Astoria, Guest Bloggers, Restaurants, United Nations of Astoria
May 09, 2013

United Nations of Astoria – Arepas Cafe

In this edition of United Nations of Astoria, Anne visits Arepas Cafe, a Venezuelan restaurant on 36th Ave in Astoria.

Share this Scoop

total shares!

Welcome to the United Nations of Astoria, a new column that will appear about once a month, written by food writer and local Astorian, Anne Noyes Saini, who is also the creative force behind the audio series Forgotten Foods of New York. Welcome, Anne! -Meg

In a borough renowned for its multi-culturalism (represent, Queens!), Astoria is home to a particularly diverse mix of cultures. Astorians from the Balkans, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Czech Republic/Slovakia, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, and even our southerly neighboring borough (that’s you, Brooklyn) rub shoulders everyday in the ‘hood. And you know what that means: excellent eating.  

arepas-cafe-astoria-queens

Photo by Anne Noyes Saini, courtesy of City Spoonful

At Arepas Café thick, pancake-like corn arepas are griddled until their outsides become slightly crispy, then slit like pitas, and stuffed with meat, cheese, beans, or vegetables.

But don’t confuse these Venezuelan-style arepas with their Colombian counterparts.

pabellon-arepas-cafe-astoria-queens

Photo by Anne Noyes Saini, courtesy of City Spoonful

In Venezuela arepas are stuffed with a diverse array of savory fillings—a popular late-night snack. Colombian arepas—with butter, cheese, or eggs piled on top—are a hearty, comforting breakfast dish. At Arepas Café,the traditional roasted and shredded meat fillings (pernil—pork; and pabellón—beef) are always a good bet. So are the arepas stuffed with seafood (gazon—baby shark; and tuna), which are typical of owner Riccardo Romero’s home city, Carúpano, on Venezuela’s northeastern coast.

guayanesa-tropical-arepas-cafe-astoria-queens

Photo by Anne Noyes Saini, courtesy of City Spoonful

Amid the mostly meaty options, the vegetarian Guayanesa tropical arepa holds its own—bolstered by a rich combination of fried sweet plantains, creamy wedges of avocado, and firm, mild Guyanese cheese.

The arepas arrive at the table accompanied by two sauces: guasacaca (mayonnaise mixed with avocado, garlic and cilantro) and a Trinidadian hot sauce infused with Scotch bonnet peppers.

mini-appetizer-platter-tequenos-arepas-cafe-astoria-queens

Photo by Anne Noyes Saini, courtesy of City Spoonful

If you’re new to Venezuelan food, be sure to try the tequeños—finger-size sticks of mild, white cheese wrapped in a thin layer of dough, and deep-fried. These are Venezuela’s ubiquitous national snack, and at Arepas Café they are served in true Venezuelan style with salsa rosada (ketchup blended with mayonnaise). The mini cachapas, bite-size sweet corn pancakes topped with queso blanco (soft, white cheese) and a dab of nata (tangy, thick Venezuelan sour cream), are also very tasty—and very Venezuelan.

Wash down you meal with a sweet drink. I recommend the potent tropical sangria (tropical juices, fruit, and ample rum), the refreshing jugo de papelón con limón (brown-sugar-sweetened homemade lemonade), or the rich chicha (thick rice-pudding “shake” spiced with powdered cinnamon .

frescolita-arepas-cafe-astoria-queens

Photo by Anne Noyes Saini, courtesy of City Spoonful

Or if you’re feeling playful, Arepas Cafe is one of the few places in NYC where you can score a Frescolita, Venezuela’s beloved, bubble-gum-flavored, pink soda.

Arepas Café, 33-07 36th Avenue, Astoria, NY, 11106, (718) 937-3835, arepascafe.com

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *