When in the span of a few weeks, three people on three separate occasions rave to you about the same tiny restaurant, it means the Food Gods are telling you it’s time to make a visit.
Which is how I came to eat at Caracas Arepa Bar in the East Village.
It didn’t take much arm twisting to get me over to Caracas. I dig Latin food and I dig the words “roasted pork.” Add in “arepas” and “reasonable prices” and I was there in a heartbeat.
Arepas are a bread-like Venezuelan and Colombian specialty made from corn flour. At Caracas, each arepa is lovingly prepared and filled with tender meats and flavorful cheeses. They’re also not terribly big, a fact that didn’t escape Moki or me.
“How many arepas do people usually order?” we asked the server.
“Usually two per person.”
Oh, poor fellow, he doesn’t know who he’s dealing with. We can eat. Moki and I have had numerous experiences of going out for tapas/ small plates, getting hungry two hours later and hopping into a Pizzeria Uno for a second meal.
The plan was to order a few dishes to share, and re-visit the menu later if we weren’t full. Here’s our appetizer, plantains with aged cheese.
Sounded like a weird combination, but it went together surprisingly well. Moki only had one complaint: “I wish the plantains were wetter so the cheese would stick.”
We moved on to a shredded beef, cheese and plantain empanada, and a chorizo and chicken arepa.
In the spirit of sharing, Moki split the arepa in half.
The empanada kicked butt: crispy without being greasy. I could have eaten ten of them. The arepa was also very good, but maybe the weakest of the ones we tried. It needed some oomph, so I dipped it in chimichurri sauce for a tangy kick.
The meat fell apart and there was just the right amount of fat to chew on. And let me just say how flawless the arepas were — definitely the best I’ve ever had (okay, so I’ve only had them like twice). But still. They were crispy on the outside from being grilled, soft on the inside and slightly sweet from the corn.
At this point we were happy and still hungry, so we ordered two more arepas. This one was filled with roasted pork shoulder and a spicy mango sauce.
And finally, grilled chorizo with peppers, cheese and jalapenos.
I like spicy, and um, biting directly into a jalapeno certainly did the trick. Wow was that hot. I was sitting there making weird faces with my mouth on fire while Moki was talking, until he noticed my pain. ”Are you all right? You look uncomfortable.”
“I ate a jalapeno. That thing is friggin’ hot.”
Yeah, it was painful, but it felt so good. I can’t wait to go back to Caracas Arepa.
After dinner we both got it into our heads that we wanted mochi. Moki knew of a Japanese grocery store on St. Marks that carried them, but they weren’t the right brand. We’re mochi snobs. We ended up at Shima Restaurant on 2nd Ave., where I ordered a plum wine and two servings of green tea mochi.
Then it was off to Winebar for a glass of red. No real reason for this pic, but I kind of like how funky and weird it came out.
Sometimes you go to a restaurant because you’ve read about it; sometimes you go based on the recommendation of others. I was lucky to be given a recommendation to Caracas, and now I’m going to pass the recommendation on to you. Go, and enjoy your arepas!
Caracas Arepa Bar
93 1/2 E. 7th St.
New York, NY 10009
188 2nd Ave.
New York, NY 10003
65 2nd Ave.
New York, NY 10003