Arepa Café

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

One of the best things about living in the world's most multicultural city is all the delicious and diverse food options. No matter what type of cuisine you're in the mood for, you can find it here in Toronto.  Apps such as Yelp and Zomato make the hunt for Indian or Mexican a bit easier by allowing users to read honest reviews of the restaurant, browse through pictures, and check out star ratings.  For me, I'm a fan of reasonably priced restaurants that serve a satisfying portion size because nothing bugs me more than a $22 'entree' that is the size of my palm.

One place that doesn’t skimp on portion size, ingredients or authenticity is Arepa Café located at 490 Queen Street W. This incredibly welcoming restaurant prizes itself in being Toronto’s first Urban Arepera.  Now before I continue, I guess I should fill you in as to what an arepa is.  An arepa is a handcrafted cornmeal sandwich originating from South America, specifically Venezuela and Columbia.  The arepa is known as the ‘queen dish’ among street food and you can often find them being sold at any time of the day, even at 2 am when you’re stumbling out from a local bar.

Tequenos - Cheese Pastry Rolls

Arepa Café was introduced to Toronto in 2009, bringing the traditional arepa of Venezuela to our diverse city.  Some of the areaps at the café are exactly what you might find in Venezuela but they’ve also created options more modern to Canadian tastes.  Chef Rafael Badell of Arepa Café has been cooking in the kitchen since 2016, creating mouth-watering arepa's that showcase the true flavours of South America. With filling such as black beans, plantain, shredded flank steak, avocado, queso fresco, and more, you’re bound to find an arepa suited to exactly what you’re in the mood for.  Wash it all down with a pint of craft beer, wine, cocktail, fresh fruit juices, or sugarcane lemonade.

To me, the arepa is an ideal option for lunch or dinner.  It’s filling, gluten-free, customizable and damn tasty!!  I absolutely love the crisp texture of the bread which uses traditional cornmeal called Pan.  It is made into a dough, stretched into a round disc and then roasted on the griddle.  The arepa is then stuffed with a variety of different ingredients, leaving you with a huge messy sandwich that ends up all over your face and hands, but the mess is worth it.

La Pelua - Shredded Flank Steak & Cheddar Cheese

If your stomach can handle more food after demolishing an arepa, then be sure to feast on one of the South American desserts.  I had no room for food after my meal, but I couldn’t leave without trying their homemade alfajors.  These almond cookies filled with dulce du leche are irresistible and you’ll have no troubles fitting in this sweet ending.  Next time I plan to try the Tres Leche Cake which is a sponge cake made with evaporated, condensed and whole milks.

If you stop by Arepa Cafe be sure to post your meal on social media and tag the cafe at @arepacafe !

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