Small Space, Big Taste in the EV

Although I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (in a shoe box of an apartment), one of my favorite foodie haunts is located in the East Village. The EV just has it goin' on...

Of course, I will try my best to be more diverse in my dining experiences for future postings, but for right now, I must tell you about last night's dinner... I'm still salivating, just thinking about it. And that's a good thing.

This best-loved EV place of mine is Caracas Arepa Bar at 93 1/2 E 7th Street. That's right, it's address is 93.5... and that's surely due to its tiny space.

But the big food that is served -and I mean in terms of flavor, not portions- is truly phenomenal. Space and location are not even considered in this critique -because I mean it: it doesn't MATTER. Caracas can get away with this tiny hole-in-the-wall locale due to its superior approach to food and their level of cleanliness. I'm telling you, don't pay attention to space or time and you'll have an even greater experience. (Unless you're a plus size diner, then, you may want to consider take out.... it's just squeezy with very little elbowroom for even those with skinny butts.)

Arepas are kind of a Venezuelan take on a pita -but made with cornmeal, grilled on each side and stuffed with many different types of fillings. The menu consists of arepas filled with shredded beef, black beans, chorizo, chicken and fried plantains -to avocado, tomato and cheese. There's many options to choose from and almost always has a special on its menu most nights for something a little edgy.

The yellow, tangy sauce is what really gives these little pockets most of its piquancy. There's some spice and a unique union of seasonings that complement the arepas -no matter which one you select on the menu.

Oh! And you'll want to select at least 2!

I'd also recommend the sugar cane drink that is called a Papelon con limon - OMFG! This really off-sets the spiciness of the arepas and simply works well with all of the different experiences your mouth will be privy to! Whatever you do, don't forget to end your meal with their Venezuelan-version of flan, Quesillo. Order this to GO if you have to - it has an aphrodisiac quality to it... I'll just leave the rest to your imaginations and continue.....

Caracas is very affordable (which is a big draw for anyone wanting to dine out, but not spend a lot) but you might have to wait to be seated if you didn't plan on taking out. We were a party of four on a Thursday night and we waited an hour and 15 minutes to get a table. I was ready to start gnawing on my own arm, but there's plenty of little bars to grab a drink while you wait - so not too bad. But honestly - for four people that had appetizers, 8 arepas and drinks - we were less than $80 - ENTIRE BILL. (Don't forget! I'm talking about New York CITY here, people! Manhattan! Where can you get a WHOLE quality meal for that for 4 people in a RESTAURANT -not a chain, deli, crappy diner or a street vendor?)

And as I mentioned and stressed before, its a really small space -so don't even THINK about bringing a stroller inside or taking along grandma in her walker! Get the take out! Just don't be stupid about it.... No one wants a whiny baby in their face or be unkind to those who need extra space when they go out to dinner.... so just order ahead in their 'to go' shop right next door. Its easy ---and I do it all of the time when I don't have an hour to wait for evening chow.

Either way, Caracas give you fresh, affordable and terrific tasting food, the decor is quaint and the wait is well worth it!

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