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Inside the Arepa Factory: An Ode to Venezuelan Corn Cakes

Arepa+Factory+InteriorIt’s easy to look at the one-month-old Arepa Factory as a direct challenge to Caracas Arepa Bar, now that they’re positioned mere blocks away from each other in the food-blessed East Village.  But if multiple spots can peddle pizza in the same neighborhood, why should it be any different for arepas?  And while Caracas is very much a sit-down restaurant — with an extensive menu fleshed out with large plates, cocktails and sides — Arepa Factory is entirely devoted to the griddled and stuffed corn cakes, inspired by the casual areperas owner Monica Muzzo grew up with, in her native Venezuela.

Owing to that hyper-focus, the slim new spot expands beyond classic, maize-based IMG_3266pancakes, by turning out a number of (naturally gluten-free!) alternatives, including spinach, oatmeal and chia-flaxseed, all made daily, and filled to order.  Spearheaded by respected South American chef, Rafael I. De Garate, the kitchen whips up a number of wholly authentic sandwich choices to appeal to expats and staunch traditionalists; from the basic Planchado with butter and white grilled cheese, to the Pabellon with shredded beef, black beans and sweet plantains and a sprightly Ceviche, made with hunks of toothsome, lime-spritzed fish.

IMG_3145But an even larger variety of out-of-the-box options beckon adventurous eaters at this compelling newcomer.  Take the Capresa, which mimics Italian antipasti with tomato petals, mozzarella and a drizzle of rich pesto, the Inglesa; an ode to English fish and chips, brightened with watercress and slicked with tartara sauce, or the Zulia; a Middle Eastern-leaning selection, sporting tender clods of coconut-scented lamb.  And that’s just for starters!

Arepa Factory also plumbs Southeast Asia for inspiration, in the form of vibrant Thai curried shrimp, as well as Spain, embodied by chorizo and manchego cheese, before zipping back to America — currently represented by baby back ribs and smatterings of sharp shredded Arepascheddar.  There’s even a seasonal shout-out to Thanksgiving on the menu; think a creamy sweet potato pancake, wrapped around turkey, gravy, cranberries and crumbles of herb-flecked stuffing.

The East Village is already formidable when it comes to the wealth of fabulous gastronomic options of late, and now, it seems, its cup runneth over with Arepas.

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