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I’ve walked by Arepa Café on Queen street many times and always thought it was a regular coffee shop. Little did I know, arepas are actually corn meal bread sandwiches which are popular in Venezuela. After watching an episode of Eat Street one morning which featured arepas, I was sold and dragged Mike over to Arepa Cafe.

Reina Pepiada (the Curvy Queen)

The restaurant is a casual café with sit-down service. Shortly after being seated, the server brought us menus which featured many different arepas with a variety of fillings. The café also has an assortment of tasty-looking desserts in the glass display case by the cashier. Unfortunately, we were too full after our meal to try any of them. Don’t let the size of the arepas fool you. Sure, they don’t look very big, but they’re quite filling.

I decided to go with the Reina Pepiada (the Curvy Queen) – roasted chicken, avocado, red onion, coriander ($9). The grilled corn meal bread was quite dense and flat with a crispy exterior. Since the sandwich was bursting with the chicken and avocado filling, it was incredibly messy to eat. In hindsight, I probably should have asked for a fork.

Reina Pepiada (the Curvy Queen)

The roasted chicken was moist and tender and there was a ridiculous amount of avocado in the sandwich (but I love avocado, so I’m not complaining). However, I felt the avocado and chicken could have used a touch more seasoning and I really couldn’t taste the red onion at all which would have added a nice bit of crunch and flavour. So, I thought this arepa was decent, but nothing special. I think I’d try something else next time.

Mike went with the Adobo Roasted Pork – annatto, caramelized onions ($8.50). We were surprised when this arrived since we were expecting something more along the lines of pulled pork as opposed to two thick slabs of roasted pork.

Adobo Roasted Pork Arepa

We found that the pork wasn’t very tender as it was a little on the chewy side. Flavour-wise, I thought it tasted fine but my favourite part was the caramelized onions which really gave the arepa a much-needed oomph. My feelings about Mike’s arepa was similar to mine. Good, but not spectacular.

When you order arepas, they provide you with three bottles of sauce. The first one we tried was the mild green pepper sauce which wasn’t spicy at all. It had a very strong green pepper flavour and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. My only complaint would be that it was too watery and sort of just slid off my arepa.

The next sauce I tried was the garlic mayo, one of my favourite condiments! Arepa Café’s version was no exception. Be warned though – this one has a strong garlic flavour, so you might be tasting garlic for hours after your meal here.

Adobo Roasted Pork Arepa

The third sauce was a scotch bonnet pepper sauce. The server warned us that it was incredibly spicy. I took note of his warning and decided against trying it since I don’t have a high spice tolerance. However, Mike decided to give it a try. I saw him take a tiny drop onto his fork and his eyes just widened alarmingly. He downed a glass of water and informed me it was ridiculously spicy. Just from a little droplet of sauce too! After watching him try it, there was no way I’d subject myself to that kind of torture.

While I enjoyed the green pepper sauce and garlic mayo, I wished there was a hot sauce with a medium spice level. I like a little bit of a kick in my food but the only options were no spice or ridiculously spicy.

Garlic mayo, scotch bonnet pepper sauce and a green pepper sauce

Overall, I have to say I felt just a little let down by Arepa Café. Although nothing was bad, I didn’t find our arepas to be particularly memorable. Given how popular the café was during our late lunch, maybe we had just ordered the wrong things. I’m definitely willing to give it another try though as they had some other enticing arepa options.

At a glance:
• Arepas = corn meal bread sandwiches with a variety of fillings
• Located on Queen Street between Spadina and Bathurst
• Casual café with sit-down service

Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 3 stars
• Service: 3 stars
• Atmosphere: 4 stars

Arepa Cafe on Urbanspoon

  1. Precilla (Reply) on Wednesday 30, 2011

    The first time I went, I also had the Reina Pepiada and I felt the same way as you did- thought it needed more seasoning. However, my subsequent experiences with other arepas have been much better, and I absolutely love their desserts, so it’s too bad you didn’t get to try any. And I agree that the hot sauce is really really hot… I was in tears by the end of my arepa (but I put in a generous squeeze, and not just a drop)!

    • Jess (Reply) on Wednesday 30, 2011

      Even though I didn’t love what we ordered, I’m still interested in trying some of their other offerings! Some of the other arepas sounded really good.. and the desserts looked great too! A generous squeeze of hot sauce? Brave girl! I wimped out.. haha

  2. Teena in Toronto (Reply) on Wednesday 30, 2011

    I’ve probably walked by it a hundred times but have never noticed it.

    • Jess (Reply) on Wednesday 30, 2011

      I’ve noticed it many times but always thought it was just a coffee shop!