For a taste of Venezuela without the trip, head to Doña Arepa in Greenacres. The restaurant is known for its authentic eats, boasting a menu that highlights the area's most traditional dishes, like cachapas (thick, sweet corn cakes) served alone or with queso de mano (a chewy South American-style farmers' cheese) to pabellon criollo (the national dish of Venezuela consisting of beans, rice, plantains, and a spicy shredded beef).
Of course, as the name suggests, this restaurant is best-known for its large selection of arepa sandwiches priced between $4.95 and $5.95.
Across much of Central America you'll find various incarnations of the arepa, griddle-fried corncakes with a crisp exterior and soft interior made with a special precooked corn flour known as masarepa. Today, there are literally dozens of styles, recipes, and uses for the arepa, be it breakfast-style cakes slathered with butter or stuffed with an egg, or lunchtime snacks layered with cheese.
Move from Colombia and into Venezuela, however, and you'll find a thicker, fluffier type of arepa, this one perfect for splitting open and stuffing with all manner of fillings like cheese, beans, chicharron, shrimp, or chicken. These arepas are like the baguettes of the Venezuela, the most popular of which is known to make the Reina Pepiada, a savory arepa sandwich made with lime-marinated chicken, fresh cilantro, and sliced avocado.
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At Doña Arepa you can find the Reina Pepiada as well as a staggering selection of "arepa especiales," what amounts to nearly two dozen sandwiches in all offering a bevy of flavorful ingredient pairings from shredded beef with guyanés (a soft, salty, white cow's milk cheese) to more exotic offerings like baby shark paired with sweet plantains.
Our favorite is the La Doña Arepa, a melding of roasted pork, cheese, sliced tomato, and avocado. Top it with one (or all) of three house sauces including creamy avocado, garlic-infused mayo, and spicy green salsa. Pair it with a Polar pilsner-style Venezuelan beer; it's one of the most affordable lunches out there.
Doña Arepa. 3090 Jog Rd., Greenacres; 561-328-8790; donaareparestaurant.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer 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 the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.