Enjoy the spring with Hola Arepa’s South American specialties

Maya Siskin-Lavine

Want to finally have a spring experience? Head to Hola Arepa in Minneapolis for the perfect fix. As well as a dine in location that is open year round, Hola Arepa has a food truck that travels around the Twin Cities. The restaurant specializes in Venezuelan stuffed arepas, showing off its unique spin on Latin American food. The very hip Hola Arepa sports a large outside seating section that is covered with a tent and heating lamps for a more seasonally appropriate outside dining experience when it is cold. The restaurant is decked with hanging lights that create a warm and somewhat tropical experience. The place was jammed tight on a Friday night, and I ended up waiting twenty minutes with a friend for seats at the bar.

While they specialize in arepas, there is so much more Hola Arepa has to offer. There are numerous appetizers and small plates to share before even getting to the main course. For the small plates, I sampled the fried cauliflower, which was crusted in cornmeal and served with pickled tomatillo and onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lemon-garlic aioli. This was hands down one of the best appetizers either my friend or I have ever eaten. The cauliflower was fried to perfection, with just the right amount of crunch in each bite. The pickled tomatillo and onion added a tangy flavor that complemented the aioli and the cauliflower just right. My friend and I devoured every last drop and promised to return just for this appetizer, even before tasting the arepas.

Even following that incredible dish, the arepas did not disappoint. I ordered the black bean and queso fresco arepa with tomato, grilled corn and pickled cabbage, and my friend ordered the pork and sweet potato arepa. Both of us were delighted with our decisions, and enjoyed our food immensely. The arepas were served with yuca fries with a choice of aioli verde or chimichurri sauce to go with them. The black bean and queso fresco arepa tasted extremely fresh and the grilled corn and salsa added a nice mixture of flavor. My friend found that the pork and sweet potato arepa was bursting with flavor and the sugars of the sweet potato cut the spices of the pork perfectly.

As if we weren’t delighted enough, we chose to look at the dessert menu, and ended up ordering the horchata pot de creme which was served with cinnamon-sugar coated popped rice and blackberry compote. The dessert too was delectable, the blackberry flavor providing a great contrast and slight tang to the sweeter pot de creme. This was my least favorite part of the meal, as I found the amount of crispy rice a little overwhelming and the horchata flavor not as strong as I had hoped. However, the dish was still enjoyable, and did not sway my overall impression of the restaurant. To top it all off, we washed down our meals with passion fruit lemonade, which was also extremely well done, with just the right balance of sweet and sour. Overall I would give Hola Arepa two thumbs up and will certainly be returning to try their brunch menu as well!

Hola Arepa is located at 3501 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408