I’ll never forget my first time. Having an arepa. Birk and Christina were operating their food truck along Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, and there was just something magical about that creamy and crispy cornmeal pancake/tortilla/pita combination. Christina is one of the most talented chefs we have in town, making lively and creative fillings bursting with flavor. But she’s always told me that she was inspired by very common Venezuelan food, and the fillings she creates are not designed to authentically represent that culture.
As it turns out, some Venezuelans who recently moved to Minnesota agreed. Two families, both fairly new to town, have opened arepa restaurants, and both are authentic and excellent.
Teque Arepa is in an Eden Prairie strip mall. Odds are good you’ll see Erwin Chacón and his wife, Liddamir, in the store when you visit. They moved here in 2012 and opened in Eden Prairie the winter of 2013. I loved the Pabellón arepa. It has black beans, shredded beef, white cheese, and slices of sweet plantains. The mix of savory and sweet, the variety and depth of textures and flavors were spot on.
The arepa itself was nicely griddled, and this sandwich is simply huge. I had it with a side of fried yucca, with an incredible green garlic sauce, and my whole meal was about $10. The menu here is huge, and they’ll mix and match any ingredients you want. Getting an independent restaurant in Eden Prairie is a rare treat, and the Chacónâ€‹s deserve your support!
Arepa Bite in Mounds View looks so polished and slick inside, I asked at the counter if it was a national chain. It’s not! Vannessa Fazio and her husband, Felix Perez, opened the restaurant right off of Highway 10 in Mounds View in a repurposed fast food joint. Fazio and Perez moved to Mounds View directly from Venezuela in early 2015 and opened Arepa Bite in 2016. It’s slightly different than Teque Arepa in that a lot of the menu uses a Chipotle-style approach, with precooked fillings ready to be assembled. I ordered the Rumbera ($6.27) with thick, juicy slices of pork tenderloin topped with an enormous mound of cheddar cheese.
I added a side of crispy yuca and a drink and had a meal for under $10. Arepa Bite has a delicious drink called a Papelón, which is made of sugarcane juice and lemon juice—sweet but not sugary, if that makes sense. Very refreshing, and perfect to cut the heaviness of the pork.
It’s exciting to see these two Venezuelan families building success and doing it in the suburbs. Both places had extremely kind and welcoming service. Great news for suburbanites who are desperate for something different. Get those arepas!