Arepa Café 490 Queen St. West, Toronto 416-362-4111 Perfect For: Lunch, Coffee, Quick Bite
I’ve been very curious to try Arepa Café for a while now. I love Latin American food (and music), so I was quite sure that I was not going to be disappointed with my visit. I was right. Although we were not able to get a proper table to sit at (Arepa Café is just that – a small café), we settled on a pair of bar stools overlooking the stove and the actual cooking process – not the best view, but it gave me a chance to interact with the friendly Venezualan chef.
Arepas, for those that haven’t had a chance to try one before, are sort of a Venezuelan equivalent of a sandwich, only instead of your usual bread, the grilled buns are made out of corn flower, and have a bit of a grainier, corn-bready (I know it’s not a word) texture. As for the fillings, there is a full menu of various meats, seafood, and cheese to choose from.
We ordered Carne Mechada ($6.50), La Llanera($9.00), and as per our server’s suggestion a side of Yuca ($4.00). Our Yucaarrived first, sided with a little cup of Guasacaca – which is like a pured spicy guacamole and is amazingly tasty. Both le boyfriend and I were in love with Yuca. To me, it tasted like a mix of plantain and potato fries, but the result, dipped in guasacacasauce was simple perfection. Yum!
When our arepas arrived, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed at the size of our sandwiches. I am not a big eater, but even to me, those arepas looked tiny. After the first bite, however, my disappointment was gone. Tender, stringy, juicy flank steak, seasoned with cumin, garlic, pepper, and tomato was pure deliciousness. And after a few bites, I was done. As in full. As in, I still had some of the sandwich left over on my plate uneaten. Le boyfriend’s tenderloin was slightly less flavourful, but just as good, with huge chunks of avocado and cheese – it was gone in a flash. And to my surprise, he barely could eat what was left over of my arepa! Those suckers look small, but are quite filling, so don’t judge these arepas by their size!
After hearing about their famous alfajores ($1.75each), we couldn’t leave without trying some. As I tend to be quite greedy about my deserts, I was going to order 2, but settled for just 1 to start, and I am happy that I did that, because the cookie, smothered in rich dulce de leche, was the last thing I could eat without feeling like a complete glutton.
Overall, I really enjoyed my Arepa Café experience. It is by no means a fine dining establishment and service can be a bit chaotic, but it’s a lovely place in Toronto to have a quick bite of something other than burgers and sandwiches. Next time, I’ll try to come in early to have a sip of their Raw Brown Sugar Cane Lemonade ($1.75), they were all out the last time I was in. If you like to try new things, you should definitely give Arepa Café a go!
PS. I would not recommend getting arepas to go or for take-out, as most of the fillings end up making the bread a bit soggy, if not eaten right away. That is a matter of preference, of course.