On my next vegetarian foodie adventure, I searched Montreal for a Latinx restaurant. My friends and I found Arepera when scouting where to eat dinner. My experience with Latinx food has never gone past Mexican, Brazilian or Salvadorian which are, more often than not, very meat-based cuisines.
Arepera is a Venezuelan restaurant in Montreal’s Plateau located on the pedestrian walkway Prince Arthur St. E. The restaurant is much larger than it looks, with bright yellow walls, similar to that in the Venezuelan flag. They also have old church benches in the waiting area, which I found was a really fun touch to the traditional look of the place.
The restaurant specializes in arepas, a Venezuelan-Colombian cornmeal bread stuffed with a variety of ingredients that forms a sort of sandwich. The arepa has a rich history dating back centuries. According to an article on Amaizeyou.com, the cornbread was a staple in diets across many Indigenous tribes in Latin America, which are now distinguished as Venezuela and Colombia. According to the article, arepa got its name from the Latin-Indigenous word for corn, erepa.
Arepera is not labelled as a vegetarian restaurant but it has a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options featured on its lengthy menu, with options varying from $8 to $16 per arepa/plate. The menu is also 100 per cent gluten-free — since arepas are made from cornmeal, there’s no risk of contamination.
I chose a serving of fried plantains as a starter and a mango juice to drink. I always teeter towards water instead of juices or soft drinks, but their juice flavours piqued my curiosity and I could not resist mango. My friend opted for a guava juice which was just as delightful.
The plantains were delicious and hot, and came with a cup of grated cheese instead of a dip, which I found interesting. From my Caribbean restaurant experience (plantains are common in Caribbean dishes), I’m used to having dipping sauce with the dish. At Arepera, the grated cheese stuck to the plantain and they actually ended up tasting incredible together. The plantains were so sweet and ripe that I found a dipping sauce unnecessary.
I had the queso y aguacate vegetarian arepa, which included cheese and avocado as the main stuffing ingredients. I had never had arepas before, nor have I ever had thick grilled cornbread, but it tasted incredible. I loved the texture and, because of the lack of wheat, the bread tasted light and I didn’t feel bloated afterwards. The dish also came with a small salad which I could not even get to because I was so full after the last bite of my arepa. My friends had the pabellón arepa (beef, black beans, plantains and feta cheese) and the llanera de pollo arepa (chicken, feta cheese and avocado). Both said they enjoyed every bite.
The restaurant was big, the staff was friendly and the food was incredible. I have no complaints aside from the fact that I would’ve liked for the arepa to have a choice of sauces to make it a little bit more flavourful when choosing a vegetarian option at least.
As a whole, I would rate Arepera:
4.5/5 for the food,
4.5/5 for the price,
4/5 for the service,
3/5 for the ambiance.
I would definitely recommend it to everybody. I believe this place would be more popular if the aesthetic, design and overall ambiance was more current and Instagram-worthy (I personally like the more traditional look they have going on, though).
This piece was written with the current Venezuelan Crisis in mind. Though western countries get to indulge in traditional Venezuelan dishes, residents of Venezuela are still going days without food in their stomachs.
Graphic by @sundaeghost