I know many of you would agree, there’s nothing better than some of Mom’s home cookin’! Matter of fact, I bet you can still remember the aromas and unforgettable smells that would fill up your house when you were a kid. I don’t know what it is but there’s just something about her cooking that would make you forget about the negatives in life. Recently, I had lunch at a local Mom n’ Pop joint. The moment I stepped through their doors I was immediately hit with nostalgia.
La Arepa, located on 547 Smithfield Ave. in Pawtucket, describes their menu as “typical Venezuelan food“. But trust me, it’s far from the ordinary. The amount of time and effort they put into their food is unparalleled compared to some of the best restaurants in Rhode Island.
The holy grail of combination platters, the Pabellon Criollo is my favorite dish at La Arepa. A heaping portion of shredded beef is supported by a cast of traditional Venezuelan fare. However the star of this movie isn’t the pile of tender beef which stewed in a bubbling bath for hours. No, the main attraction is the hot, chewy arepa.
What’s an arepa? Well, arepas are basically hollow corn cakes. You can cut them open and then begin to construct your version of a “pita pocket” or you can just eat em’ plain. Either way you can’t go wrong.
Personally, I go HARD in the paint with my arepas. Laugh at me if you want, but there’s a method to my madness. I start out by creating a shredded beef “base” at the bottom of the arepa. The remaining layers of my creation consist of black beans, avocado and cheese. Then comes spoonfuls of their signature pink and green sauces.
The owner was hesitant to spill the beans on what goes into these secret sauces. In my opinion it was evident the “green” sauce consisted of cilantro and green peppers but the “pink” sauce was a tough case to crack (ketchup and mayo maybe?!?!).
There are so many flavors and textures in this dish but for some reason they all play off each other. The soft, sweet taste of the plantains go perfectly with the salty, rich flavor of the stewed beef. And the combination of the freshly shredded cheese and rice results in a creamy bite every time.
My ONE complaint is their CASH ONLY policy. How hard is it to accept credit?!? I can’t be the only one who doesn’t carry cash right?!? Luckily there was a Bank of America down the street.
But that small blip in the radar had no impact on my meal at La Arepa. It’s one of the many hidden gems in the Ocean State. And all I can say is, I’m glad I found it.