Arepas, the cornmeal cakes iconic to Venezuelan cuisine, have become a part of Miami's culinary fabric since Venezuelans began fleeing the political and economic instability of their country and made the Magic City their home.
Grilled, baked, or fried and then split open like baby pita rounds and stuffed with practically whatever befits one's taste and imagination, arepas have grown in popularity in South Florida.
Here's a rundown of where to get the tastiest ones in town.
1. Doggi's Arepa Bar. To get customers in the mood, the bright, colorful space boasts a wall covered with hashtags of Venezuelan slang (#pana, #chevere, and #chevere) as well as favorite foods: #tequeño, #tajadas, and #pabellon. Variety abounds at Doggi's. Favorites include the Santa Barbara ($11.99), marinated steak with thick avocado wedges, tomato slices, and shredded white cheese; and chicharrón y queso ($10.99), fried pork belly and shredded Gouda cheese. Vegetarian options include the arepa domino ($9.50), filled with refried black beans and white cheese; arepa criollo ($9.99), with fried plantain, organic white cheese (queso de mano), and avocado; and the arepa paleo, stuffed with grilled veggies ($8.99). Three locations make getting an arepa fix a breeze. 7281 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 786-558-9538; 1246 Coral Way, Miami, 305-854-6869; and 260 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne, 786-485-4356, eatdoggis.com.
2. Samán Arepas. The origin of Samán Arepas goes back to 1977, when arepas were sold from a kiosk in the Venezuelan city of Maracay. Today, lovers of Samán's grilled cornmeal cakes can find them in Doral. Opt for the arepas bistro ($8.39), which allows diners to mix and match up to four toppings such as fresh white Guyanese cheese, quail eggs, plantains, and chilled octopus salad. 4709 NW 79th Ave., Doral; 786-391-1297; samanarepas.com.
3. Cardon y el Tirano. The smorgasbord of flavors, ranging from ceviche to tacos al pastor to Brussels sprouts, reflects the cuisines of Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, and the Caribbean. Start with chef Francisco Anton's arepitas with avocado mousse, Guyanese cheese, and ancho chili sauce crowned with additional cheese ($3), shredded beef ($4), chicken ($3.50), pork ($3.5), or cazón — shark stew ($4). 3411 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-392-1257; cardonyeltirano.com.
4. Obra Kitchen Table. Venezuelan-born chef Carlos Garcia trained in topnotch spots such as El Bulli and Mugaritz before opening Alto in Caracas, named one of Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants from 2013 to 2016. The ongoing strife in Venezuela lured him to Miami, where he spearheads this bright and casual Brickell spot centered on an open kitchen. Garcia says his American outpost specializes in "Latin American cuisine with international influences," which, luckily, includes his hometown staple of arepas. Order the duo arepa starter ($12) with vuelve a la vida ("return to life" — a ceviche-like seafood salad eaten at beachside shacks back home) and reina pepia (chicken salad with avocado slices). For the main course, there's grouper confit with pil pil (fish sauce emulsion) and a fried arepa ($32). 1331 Brickell Bay Dr., Miami; 305-846-9363; obramiami.com/en.
5. Empanada Harry's Bakery & Cafe. Although this bustling bakery has a hearty focus on empanadas from all of Latin America, Harry, a Miami-born Venezuelan, serves arepas as well. A sure bet is the Dirty Harry ($5.99), containing shredded beef, fried plantains, Guyanese cheese, queso llanero, garlic mayo, and guasacaca (avocado-cilantro sauce). 4009 SW 152nd Ave., Miami; 786-313-3888; empanadaharrys.com.
6. Arepa Bar. Catering to the throngs of tourists taking selfies in front of Miami's popular graffiti walls, this Wynwood eatery offers crowd-pleasing burgers and arepas. Opt for the classic reina pepiada ($8.25) or the meat lover's arepa ($11.50). 169 NW 36th St., Miami; 305-781-5143; instagram.com/arepabar.
7. La Latina. This homey spot just east of the Shops at Midtown Miami offers an extensive arepa selection divided by dining preference: meat lover, chicken lover, pork, vegetarian, and vegan. Prices range from $5.50 to $6.50 and include fun names ranging from the Rumbera (pork and cheese, $5.95) to the Latina (bacon, avocado, and cheese, $6.50) and the Perico (scrambled eggs with veggies, $5.50). 3509 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-571-9655; lalatinamiami.com.
8. Mondu. Almost every Venezuelan grew up munching at a Loncheria Monyca, known to have among the top arepas around. Luckily for Miamians, the family that owned the iconic eatery brought its culinary expertise north when it opened Mondu in Doral. Pricing is easy: For $6.99, choose an arepa with one filling, and for $7.99, create your own with up to four ingredients. 236 NE First Ave., Miami; 305-603-8009; mondumiami.com.
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9. Don Criollito. Open since 1998 in Venezuela and 2001 in West Kendall, Don Criollito is a mecca of Venezuelan home cooking such as ham cachitos, corn cachapas, empanadas, and enormous steak and egg breakfasts. Don Criollito also boasts arepas stuffed with your choice of more than 40 fillings, such as asado negro, Venezuelan bottom round roast ($6.99); arepa pelúa, shredded beef with yellow cheese ($7.99); and pata pata, with yellow cheese, black beans, and avocado ($8.99). 12039 SW 132nd Ct., Unit 1, Miami; 305-235-5779; doncriollito.com.
10. Amaize. With multiple locations, this arepa concept emphasizes the fast-casual likability of its popular cornmeal cakes. Guests are invited to customize their arepas ($6.49) by choosing the fillings. In addition to selecting from traditional favorites (cheese, shredded beef, and black beans), diners can also opt to make their meal a combo, which comes with soup, salad, and baked plantains or black beans. Try the Caprese Latina combo ($8.69), with guasacaca, spinach, Guyanese cheese, and tomato, or the portobello-tofu combo ($7.49), filled with grilled portobello mushrooms and tofu with truffle olive oil. Various locations.