Arepas, if you don't know, are the national sandwich of Venezuela -- small, chewy rounds of corn-flour dough that are sliced in half and filled with just about anything you want. Arepera is a simple counter operation with a cute little eating area with tile floor, peaked ceiling, and tall wooden booths facing big plate-glass windows that look out onto a charming courtyard, complete with gurgling fountain. Prices are definitely cheap: Arepas run from $4.50 to $5.50, the salad is $2.95, desserts are $2; the most expensive dish on the menu -- a platter of shredded beef, black beans, rice, plantains, and cheese -- is eight bucks. The all-in-one arepa comes with shredded beef (a bit dry, but plentiful), black beans, rounds of fried plantain, and some mozzarella-like shredded cheese. On its own it's rather bland, but add either of two pungent sauces -- tangy cilantro or modestly incendiary chili -- and it really comes to life. Another arepa sports fat chunks of tender marinated and grilled chicken with caramelized onions and a slathering of that chili sauce. It should be noted that the arepas are rather small, though, so if you've got much of an appetite you can probably snarf up one-and-a-half or two.
-- Bill Citara