Arepera Guacuco serves Venezuelan fare, and opened last month at the corner of Irving Avenue and Troutman Street. — Photos by Scarlett Lindeman
Bushwickers no longer have to schlep over to Caracas in Williamsburg for an arepa fix. Arepera Guacuco, a one-month-old local eatery, specializes in Venezuelan-style arepas, empanadas, and fruit drinks. In fact, the reverse is anticipated. Once our neighbors to the West discover how ruthlessly good these arepas are, the mass exodus to the East, for sweetly-stuffed arepas, will begin.
Inside the pleasant window-walled room painted in turquoise and green there’s a long counter with stools flanking an open kitchen and a smattering of small black tables. Leonardo Molina, from "the second Miami," Margarita island off the Northern coast of Venezuela, is the owner and is apologetic — "we are still waiting on some things… A.C., liquor license, but little by little…" he trails off.
Arepas, like toasted English muffins made of corn, are crackly crisp on the exterior giving way to almost cream-of-wheat-like insides, stuffed with savories like mild guayanés cheese, avocado, and a seafood mix of clams, squid, and shrimp in a steamy tomato sauce. They are best paired with a papelón, a tart beverage made of molasses and lemon, like renegade lemonade that tastes of dark caramel.
The arepas come with a roster of three sauces: tartly herbaceous green guasacaca made with avocados; a moderately spicy picante nulo; and the house favorite, a traditional Venezuelan salsa rosada, a savory mix of ketchup, mayonnaise, and a little mustard. The arepas are solid unadorned, but the salsas are so enticing that most customers clutch an arepa in one hand and a pink bottle in the other, squirting on to no abandon.
Pabellón, an arepa with sweet shredded beef, white salty cheese, caramelized plantains, and black beans is a home-run of flavors. Reina pepiada is chicken salad creamed up with avocado; in the pernil, roasted pork, juicy and nuanced with spice, spills from the center. Empanadas are huge and fresh, filled with shredded cazon (shark), Venezuelan cheese, or shredded beef. There are larger plates too — hulking portions of the same meaty arepas fillings and an asopado de mariscos, a seafood soup mixed with rice.
Forgo the too-sweet marquesa de chocolate dessert for a cocado, an incredible mix of coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, with a nutty, almost chocolaty flavor from the shredded of coconut that they toast, and then blend it all with ice into a creamy froth. Molina imported his mom, Carmen Cabello, from Venezuela three months ago to run the kitchen, because, he says, "what’s better than mom’s cooking?"