Arepas, thick corn pockets stuffed with a combination of meat, cheese, and beans, are as ubiquitous in Venezuela as burgers are here in the United States. Every restaurant has a version, and locals snack on them several times a week. These “sandwiches” are typically made with corn flour, griddled to a crispy golden-brown, and then split pita-style and packed with a variety of savory fillings. Want to make Venezuela’s daily bread (bonus: arepas are almost always gluten-free) part of your routine? Check out these top spots around town.
Quiero Arepas was born out of Venezuelan-born Igor Panasewicz’s desire to re-create the flavors he ate back home. What began as one of Denver’s most popular food trucks now has a spot in Avanti Food & Beverage, which means you no longer have to chase down the truck when the craving hits. Order this: Because Panasewicz uses many ingredients from local purveyors, the menu changes regularly, but the classic Pabellon (shredded beef, beans, and plantains) is a staple. Whatever you order, ask for guasacaca sauce—think a tangier, smoother, cilantro-rich guacamole. 3200 Pecos St., 720-269-4778, quieroarepas.com
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Will Call looks more like the kind of place where you’d find overpriced hipster food and fancy cocktails (you can find those, too) than simple Venezuelan street food, but looks can be deceiving. Located in RiNo’s Industry development, the space is very, well, industrial, but the menu is decidedly warm, and stocked with American and Venezuelan comfort foods. Order this: The Toastdor, brimming with ginger-black bean paste, a slice of sweet plantain, queso fresco, and juicy pork. 3043 Brighton Blvd., 720-484-6428, willcalldenver.com
Empanada Express Grill is where my arepas addiction took root. Every option I’ve tried at this bare-bones eatery—least 17 different flavor combinations—has been memorable. Every hefty corncake sandwich has the ideal starch-to-filling ratio, and at about $5 a pop, the flavor-to-dollar ratio is pretty great, too. Order this: The Sweet Domino, with black beans and sweet plantains, is so hearty you won’t miss the meat. 4301 W. 44th Ave., 303-955-8362, theempanadaexpress.com