There isn't much you can't put a fast-casual spin on these days, from burritos and burgers to salads and pizza.
Now, the fast and easy concept is taking over another Latin favorite: the arepa. A new, one-of-a-kind eatery known as Amaize will open in Doral in November with a menu featuring customizable arepas and cachapas offering a variety of gourmet Latin- and American-inspired fillings.
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Arepas, grilled corn pockets most often stuffed with meats and cheese, are best-known in countries like Venezuela and Colombia, where they are eaten as on-the-go meals. While hand-ground cornmeal versions sound fancy, today arepas are often made using a precooked cornmeal -- such as P.A.N. -- making them readily available on nearly every street corner in Central and South America.
But in the U.S. (even in South Florida, where Latin culture abounds), finding an arepa eatery geared toward the American palate isn't always easy. Which is the idea behind Amaize, a restaurant that stands as the first fast-casual arepa concept in the U.S., according to concept President Luis Ginestra.
"Today's customers are hungry for new dining experiences," said Ginestra, who hails from Venezuela and first envisioned the Amaize concept three years ago.
The menu focuses on create-your-own arepas and cachapas -- thicker, sweeter pancake-style corn cakes -- but also offers soups, salads, and desserts. Traditional fillings include shredded beef, chicken, and pork. Or, go for classic American picks such as turkey, ham, tofu, and tuna salad. Then comes the cheese, a selection of Venezuelan queso de mano, guayanés, queso blanco, or Gouda ($7.48).
There is also a number of specialty arepas, like the Asado Negro, with caramelized roast beef; the Beauty Queen, with avocado and chicken salad; and a Portobello Tofu, with grilled portobello mushroom and tofu flavored with truffle oil ($7.48 to $8.48).
Amaize's 2,680-square-foot restaurant will offer seating for up to 75 guests and will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition, Amaize will sell fresh fruit juices known as agues frescos, specialty coffee, and a snack and kids' menu. A bar will have Latin American beer, wine, and sangria as well as complimentary toasted cancha (a popular Peruvian-style roasted corn kernel snack).
On Tuesday, November 11, as part of its grand opening celebration, Amaize will be giving out free, reusable coffee cups to the first 100 customers which entitles them to a year's worth of free coffee at the Doral restaurant (when they bring their coffee cup with them).
Amaize is located at 3887 NW 107th Ave. in Doral. The restaurant will be open Sunday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Monday through Wednesday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Thursday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Visit amaizeyou.com.
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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