Think of it as a “healthy” Chipotle for Venezuelan arepas.
A new fast-casual eatery offering customers the option of customizing their own stuffed corn cakes will open in midtown Manhattan this September. Areppas will “us[e] first rate ingredients and modernized preparation techniques to ensure that the cuisine is as nutritious as it is sumptuous,” according to a news release.
Executive chef Gabiela Machado — a native Venezuelan who made a name for herself in Miami — is using all-organic ingredients and baking her pre-cooked white cornmeal patties in a convection oven, rather than frying them on a grill, general manager Ivo Diaz told amNewYork.
Preparing the traditional Venezuelan breakfast, lunch and snack food that way makes them fluffier and less oily, said Diaz, a restaurant industry veteran who ran his own arepa restaurant for a few years in Queens.
“Usually when you cook an arepa, you make it on the grill,” Diaz said. “When you do it in the oven, it’s like a piece of bread — it kind of inflates a little bit…The first time I used [the oven], it made magic.”
Areppas will serve the 4.5-inch-across corn discs in three colorful flavors in addition to the original white, or “blanca”: a blended beet-flavored “roja”; a carrot juice-infused yellow or “sol”; and a “verde,” flavored with cliantro, parsley and lime zest.
Customers will have the option of either ordering one of six signature dishes with geographical names — the Morningside, for example, is a roja arepa sliced and stuffed like a hamburger bun with egg, ham, and Guyanese cheese; the Brooklyn is a verde arepa stuffed with avocado, radish and jalapeño — or customizing their own, Diaz explained. Signature dishes range in price from $7.75 to $8.75. An arepa of one’s choice, $5.25 and up, will come with any kind of protein from beef short ribs to chicken salad; toppings like avocado, ham and black beans; cheeses such as buffalo mozzarella or Mexican cotija; and one of three sauces.
Sides ($5 to $7) will include carrot slaw, sweet plantains and tequeños, decidedly unhealthy Venezuelan cheese sticks. For dessert, there will be cheesecake; marquesa de chocolate, a cold Venezuelan chocolate cake; and coquito, a coconut eggnog-type beverage. And to drink, expect agua frescas ($4.50) in flavors like watermelon mint and apricot thyme.
According to Diaz, Areppas will seat 17 at six tables and a high countertop for solo diners. The interior will reflect the eatery’s sustainable ethos, with white walls and scattered plants.
The company, which is planning to expand to two or three more locations next year, is also pursuing a humanitarian mission: It will donate one meal to Venezuelan children in need for every arepa sold, a news release said.
”We’re trying to improve something in our country, we’re trying to help out,” said Diaz, who was born in Venezuela and still has extended family in Maracaibo.
And yes, Areppas is intentionally spelled with two ps, he confirmed: “For American people, it’s easier to pronounce arepas with two p’s. We did a little bit of research on that, so that mistake was done on purpose.”
Areppas is slated to open at 954 Third Ave. at the end of September, with 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as its tentative hours.