Pepito's Plaza: Venezuelan Guilty Pleasures Await in a Doral Gas Station

Parrillada mixta ($9) with steak and chicken at Pepito's Plaza.
Parrillada mixta ($9) with steak and chicken at Pepito's Plaza.
Photo by Zachary Fagenson

Next to a cooler filled with Monster Energy and Red Bull, a group of police officers wolfs down burgers stacked with several meats covered with a dribble of egg yolk. Only a stack of Bud Light cases separates them from the cash register of this Doral Exxon, where people file in and out to buy gas and cigarettes.

See also: Honduran Baleadas: Three Great Places to Get Them

Pepito's Plaza is a Venezuelan grab-and-go spot just out of sight of 107th Avenue. If you were to pull in to fill up, you might never know it's there. A small walkway jutting off the main convenience store opens to a counter space where a screaming-red menu offers burgers, sweet corn cachapas, pepito sandwiches, and mixed grills -- all the meat you want, unencumbered by any sort of bun.

That colossus the cops were eating is the Doralzuela ($12), a tower of beef, chopped grilled chicken, and what looks like thick-sliced ham. A fried egg, an avocado crescent, and a smattering of potato sticks are piled on top for good measure.

Pepito's seems popular with both the lunch-on-the run crowd and workers from nearby office complexes. The majority of them gather on the small patio behind the convenience station where salsa blares and a gathering of umbrellas provides some respite from the afternoon sun. There are hedges almost high enough to make you forget you're eating in a strip-mall parking lot.

If you're here in work attire, however, skip the handheld meals. Pepito's tends to slap most of its six sauces onto nearly everything, and at least two men left lunch with long green streaks of guasacaca -- a Venezuelan guacamole made with heaps of garlic and vinegar in place of lime juice -- running down their ties.

Parrilladas especiales are the most sensible option. Imagine a salad that's more meat than lettuce. The mixta ($9) is a dome of grilled chicken cubes and ribbons of juicy flap steak. Be sure to load up on extra guasacaca and a creamy garlic sauce called ajo. If you go with a group, you might be enticed by the barbecue special ($19), which is far larger and also comes with disks of chorizo that ooze their fire-red oil into a mess of potato sticks.

Of course, if it's Friday and you recklessly pulled a few beers from one of the coolers, there are the notorious salchipapas, a mix of French fries and chopped-up smoked sausage that taste mostly like hot dogs. Sure, you're in Doral, and might not see anyone you know, but you'll want to eat this one in the car, with the windows rolled up, far from judging eyes.

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