COVID-19 has been rough for NuLu restaurants. The pandemic has taken at least partial blame for the loss of Harvest, Rye and most recently, Decca.
For the Martinez family’s Olé Restaurant Group, though, challenges create opportunities. They opened the Cuban restaurant La Bodeguita de Mima in July 2020, early in the pandemic, in the former headquarters of Creation Gardens at 725 E. Market St.
Señora Arepa came next, opening in the spring of 2021, serving Venezuelan street food in the smaller building behind Bodeguita at 721 E. Market St., once the home of Ghyslain on Market.
They made it a trifecta early this year, moving their popular Mexican eatery, Guaca Mole, from the eastern suburbs to the former home of Rye.
I’d like to try all three of these spots, and count on it, I’ll get there soon. For the fi rst look, though, they had me at “arepa.” I’ve loved this street-food delight since sampling them from Colombian street vendors along Roosevelt Avenue in New York City’s Queens borough.
So, what, you ask, is an arepa? It is a thick, crisp cornmeal cake that originated among indigenous tribes in the mountains of what now make up Venezuela, Colombia and Panama, long before Columbus and the colonizers came.
It’s still popular in those countries and beyond, but with a difference. In Colombia, they generally dress the corn cake with butter or cheese and call it a day. But Venezuela has made the arepa a culinary icon. They’ll slice into a steaming corn cake and stuff it with, well, just about anything: meats, ...Read more