In my extensive list of favorite foods, arepas definitely get a high ranking. What’s not to like about a pocket (a wheat-free one, I might add) filled with meat, cheese, and vegetables? Caracas is most New Yorkers go-to for arepas, which I definitely think are great (having been to both the Manhattan and Brooklyn locations) but when I heard that Arepas Cafe has them beat, I knew I had to check it out.
A little Venezuelan gem just steps away from the N/Q train in Astoria, Arepas Cafe is an unassuming storefront in the midst of a variety of Hispanic establishments. The cafe is small but not too small, more like cozy, with soccer or handball playing on the TV and typical Venezuelan pride decor.
I came to this Arepas Cafe after reading the Yelp reviews, so I had some dishes in mind that I wanted to try. We went with the mini cachapas, a perfect appetizer for two – five bite size fresh corn pancakes topped with melted cheese, with a side of crema. I could have eaten ten of those alone. The cafe offers an array of drinks such as passionfruit juice, which I strongly recommend, and chicha, a thick rice and cinnamon drink that is essentially liquid rice pudding.
The arepas are obviously the star here – the menu features a long list of arepas with various fillings and it’s hard to choose just one. One is definitely enough for a meal – I constantly crave the arepa mami (Venezuelan roast pork with avocado and white cheese) and the arepa pabellon (shredded beef, black bean, fried sweet plantains, and white cheese) is delicious, too. The price of each arepa varies with the fillings, but they all generally hang around a $7 price tag.
If for some strange reason you don’t want arepas, they also offer a number of house specialities, and also a list of parrillas - sliced meat cut into strips accompanied by fries and/or yuca. Pour the green cilantro sauce over everything because it’s just that good – the red sauce is good too, but super spicy, so watch out!
So – are these arepas the best in the city? My personal experience with NYC arepas extends to the two Caracas establishments, Arepera Guacuco in Bushwick, Coppelia in Chelsea, and some random stand that was in Bryant Park last year. In comparison to the other places, the arepas here are probably the biggest – you definitely get more for your money, and both the arepas and their ingredients seemed really fresh during both visits. I also really enjoyed my experience – if anyone’s been following my past articles you’ll know I’m not the biggest fan of the more trendy places – there’s something just so comforting about being prepared food by natives in a such a laidback environment. No complaints on the service, either, and it wasn’t overwhelmingly busy during either visit.
Then, there’s also the fact that I have been to Arepas Cafe twice in the past week and I’m wondering when I can go next.
If I had to pick – yes, Arepas Cafe definitely has the best arepas I’ve had in the city so far. Seriously, go, it’s so worth it!
33-07 36th Avenue