Oscar Inciarte never meant to sell arepas. He attended Zulia University in his hometown of Maracaibo to become an agronomic engineer but moonlighted as a cook to help cover living expenses and sold arepas to boozed-up revelers looking for a steadying bite.
His specialty was the coriana, the kind of arepa named for the oldest city in western Venezuela: Coro. The area is well known for its thin, crunchy arepas made from freshly ground corn that's then fried.
"It's the kind of food people eat on the street in our part of the country," the bald, diminutive 64-year-old says while he piles carne asada, shredded cabbage, diced ham, and a house garlic sauce onto two chopped arepas.
It's the kind of food one would find on the three-hour drive from Coro southwest to Maracaibo, one of Venezuela's largest cities and long home to its now-shattered oil industry. But Inciarte is serving it at La Coriana, the restaurant his family owns and operates in a strip mall on NW 107th Avenue in Doral.
He wasn't done yet with that arepa. His cabimera variety is available with grilled beef ($9.99), shredded chicken ($9.49), or pork ($9.49) and arrives topped with a squiggle of ketchup, a flurry of Parmesan cheese, and a sliced hard-boiled egg.
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Thursdays, find a heart-attack-inducing tumbarrancho ($5). Two coro arepas hug a slice of mortadella, and then the whole thing is battered, deep-fried, split open, and loaded with a choice of ingredients.
The menu also lists a variety of Venezuelan favorites that were Miami staples long before the rest of America began to wise up to this delightful plantain- and corn-based diet. Patacones, which swap plantains for buns or arepas, can be filled with pork ($6.99), grilled beef ($7.99), or ham and cheese ($7.49). You can also find classics such as the reina pepiada ($6.99), which packs chicken-and-avocado salad into those house-made arepas.
"We called the restaurant 'La Coriana' because we're dedicated to these kinds of arepas, and they take a lot of work," Inciarte says. "The ones made with Harina P.A.N. are what you'll find in every Venezuelan place, but to us, these are something special."
La Coriana. 3655 NW 107th Ave., Doral; 305-592-6191; lacorianadoral.com.