Wednesday, November 9, 2011

BlogTO Article: Where to Get Arepas in Toronto

My article published by BlogTO can be read here.  However I thought I would share the original version....with more pics, without all the additions (that I wasn't too impressed with) and including a couple paragraphs that were cut.  Specifically, one unfortunate areperia that I included in my report.

As noted in the published post, the "Arepa Market" in Kensington appears to have shut down operation, however fresh stuffed arepas are still available at the same location, under the El Gordo name.


Cheers!


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My love affair with South American cuisine started many years ago while travelling throughout southern California. Taco trucks abound, I was inspired by fresh ingredients and the joyful spirit of the working class Latinos. Upon my return home I began experimenting with different forms of corn flour and soon became obsessed with making the perfect corn tortilla. Throughout my research I stumbled upon a recipe for arepas, and it was not long until I left the tortilla press behind for these handmade corn cakes.

The best arepas in Toronto are as diverse a group as the many cultural populations that make up this beautiful city. The arepa, a national dish of both Venezuela and Colombia is commonly sold in restaurants called areper√≠as. They can be eaten as a side dish, used as a base for other ingredients or as it is more typically recognized; the “arepa rellena” is opened (like a pita) and can be stuffed with everything from chicken and avocado to cheese, pork, egg and vegetables. There is even a sweeter dessert-type arepa sold at a couple spots around town!

Here are Toronto's arepa options;

El Arriero


This quaint Colombian restaurant at the south end of Jane St. was a very pleasant surprise. The walls are adorned with traditional artwork and crafts, and the picnic table style seating is cozy and inviting. Here the arepas are listed as “appetizers” and range from $4 - $10, however one could argue that items such as the larger meat stuffed Arepa con Carne is a meal in itself. I enjoyed an order of Chicharon Con Arepa and a bottle of Colombiana soda. Looking forward to return for a full meal in the near future

Rica Arepa


Rica Arepa located on Eglinton West (at Dufferin) offers take out and catering, along with dining in. Their atmosphere is akin to a fast food joint, as opposed to a traditional dining room. The Arepa Rellenas go for $5, while the Arepa Zuiliana are $8. I tried an arepa stuffed with chorizo, chicken and avocado and was not disappointed. This family run business appears to be relatively unknown and there is little to no information available online. However, I think with a little boost in advertizing they have the potential to be a well recognized (and appreciated) lunch stop. 

Colombus Bakery 

Colombus Bakery is quickly becoming known as a great spot to grab fresh baked traditional pastries, as well as other South American delicacies. When I visited at mid-afternoon, their seating area was full with dining customers, while several others waited in line at the counter. Arepas here are mainly offered as a side dish to their prepared foods, but what I really came for was the dessert like“arepa de chocolo” for $2 that is made with sweet corn and farmers white cheese. If you order this golden fried arepa ,you can expect intense corn flavour, with whole smashed kernels making up this sweet treat.

Arepa Caf√© 
Possibly the most well known areperia in Toronto, Arepa Cafe has been thriving in the ever trendy area of Queen West since 2009. As it was for myself, Arepa Cafe is often a Torontonian's first introduction to this versatile little corncake. Their arepa menu is comprised solely of the stuffed version of this dish and there is an impressive 21 options! Expect prices to be a little higher than other arepas in town, however they all remain under $10. 

Arepiando 

Located almost across the street from the Colombus Bakery on Dufferin, Arepiando offers a several original variations (such as “Hawaiian'...ham and pineapple) along side the traditional arepas. Their logo is bright and noticeable and the motto of “Colombia is our passion” is fitting for this popular fast food restaurant. In addition to their menu, Arepiando conveniently sells frozen Arepas made on site for you to enjoy at home. Prices vary from $2 for the Arepa Con Queso (cheese only) to $7 for the “Arepiando Arepa” which is stuffed with virtually everything on their menu and topped off with a hard boiled quail egg. 

Arepa Market 
Kensington's only arepa stop, the Arepa Market is tucked away in the back area of El Gordo Fine Foods. Their menu is simple and the prices are reasonable; $3 for plain cheese and $5 for the stuffed version. Nothing fancy here, just good old fashioned arepas and relatively small selection of fillings. With prepared take-away food options continuing to grow in Kensington, the Arepa Market is one of several traditional Latin American spots that cannot be skipped. 

Mi Tierra 

Mi Tierra is likely the largest authentic Colombian restaurant in the GTA. Located on St, Clair West, this traditional dining room offers a lengthy Latin American menu and with regular nightly entertainment. Here there are 2 arepa options; a $4 arepa served with your choice of topping (egg, avocado, bacon or Colombian sausage) or the $9 Arepa Con Carne or Con Pollo, which consisted of a large arepa topped with with a striploin steak or chicken, along with tomatoes and onions. Although the steak on my Con Carne came a little overdone, the meal and surroundings were second to none.

Sazon del Pacifico

I stumbled across this Colombian restaurant on my way to Arepiando on Dufferin. Inside, a television was blasting and the whole place overwhelmingly smelled of fish. Unfortunately the staff did little to acknowledge my presence, let alone offer me a seat, so I did not stay for a meal. Although I left unimpressed, I grabbed a menu on my way out and will likely to return in the future to sample their food. Everyone deserves a second chance.