backstrEATS at a glance:
93 1/2 E 7th St (Between 1st Ave and Ave A)
New York, NY 10009 Tel: (212) 529-2314
Neighborhood: East Village
Subway Guide: 1st Ave-14th St (L), Astor Place (6), 2nd Ave-Houston St (F, V), 8th Street NYU (N, R)
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 12pm-11pm
Atmosphere and Attire: Trendy and chic. Wonderfully vibrant inside. Casual attire is welcomed.
Cost: Cost is moderate. Although an arepa will cost you roughly $7-9 on average, you might want two if you’re super hungry. With everything said and done, an entree and drink, it will probably cost $13-25.
Coke products: Yes! But there are no refills and coke products are in cans! Oh well.
Notable things around it: Tompkins Square Park, Merchant’s House Museum, New York University.
In the warm (sometimes unbearably hot) summer months, NYC hosts a variety of street fairs that offer many food experiences. Among the foods sold, the arepas caught my attention the most. They looked like round little pancakes, slightly pale gold in color and fluffy-looking. Having no cash on me, I remembered a friend had suggested a restaurant in the East Village that sold delicious arepas. And so our journey begins.
The history of the arepa dates back to Mesoamerican period and belongs to the culture of the indigenous people.
The arepa was made from moistened maize, ground between stones to produce a pliable dough. Later they were formed into discs and heated to a high temperature on earthenware tiles called “aripos”, hence the name (La Paella 2010)
Many compare the arepa to that of the bread that was a staple to the Timoto-cuicas, an Amerindian group that lived in the Northern Andes of Venezuela. With the colonization by the Spanish, the arepa diffused to areas known then as La Gran Colombia (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama). Both the Venezuelans and Colombians view the arepa as a traditional food and are very popular in these areas. The arepa’s versatility of being able to be served with any filling makes it perfect for any meal time. Though, they are mainly consumed at breakfast or lunch in Venezuela and Colombia.
Relatively new, the Caracas Arepa Bar was founded by owners, Maribel Araujo and Aristides Barrios, who fell in love with the arepa at an areparía in Caracas Venezuela. The rest is said to be history. They first opened its doors to the East Village in 2003. With their Executive Chef, Ilse Parra, they share their vision of bringing great food to the community.
Location: Nestled in the East Village near NYU, the Caracas Arepa Bar is surrounded by many other notable eateries, such as Momofuku Noodle Bar and Pommes Frites to name a few. It’s also right next to Luke’s Lobster, which is next on my list of notable eateries.
It’s a wonderful area to walk around and grab new ideas for new food experiences. Though the subway stops are not within the immediate vicinity of the restaurant, the few blocks are a walkable distance. But if walking is not an option, flag a taxi down to take you the rest of the way.
As I have mentioned before, the space is limited in the city. There is barely enough room to stand in the restaurant when the host greets you. There are a few ‘half’ booths on one side of the wall and a few small tables on the other. The tiny space adds to the charm of the place and keeps it looking busy from the outside and draws more attention to it.
We are greeted with a symphony of color on either side of the wall. On the exposed brick wall, there are eclectic Venezuelan trinkets, pictures of the Virgin Mary, and other colorful objects. On the other wall, there is a big mural of a woman and images of nature surrounding her.
The overall feeling of the restaurant is warm and inviting. It feels like stepping into another world. A world of nostalgia created by the owners of Caracas Arepa Bar.
Their menu is plentiful and varied. They cater to both carnivores and herbivores alike. Though the arepas are the stars of the menu, they do have empanadas and dinner plates that are worth checking out.
We ordered an appetizer called Yoyos. A cute name that packs a punch that’s for damn sure. Described on the menu as “fried sweet plantain balls stuffed with white cheese”, it was so much more than that. They looked like round brownish bread balls cut in half with plantains and white cheese stuffed in them. They were served with a sweet dipping sauce that was described by the server as a sugar reduction like that of molasses. The sweet and slightly savoriness blended very well with the right textures of the bread, fruit, and cheese. We were quite sad when we finished it…
Our arepa choices were Los Muchachos and La de Pernil. The Los Muchachos arepa is stuffed with “grilled chorizo, spicy white cheese with jalapeños and sauteed peppers”. It was a heavenly mixture of spiciness and tanginess. The arepa itself sopped up the juices well. The texture of the ground corn in the arepa may put off the few who have never had it before. But the taste surely packs enough punch.
The La de Pernil arepa was my personal favorite. It is stuffed with “roasted pork shoulder with tomato slices and a spicy mango sauce” I wouldn’t consider the mango sauce spicy at all but it does offer a nice afterglow to the throat (Keep in mind I’m a lover of EXTRA spicy foods. I eat hot peppers for fun.) The roasted pork shoulder was DELICIOUS. The pieces of the pork were wonderfully large and plentiful and quite tender. I was ecstatic.
There was a secret house sauce on the table too. It was a yellowish grainy sauce that looked a lot like mustard. When we asked what the sauce was, the server just smiled and said it was a house secret. Of course. It was a delicious sauce that I cannot for the life of me explain. But I will say that its tastes remind me of something very Asian. They do sell this sauce by the bottle if you are interested.
It was a bit chaotic when we came in. It was start of the dinner rush. The hostess was very polite and did not give the appearance that she looked harried. It took a bit for our server to come to us with our drinks and the subsequent water refills, but they were friendly and polite. They endured our questions on what each sauce was and what they liked so kudos to them. It’s not easy working in such a small space like they do.
We were overall pleased with the experience that Caracas Arepa Bar had provided us. I really want to try their Marquesa de Chocolate dessert next time. And just an FYI, they also have a Brooklyn location that has a patio and happy hour drink specials. Their lunch special for both locations is also great too! Weekdays from noon to 4pm, any arepa and salad or soup is $7.95. You can’t beat that!
With our stomachs full, we strolled out of the place content. Definitely another trip to this great food place is needed.
Until then, Eat On <3Tags: Arepa, Caracas Arepa Bar, Colombia, East Village, food, Manhattan, New York, NYU, restaurants, Venezuela, Yoyos