Food & Drink

Bites on Eat Street: Hola Arepa has flavor off the charts

Located on the northern part of Nicollet Avenue, fondly called “Eat Street,” Hola Arepa is a Minneapolis gem. As the name attests, Hola Arepa specializes in arepas, specifically Venezuelan stuffed arepas, which are cornmeal patties cooked on a griddle and then stuffed with meat, veggies and cheeses and topped with a variety of sauces.

Hola Arepa is a brick and mortar store, but the owners also have a food truck by the same name. The bright turquoise truck, which makes rounds in downtown Minneapolis during the lunchtime rush, also provides catering for private events. Arriving at 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, our party of six knew that we were in for a decent wait. Hola Arepa only takes reservations for parties of six or more, and they don’t accept reservations at all on Friday and Saturday nights. It took 45 minutes to get a table, and while it was rather chilly out, we were so excited that the time flew by.

When we finally got to our table, the energy in the air was palpable. Small tables were crowded into the dimly lit space, and mirrors and terrariums lined the walls. The chairs, all painted a vibrant turquoise, matched the colors of the restaurant’s signage and the food truck.

The dinner menu is broken into three sections: snacks, small plates and arepas. Due to our long wait, our waitress kindly brought us tortilla chips with three different salsas to sample on the house.

While all the small plates sounded stellar, and ranged from fried brussel sprouts ($8.50) to bean and cheese empanadas ($8), our waitress highly recommended the arepas for dinner.

There are ten different types of arepas listed on the menu, the majority of which are gluten free. I ordered the slow-roasted pork arepa with chimichurri sauce ($12). The arepa came stuffed to bursting with, as one would assume by the name, slow-roasted pork, but also black beans, cotija cheese and what the restaurant calls “Hola sauce.”

The entrée came with a side of steaming hot yuca fries, each of which was an inch thick and positively incredible. Although it does not sound, or necessarily look like much food when it arrives at the table, one arepa from Hola Arepa is a massive amount of food. The arepas themselves hold a deceptively massive amount of meat, or depending on what you order, vegetables, and it is very easy to consume at a faster-than average pace.

One of my friends ordered the pork and sweet potato arepa, which came stuffed with, in addition to the slow-roasted pork and roasted sweet potato, tomato, citrus onion and green onion aioli ($12.50). Of the three times this friend had been to Hola Arepa, this dish was her absolute favorite. Also served with a side of yuca fries, the dish was filling enough to leave us all in a state of post-dinner exhaustion on the drive home.

Another friend had the shredded beef and plantain arepa ($13.50). This one was stuffed with braised beef with a hint of spice, sweet plantains, black beans, the mysterious “Hola sauce,” cotija cheese and pickled onion. This dish was incredible, and perfectly melded the savory meat with the sweetness of the plantains.

In addition to the meat arepas, the menu also offers multiple vegetarian options, and alterations to make certain items vegan. These options include the black bean and queso fresco arepa which is served with tomato, pickled cabbage, grilled corn salsa, homemade queso fresco and “Hola sauce” ($12).

Hola Arepa also has an extensive drink menu, with many choices of cocktails, tap and bottled beers and wines. I had the Passiflora, which was a heavy handed mix of Gordon’s vodka, passion fruit, lemon, Dolin Genepy and angostura bitters ($9). A friend had El Diablo, which combined Agavales Tequila Blanco with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Dolin dry vermouth, Cocchi di Torino, housemade falernum and furia bitters ($9).

All of the drinks, while delicious and great complements to the arepas, were quite strong. If one were looking to go in with a group and not commit to their own drink, Hola Arepa offers the Porron Pitcher, shared pitcher of Pineapple rum, Vermut Miro, lemon, vinho verde and coconut bitters ($22).

Hola Arepa is an incredible option for a dinner out in Minneapolis. Although it is difficult to access via public transportation, it is only a 10 to 15 minute drive away and approximately a $15 Uber ride. If you are going on a Friday or Saturday, try to arrive early; especially in the winter when the outdoor seating is closed off, there is often a substantial wait.

Hola Arepa is located at 3501 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis. They are open for business every day with the exception of Mondays.

December 1, 2016

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