Already known to be one of the hippest areas in Toronto, Queen Street West witnessed the arrival of Arepa Cafe to the strip last year. Bringing a true Latin flavour and "Venezuelan urbanity" into the mix, Arepa quickly made its presence felt.
What exactly is "Venezuelan urbanity"? I'm told by the Manager that Caracas is famous for all night eateries. 'Areperias, as they're called are restaurants that serve arepas around the clock. Caracas is filled with them and the idea was to bring a ta
ste of this bustling South American capital closer to home.
What is an arepa? It's a sandwich with a panini twist; hand-crafted Venezuelan-style cornmeal bread, made fresh to order, grilled and filled with anything your heart desires, be it chicken, beef tenderloin or even cod fish.
With light jazz playing in the background, lights dimmed and conversation flowing from every which way, Arepa Cafe has a casual, come-as-you-are atmosphere; elements of a perfect food joint. With a great first impression, my guest and I hoped our meal would follow through as well.
We start with Raw Brown Sugar Cane Lemonade ($3). Tangy, sweet and refreshing with a bit of a kick, it screams instant classic. Starving and not knowing exactly the size of the dishes, I decide to order a few arepas.
If you like plenty of meat in your sandwich, your best bet is the Carne Mechada ($7). Loaded with a generous amount of shredded flank steak, topped nicely with tomato and seasoned beautifully with garlic pepper and cumin, it's easily enough for one sitting. But on this occasion, I decide to order more.
La Llanera ($9) features beef tenderloin, avocado, fresco cheese and tomato. Although the beef tenderloin is extremely succulent and perfectly done, it's buried beneath an overflowing and unevenly distributed amount of cheese which unfortunately took away from the art of enjoying each flavour simultaneously.
The Reina Pepiada, aka, "The Curvy Queen" ($7.50), is filled with a winning combination of chicken, avocado, red onion and coriander. With each flavour getting a chance to impress, it's delicate yet delicious.
Venezuelan urbanity on Queen Street West: It's a natural fit.
Price: Affordable! Dinner for 2 with tax and tip: $35-$45
Wheelchair Access: Yes
Surprise, Surprise: Arepas are gluten-free and handcrafted. The Cafe is also part-supermarket; Imported Venezuelan cornmeal is available for purchase.