In Minneapolis, hungry people craving corn cakes can find the stuffed Venezuelan version at Hola Arepa. But only around lunchtime, and only from the window of their buzzing food truck in downtown Minneapolis. And even then, those griddled buggers go quickly.
Now, a new arepa joint is spreading the wealth. Teque Arepa in Eden Prairie, a teensy Venezuelan restaurant run by Erwin Chacon, opened just this spring in a strip mall off of 494. The menu lists over 15 different arepa fillings, as well as a juicy list of homemade smoothies, a few burritos, empanadas, and tequeños, which are cheesy fried twists of dough.
Standing dazed before the lengthy menu, we heard relief from a woman sitting behind us: “Order number six!” she whispered. She was surrounded by her own Venezuelan family, and smiled wide. “I’m sorry to pipe up, but it’s the best one because it’s like Venezuela’s national dish.”
Sure enough, Number Six, the Pabellon ($6.25, pictured above and below), is a delightful arepa. It includes three of the main components of Venezuela’s most iconic plate of food: black beans, slow-cooked beef, and sweet plantains, sprinkled with a little crumbly white cheese. The combination is a satisfying balance of flavors. The pulled beef is hearty and moist, the beans are earthy and creamy, and the plantains add just the right amount of caramelized sweetness. The corn cake itself is excellent. It resembles a pale, chubby English muffin; it’s soft and fluffy with a bit of exterior crispness from the grill. The cake is split like a hoagie and deftly stuffed so that the whole thing stays clean and compact and bears the pleasant stone-weight of a full meal.
Another popular arepa filling is Reina Pepiada ($5.50), a creamy chicken salad with fresh slices of avocado. While we wished the mixture had featured some crunchy onion or a little herbaceous interest, the soft filling was pleasant and cool and a great choice for old-school chicken- and tuna-salad enthusiasts.
The Rumbera Hot ($6) was billed as spicy pork, but the thick slice of slightly dry pork roast wrapped in melted pepper jack cheese didn’t meet our flavor expectations. Doused in some hot sauce and the shop’s mousse-like garlic sauce, it was all right.
Beef seems to be Teque Arepa’s wheelhouse. In fact, the Pelua’s ($6) simple setup of saucy roast beef and melty shredded orange cheese is completely satisfying in the way that a blue box of macaroni and cheese is after a famous night. Not to mention it has the filling effect of a half-pound burger. Yum.
At the last minute, the owner pressed us to order a smoothie. And it was the best decision of the night. Teque’s fruit drinks boast the silky texture of industrially blended smoothies, as well as the clean taste of fresh fruit. The Guanábana (or soursop, pictured above) is crazy refreshing, even in a snowbank. The pale yellow drink is watery-cool with a strong floral flavor that needs not even a pinch of extra sugar. DRINK THIS. Drink this and you’ll be back.
Venezuelan street food in Eden Prairie
7733 Flying Cloud Dr
Eden Prairie, MN 55344
OWNER / CHEF: Erwin Chacon
ENTREE RANGE: $2-$7