Cold Weather Blues? Escape with a Venezuelan Arepa

As all YYZ dwellers are aware, it can be sunny and hot one week in our fair city, and then hailing the next.  If you can’t escape to South America, then the next best thing is to delight in a tasty arepa.  Arepas are a ground-corn dough vehicle for deliciousness, not unlike a pupusa. They are like a  lovechild between an english muffin and a southern biscuit.  They are soft and fluffy inside, but have the structural integrity to uphold a lot of filling.  Best?  It’s a dream food for your gluten intolerant dinner guest!

S and I spontaneously went into Arepa Cafe near Queen & Spadina to grab a quick bite.  We were greeted with friendly staff that made it feel as though we dropped by a friend’s house for dinner.  The decor was simple but modern pop styled.  It looked like we should order up at the counter but a server ended up seating us.  Fine by us!

We started off sharing two finger food sized fried empanadas ($5).   Firm fried dough surrounded perfectly marinated chicken.  They were big enough to be satisfying but small enough to evade guilt.  Served alongside fresh homemade guacamole, I realized I could easily eat a plate of these (…and then no longer be able to evade guilt!).

S ordered a pabellon arepa (shredded flank steak, black beans, sweet plantain, mozzarella cheese, $10.25).  About the size of a filet-o-fish (aside: I realize this is an odd size comparison but any other example escapes me at the moment), it was absolutely delicious.  The honest flavours really shone through and there was no skimping on the steak.  Accompanying it (and my arepa) was a refreshing slaw.

I ordered a reina pepiada (roasted chicken, avocado, red onion, coriander, $9.25).  I was expecting individual pieces of the ingredients, but it was all tossed together, like a chicken salad sandwich.  That way, every bite had the perfect amount of avocado, red onion and coriander.  Again, it was simple, honest flavours.  My only wish is that it was a hot sandwich – the filling was cool.  But still tasty.

Now, I need to confess something.  I absolutely love sauces.  I love how an entire meal changes with a different dipping sauce, gravy, marinade, etc.  My all time favourite type of sauce?  HOT SAUCE!  YYZCherry will attest that whilst in Belize, I smothered even my breakfast with Mary Sharpe, a locally made habanero sauce.  Every arepa order comes with the following three sauces: garlic mayo, mild green hot sauce and a rose-coloured habanero sauce. A CHOICE IN SAUCES?  GET IN MY MOUTH!

I think I proposed to that habanero sauce.

All in all, appetizers, two beers (locally brewed Augusta Ale tall cans), two very filling (and relatively healthy) entrees and great friendly service came to only $40 after tax.   What are you doing still reading this?  Go check out Arepa Cafe and tip the awesome staff well!

Arepa Cafe on Urbanspoon

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