Caracas Brooklyn Outpost
You maybe have known about the arepas at Caracas for years, and maybe you’ve even been to their newest location in Brooklyn, in which case this article won’t be news to you. However, sometimes we all are in need of well-placed reminders about the special gems New York City and its outer boroughs have to offer. Which is exactly why I am writing today. Of course, you may not even know what an arepa is, and that just makes you stupid. (That was a joke. A bad one maybe, but a joke nonetheless.) I also needed an excuse to fill my craving for arepas today, and checking out the new Brooklyn joint provided exactly that.
Let’s start with the basics. What is an arepa? (Honestly, even though I’ve been frequenting Caracas for a few years now, I couldn’t have told you what the arepa dough was made of until I looked it up.) I’m loving the description that the website provides: 'œdense yet spongy corn-flour rounds, Latin sloppy Joes, sandwiches of a flat cornmeal patty, burrito-killer, panini-killer, golden crisp-on-the-outside and steamy-soft-in-the-middle pitalike pockets.' These wheat-free and gluten-free pockets, made from scratch daily, are stuffed with a variety of ingredients like grilled meats and cheeses, fried sweet plantains, black beans, avocados, and grilled vegetables. While Caracas is known for their arepas (ranging in cost from $4.75 to $7.50 each), owners Maribel Araujo, Aristides Barrios, and executive chef Ilse Parra are devoted to the pleasures of making homemade Venezuelan slow food. On the menu, you’ll also find empanadas ($4.25 to $5.50 each), plate dishes, salads, and other yummy sidekicks.
Caracas Arepa Bar in Williamsburg lacks some of the cramped, colorful charm of the East Village original, but it makes up for it with an outdoor garden and lots of space. (With over 75 seats, you could actually have a birthday party here, as they take reservations for parties of 6 or more!) The menu is the same with a few additions like coffee from nearby Oslo. Plus, since they don’t have their liquor license yet, for now it is broke-ass blissfully BYOB.
It’s hard for me to choose my favorite arepa. It is also difficult for me to branch out and order new ones when I have my tried-and-true favorites. (I confess I have tried less than half of what they offer.) Today I chose a new winner: La Mulata, an arepa stuffed with grilled white cheese, jalapeÃ±os, sautÃ©ed red peppers, fried sweet plantains, and black beans. Other arepas I can vouch for are La SureÃ±a (grilled chicken and chorizo with avocado slices and spicy chimi-churri sauce) and De Guasacaca (Venezuelan guacamole with paisa cheese), but I seriously doubt you could go wrong with any of Caracas‘ options. Vegetarians, you aren’t being left out either. Baked tofu is available to replace meats in any of the arepas.
I also tried for the first time today some of their Brunch Menu, which includes arepas stuffed with perico (Venezuelan-style scrambled eggs with peppers and onions) and an awesome Criollo plate (perico served with a plain arepa, mixed green salad with tomatoes and hearts of palm, shredded beef, and grilled white cheese). If you have a sweet tooth, don’t forget to order yourself a Cocado (coconut milk shake with a touch of cinnamon) or a PapelÃ³n con limÃ³n (a refreshing natural blend of sugar loaf and lime).
The weekday lunch special from noon-4pm (any arepa + salad or soup) is $7.95, and if you are lucky enough to live near one of the two locations and have cash on hand, Caracas delivers. Plus a tiny bird let me in on a little known secret: you can purchase their special sauce by the bottle upon request. Enjoy your eating!
Caracas Arepa Bar
93 ½ E. 7th St. (between First Ave. and Ave. A) [East Village]
291 Grand St. (between Havemeyer St. and Roebling St.) [Williamsburg]