I have managed to catch a cold or a touch of the flu again, but before that happened, I had a fantastic, non-traditional brunch at Caracas on Saturday. Caracas Arepa Bar has two locations, one in the East Village, and one in my native Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I decided to hit up the one in the Burg with friend and fellow blogger, Lindsay.
For those of you who know how I roll when it comes to brunch, you know that I almost always get eggs. I even wanted to get eggs here (which they have, called Perico – Venezuelan style eggs with peppers and onions), but I decided to go against the norm. Why not? I'm at an arepa bar. So we just got a bunch of different arepas to share, and I am happy to report that our decision was a good one.
What is an arepa? Some of you might ask. Well, it's a traditional unleavened corn cake/corn patty indicative of Venezuelan cuisine. Sometimes served plain alongside a steak and salad (similar to how we use bread), and sometimes split in half and stuffed with all kinds of ingredients from chicken and cheese, to beef and beans. In the case of Caracas, it can only be described as a Deliciousness Holder.
There are so many arepas that sound good, it's really hard to pick which ones to try. We literally had trouble with this. Fortunately, the menu has an option that helps narrow it down somewhat for you: the Curiaras. They pick 3 arepas, stuffed and cut in half, and put them into different categories for easy decision-making and easy sharing. La de Carnes, which comes with La de Pernil (pork shoulder and spicy mango sauce), La Pelua (shredded beef with cheddar cheese), and De Pollo (chicken w onions and cheddar cheese) arepas was a consideration. But we chose La Popular, which is De Pabellon (shredded beef, sweet plantains, black beans and white cheese), Reina Pepiada (chunky chicken and avocado salad), and La Mulata (grilled white cheese w jalapenos, peppers, fried plantains and black beans) arepas.
Allow me to contain my excitement and NOT jump the gun here. Before this, we started out with something called Yoyos – fried sweet plantain balls stuffed with white cheese and served with a sweet sugar cane dipping sauce. Yummmm. This was like dessert as an appetizer, but it's kind of perfect because you get these sweet little nuggets and then you dive right into the salty arepas. Great combo. I loved it. Though I have not found too many fried things that I didn't love…
Now, for the arepas. All I can say is it was hard to pick a favorite. They were all delicious, but I think I liked the Pabellon best. The combination of the beef, sweet plantains, black beans and salty white cheese was perfect. The arepas themselves are great – not too thick or thin, they're crispy at first bite, then a little chewy. They also keep a bottle of this garlicky, creamy sauce at the table for dipping, which was amazing. Seriously, I think we went through half the bottle.
I think it was a tie for me between the Reina Pepiada and the Mulata. The Mulata was savory and spicy from the jalapenos and onions, while the Pepiada was more mild and creamy from the avocado and chicken salad. Both good, but I guess it depends on what you're in the mood for. If you can't handle the spice, the Reina Pepiada is a good way to go – it tasted like fresh guacamole with shredded chicken in it. What can be bad about that?
I am also pleased to report that Caracas delivers. I will definitely be back though – there's so many other arepas to try, how could I not? It also seems like a fun place to go with a group for dinner, considering a lot of the arepas can be split for sharing.
Caracas Arepa Bar
291 Grand St (btwn Roebling and Havemeyer sts)