Toast your panini bread all you want; there are days that only a crisp arepa will do. I remember traveling to New York City from Vermont just to try them in the early aughts. Now they’re a bit easier to find, but in our region, it might still require some gas miles. That is, unless you live in the Woodbridge area. Locals there have been blessed with Arepas Capitol, a Venezuelan restaurant that’s currently serving takeout to diners hungry for some Latin comfort.
There are more substantial meals like paella and parillas filled with steak and seafood, but the arepas are in the name for a reason. It indicates that this is a casual restaurant with quick eats like empanadas, cachapas (a corn-based arepa alternative) and Venezuelan hot dogs overflowing with toppings. But I was there for an arepa. One in particular, my favorite pabellón.
Less than 10 minutes after I ordered my arepa, the hot corn cake was in my hands. Why is the arepa pabellón my go-to? It’s a full meal in a sandwich. It starts with tender strands of juicy braised beef. At Arepas Capitol, it’s just salty enough to give flavor to the starchy black beans. Powdery crumbled cotija cheese slowly melts with the beef, creating a new texture as you enjoy. But perhaps my favorite part of an arepa pabellón is the sweet plantains that jostle my palate awake amid the surge of savory flavors.
Though it’s not exactly compact, I was able to eat the arepa in the car with relatively little incident. But I’m already craving another one. I learned my lesson. Next time I head to Arepas Capitol, I’ll buy an extra one for the next day. // 14091 Noblewood Plaza, Woodbridge
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