Saturday, July 18, 2009

A little bite of home: Arepas in Astoria

It seems since I made up my mind to start writing about Queens I look at our borough with new and refreshed eyes. So much to write about I wonder, where to begin. One of the greatest traits of Queens is it's ethnic diversity and as a consequence the "smorgasbord of ethnic cuisines" that our little borough encompasses: Latin, Spanish, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Greek, Brazilian, you name it, it's all here. But as a good Venezuelan I'm always on the prowl for the perfect "arepa". Arepas are a typical mainstay of Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine, our daily bread, so to speak. They are corn meal cakes stuffed with an array of savory dishes. There could be slight variations on the preparation or appearance according to the region of origin.

Although I love Colombian arepas, I have a very special place in my heart for Venezuelan arepas. Every time I hear of a new Venezuelan joint in town I feel compelled to go to any lengths to savor this little piece of home in the place that has adopted me as resident. I've tasted the slight variations between El Cocotero's, the now defunct Flor's Kitchen and of course the ultra popular Caracas Arepa Bar, and I will admit that I have been quite partial to Caracas' perfect sized tender version thus far.

However, today is a Queens day. I remember there is a place in Astoria we are yet to try. I drag El Oso with me for an excursion to Arepas Cafe. I sit down without any expectations, I mean, it's an arepa in NY, it will never taste like home, right? Was I in for a surprise. As I take my first bite I feel transported back to my childhood years. The arepa although slightly larger than the "arepera" traditional, has the perfect thickness, crispiness, temperature and stuffing to cake ratio. I have ordered an arepa with "caraotas" (black beans) and "queso guayanés" (a farmers like cheese: creamy, slightly tangy and white). El Oso is having a "Mami" (or sweetie, in Venezuelan slang), stuffed with roast pork, avocado and white cheese. To complement our meal we order “mini cachapas” (sweet corn pancakes), two "Papelón con limón": a refreshing beverage made out of a brick of dried sugarcane, water and lemon and finally a café con leche. The service is prompt and polite. At the end of our meal we feel satisfied and exited to have discovered a new jewel in the borough.

If you are in the mood for good, affordable comfort food, by all means try Arepas Cafe. It is also conveniently located two blocks away from the 36th Avenue stop on the N W train, only few blocks away from the Museum of the Moving Image (currently being renovated) and the beautiful new building of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.

Arepas Cafe
33-07 36th Avenue
Astoria, NY 11106

(718) 937-3835

Truly yours,

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