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Date Aqui Pana

Native to Venezuela and Colombia, the arepa is a corn pone split in half and then stuffed with goodness, resulting in a stomach-expanding cornmeal sandwich. At this small Venezuelan deli, which might appear as just another Latin-American snack shop complete with tradional favorites listed on a chalkboard, every variety of arepa is available, each less than $5. There's the basic cheese-and-butter filling with traditional Venezuelan queso de año -- a salty cheese that's white and crumbly. There's the arepa de perico, full of eggs scrambled with peppers and tomatoes. The reina pepeada has a filling of chicken salad mixed with potatoes, carrots, and avocado. And the best is the arepa de carne mechada, where the corn cake is stuffed with a juicy beef that has been stewed with tomatoes and onions -- not unlike ropa vieja. All are served greasy and hot with a plastic bottle of garlic mayonnaise to squirt on top.

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