Arepas: The Little South American Sandwich that Could
Corn bread: delicious. Corn tortillas: awesome. So why would have any doubt about corn cakes? These thin, round flatbreads, a staple in Venezuela and Colombia, are some of the tastiest and most versatile sandwich wrappers you’ll find anywhere in the world. They don’t even have to be in sandwich form to be appreciated; they’re often eaten plain as a side dish, or simply with cheese or avocado.
But when split and piled with toppings, as is often done in Venezuela, it’s a magic moment. You’ll find arepas stuffed with all manner of fillings, from stewed beef to shredded chicken—the variety is endless.
The “bread.” Arepa technically refers to the corn cake itself, which should be griddled crisp on the outside; they’re best served hot.
The filling. Arepa fillings vary widely. Traditional arepa filling can be as simple as fresh white cheese or the aforementioned beef or shredded chicken. But some American purveyors are piling their arepas high with elaborate combinations of meat, dairy and produce.
Where to get it:
Bolívar Cafe & Gallery; Santa Monica. This café cum arepa bar won LA Weekly’s Best Arepas award for their corn cakes stuffed with everything from black beans and fresh white cheese to mozzarella and bacon.
Caracas Arepas Bar; NYC. The perennially packed Caracas, with two New York locations, wins fans for its excellent fillings; the De Pabellón (shredded beef, black beans, white cheese, sweet plantains) and La Sureña (chicken, chorizo, avocado, spicy chimi-churri) are two particularly notable offerings.