Caracas Arepa Bar
93 1/2 East 7th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A
New York, NY 10009
What is an arepa? From Caracas Arepa Bar’s website:
Pale gold arepas, made from scratch daily, they have been described as “dense yet spongy corn-flour rounds, pitalike pockets, corn muffins, cake-swaddled mélange, white corn cakes, Latin sloppy Joe, sandwiches of a flat cornmeal patty, soft and smooth within, golden crispiness, tasty treats, burrito-killer, panini-killer, wheat-free, gluten-free crisp on the outside, steamy-soft in the middle…”
Caracas Arepa Bar is a definite too-hot-to-trot spot. I’ve wanted to try it since several of my friends have been, and once I was at Mike’s apartment, part of a Throwdown! with Bobby Flay was on, and Bobby was challenging the folks at Caracas Arepa Bar. I don’t know what the outcome was since we decided to watching something else. But the seed was planted.
Let me set the scene. I met Stacy around 1:40 PM on a holiday Monday. She had arrived earlier than me and had put her name down. It didn’t help that it was very nippy outside (you have to wait outside because the restaurant is the size of a studio apartment) and that buttery bread smells were wafting over from Luke’s Lobster next door, oh so tantalizing. I quipped to Stacy that if Caracas didn’t work out, we could always just chow at Luke’s. I guess Luke’s and Caracas are following the same trajectory: mini East Village restaurant, skyrocketing popularity, satellite locations popping up like dandelions. We ended up waiting nearly an hour to be seated. Sigh. At least we passed the time by chatting but all I’m saying is that the food better be out of this world. Stacy had been before and was positive, so I was still looking forward to the meal.
We were finally crowbarred into a wee two-top close to the entrance. Since it was in the 20s outside, it didn’t help that whenever people would enter or exit, that cold polar wind would just swoop in and chill us. I kept my enormous coat on, partly also because there was nowhere to place it. The diners on both sides of us were speaking Spanish. I liked our waiter; he seemed very jolly, cordial, in a good mood despite the close quarters and cranky people waiting to be seated.
Since it was a weekday and it was the lunch hour (well, kinda), I ordered the lunch combo while Stacy opted to order two arepas. One arepa is not big enough for a meal, at least not for most folks. The combo was an arepa with salad or soup for $8.50. Not too shabby. I also ordered a fruity drink ($3.75) since Stacy got one. Mmm, mango strawberry. Not as thick as I anticipated, but still fruity delicious. We eyeballed some milkshakes that other folks ordered. If it weren’t all freezer-like outside, I would have considered it. The salad came out like so. Nothing too wild or out there, but I dig hearts of palms, so I was content.
Being limited by spiciness and wanting meat, I settled on the Don Pabellon arepa. This guy comes with “shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains.” The menu states that arepas are “100% corn flour buns, grilled and baked.” Honestly, I wasn’t that enthused about the actual arepa, the corn part. It’s a corn product. The fillings inside, now there’s a separate tale. Juice was dripping out of the pocked. There was a little spice but bearable. Cheese! Cheese! Mmm. Now, if only two were given instead of one…
I dared, and I sucked in my stomach and did the dainty dance to the bathroom. Yeah, this place is microscopic.
The bottom line: Caracas Arepa Bar is very yummy but not one hour wait yummy. Go early or go home.