There’s a tasty outpost of Venezuela in south Charlotte just off Woodlawn Road. And you can ride the LYNX light rail to get there. Just exit the train at the Woodlawn stop and walk east across Old Pineville Road to the big welcoming windows of Arepas Grill.
Eunice Marcano came from her native Caracas, Venezuela, two years ago. She’d been a TV production designer, “but I love to cook,” she says with a smile. “The women of our family loved the kitchen. I’d learned to make arepas with my grandmother.”
The arepa is a signature Venezuelan food. A thick cornmeal pancake, big enough to fit in your hand, is stuffed with a variety of hearty fillings.
Marcano bought the existing Antojitos Mi Colombia bakery and experimented with adding arepas. In September she renovated adjacent space as Arepas Grill, “to show and sell just like in Venezuela.”
The big signboard offers 16 fillings clearly described in English, ranging from Queso Guayanes (“Venezuelan traditional creamy cheese”) to Codorniz (“boiled quail’s eggs with pink sauce”).
Start with Pelúa, Eunice suggests. Venezuelans love this shredded beef in a sauce that will remind Americans of barbecue. Another back-home favorite is Reina Pepiada, a chicken salad with avocado and cilantro. For dessert, there’s sweet and moist tres leches cake or flan, the ubiquitous Latin American pudding.
Or you can slip next door to Antojitos Mi Colombia, where Marcano still spends part of her time. Order a puff pastry with a filling of apple, guava, cream cheese or – the Colombian favorite – caramel.