not the superstars here, significantly trumped by the variety and flavor of the arepas. I also learned that I do not care for shark. (FYI – very fishy taste, indeed). I would recommend sticking to the arepas. It is the name of the place, after all.
The arepa was so unique and flavorful. It did not disappoint. Their menu offers 14 different varieties and there is at least one additional arepa on their daily specials. They are very accommodating of special dietary needs and restrictions and will substitute baked tofu for meat in any of the arepas. I went with the “La Surena”, which included both grilled chicken and chorizo along with avovado slices and chimichurri sauce. Even though the sauce prepared was quite good, I would recommend adding in the sauce provided on the table, which is out of this world.
To avoid long waits due to the small size of the restaurant, I recommend either arriving early (we arrived at 6pm on a week night) or opting for their to-go service in their store located directly next door to the regular restaurant. However, get it to go and you will miss out on the tinto de verano, a Venezuelan take on the standard sangria. The wait staff is phenomenal – they were very personable and attentive. The service along with the incredible food led to my conclusion that this one is definitely worth the wait!
Caracas Arepas Bar – 93 1/2 E 7th Street (Between 1st Avenue & Avenue A) – 212.529.2314