Arepas and other Venezuelan snacks have lately become a thing in neighborhoods like the East Village and Bushwick, a modern cheap eats phenomenon that also spells fun. The space is bright and pleasantly busy, with an eating shelf furnishing views of the park and a few tables concentrated in back. The 16 stuffed-arepa choices wander pretty far afield. Classics include reina pepiada (mayo-drenched chicken-and-avocado salad), perico (scrambled eggs and black beans), and pabellon (shredded beef). But you can also go crazy with the Frida Khalo, which gives a Mexican twist with its cumin-scented ground beef, avocado, and shredded cheese. Other Caracas-style snacks include empanadas, cachapas, and tequenos.
Beyond the traditional usual corn flour, owner (and Venezuela native) Monica Muzzo is also using spinach, oatmeal, and a chia-flaxseed combination to make arepas. Her 21 different filling combinations are also unconventional, and they include coconut lamb, baby back ribs with American cheese, Peruvian-style ceviche, and marinated tuna with olives, capers, and raisins. Plus, the menu includes pancake-esque cachapas, snacks like fried white cheese wrapped in pastry dough, and desserts like arroz con leche and tres leches cake.
For those of you who haven’t already been schooled by the East Village’s other areperia, aprepas are shaped a little like pork buns but are made with cornflower, water and a touch of salt. Muzzo has four different varieties (traditional, spinach, oatmeal, and chia and flaxseed, all baked upon request so the soft yet crunchy shell is never cold). From there, Muzzo said, you can fill the bun with almost anything. “In Venezuela, this is how you find it everywhere,” she said of the restaurant’s create-your-own style food bar. “You can have it for breakfast or after a party Saturday night.”
We decided to take a trip to the Arepa Factory in New York City's East Village neighborhood to see how they're made. The Arepa Factory only makes small batches of arepas at a time, meaning that customers are served food that's fresh. We ordered the Frida Kahlo, an arepa filled with ground beef, avocado, shredded cheese, and Latin sour cream. One bite of the finished product convinced us we'd take this over a taco any day!
One thing that sets Arepa Factory apart is the make-your-own option, from traditional fillings like sweet plantain, black beans and avocado to arugula, sundried tomatoes and goat cheese. But they're also offering Pabellon arepas, a nod to Venezuela’s national dish of shredded beef, black beans, sweet plantains and Guayanes cheese and nearly two dozen other pre-selected arepas.