Griddle me this: Venezuelan arepas come to Charlottesville

Photo: Tom McGovern Photo: Tom McGovern

Looking for a quick, tasty meal? Here’s an option that might not be on your radar—arepas from the Latin grocery La Guadalupana. What’s an arepa, you ask? It’s somewhere between a sandwich and a taco, it’s a staple of Venezuelan cooking and it’s delicious.

The Carlton Road business has been around for almost two decades, but new owners Johan Torres and Fernando Salazar, both from Venezuela, and Ygnacio Velasquez, who’s from Mexico, decided to add arepas to the Mexican standards their menu already offered. “Charlottesville people love gourmet food,” says Torres, who wanted to expand his clientele. A savory, affordable lunch seems like a great way to do it.

An arepa starts with a cornmeal cake that gets fried on the griddle before opening to receive any of a number of fillings. Torres and his partners put some standards on the menu—like the Pelúa Arepa, which is the arepa version of a cheeseburger, with shredded beef and cheddar—as well as some new inventions of their own. (Torres’ wife Veronica, who grew up in Argentina, influenced the La Sureña option with its chimichurri sauce on grilled steak.)

Chicken-lovers will go for the California Girl (with avocado, cheese and bacon) and Reina Pepiada (chicken salad with avocado), and vegetarians have yummy options too, like black beans with queso fresco and avocado.

The Pabellón will connect you to the culture of Venezuela, where one might often be served a plate of shredded beef, queso fresco, fried egg, beans and sweet plantains—here all those ingredients get combined inside an arepa, with the corn cake bringing its own sweet flavor to the mix. Did we mention those crispy corn cakes? Delicioso.