Food with FlairSep 01, 2017 ● By Rachael Beaird
The atmosphere of the mid-sized restaurant is the perfect mix of Texan with a Latin American twist. A large cutout of Texas hangs on the wall at one end of the restaurant, while another wall displays the proper pronunciation of the word “arepa” above one of the restaurant’s mottos, “It’s cool to be corny.” There was a bit of a line when we entered the restaurant, but it moved along very quickly. This was no problem, as my friend and I needed that time to ponder over the large menu. However, with a little help from a friendly worker and an explanation of what exactly an arepa is, we proceeded to place our order.
My friend decided to go for the restaurant’s most popular dish, as recommended by the server. The brisket and chimichurri arepa was filled with tenderly-smoked brisket covered in garlic chimichurri sauce accompanied by shoestring plantains and avocado slices. I selected an arepa stuffed to the brim with slow-cooked black beans, avocado, tomato and shoestring plantains and topped with queso fresco. Also recommended to us was the fried yuca, which was described as “French fries, but 10 times more delicious.” This proved to be a very accurate description! We also tried the mariquitas, which were fried plantain strips.
As I looked around at other patrons, I could not help but notice that several of them were eating popsicles, or had popsicles in their drinks. I was immediately intrigued and ordered a fresita pop from the “bubbly bar,” which I found to be a glass of sparkling wine with a mini strawberry popsicle in it. When they bring your drink, you are also presented with the mini bottle of sparkling wine to top off your drink as you please. Not only was it one of the best-looking cocktails I have ever had, but the way the strawberry popsicle melted in with the bubbles made for a refreshingly delightful Sunday afternoon drink. In fact, once I received mine, my friend was so upset she had not thought to get one that she immediately turned back to the line to order one for herself. She opted for the bellini pop, which was pretty much the same, except it was served with a peach orange pop instead of strawberry. In addition to the different “pop” drinks, the restaurant offers a few other cocktails, as well as a selection of sangria, beer and wine. For those who are not looking to imbibe, the soda fountain is a sight to be seen. It boasts a selection of eclectic sodas, including agave vanilla cream soda, black cherry with tarragon and pineapple cream soda, just to name a few. There is also a pitcher of cucumber and lime infused water that is free for everyone to enjoy.
Not long after we had started sipping on our beverages, our sides arrived at the table. The fried yuca did in fact look very much like French fries, but perhaps a bit thicker. The mariquitas looked like very thinly-sliced strips of banana crisped to perfection. Both were served with a side of garlic chimichurri sauce for dipping. Sure enough, the fried yuca tasted just as it had been described to us, and was made even better by the garlic chimichurri sauce. These sides definitely cannot be missed when you try Arepa TX yourself. The mariquitas tasted similar to a less salty potato chip.
Our arepas arrived in a very timely manner and were served with small side green salads. The arepas looked like small circular sandwiches with fresh grill marks, bursting with an assortment of fillings. I must say, I ended up preferring the brisket arepa my friend ordered and can easily see why it is the restaurant’s bestseller. The brisket is clearly very high-quality meat and is seasoned and smoked to perfection. The shoestring plantains also gave it a delicious crunch. With that being said, I still enjoyed my arepa! The queso fresco was delicious and complimented the black beans and avocado slices wonderfully.
As my friend and I began to finish up our meal, a worker came over and cleared our table for us. He invited us to stay and enjoy the atmosphere as long as we liked. So often these days, it can feel like a restaurant is rushing you out to make room for more customers, but the staff at Arepa TX could not have been friendlier. Not to mention, we ended up ordering dessert after looking on in envy at the kids next to us who were very obviously enjoying their ice cream bars. There is a wide selection of artisanal pops, both fruit and cream, with flavors ranging from chocolate to hibiscus. We ended up just splitting a chocolate ice cream pop, as we had not planned to save enough room for dessert. Next time, I will not be making this mistake and will hopefully get to try some of their more exotic ice cream flavors. I also look forward to returning and indulging in some of their brunch specials, particularly their Latin take on the traditional eggs benedict. Let it be known that breakfast is served all day on Sundays.
Keeping up with the friendly atmosphere, the menu offers a variety of gluten-free and vegetarian options and is vegan-friendly, providing the option to “veganize” your arepa, if you so choose. The kids’ menu includes arepillas, which are basically grilled cheeses. Even if your kids are not there to have lunch, they will want to come just for the dessert. There is also a selection of salads, as well as 12 different types of arepas.
The mastermind behind Arepa TX is Mary Ann Allen, who is perhaps known better by her online blogging alias, the Frugal Chef. Ms. Allen has traveled and lived around the world, including places in the South and Central America, but wanted to open her own restaurant when she settled into her North Texas home. The rest is history!
Arepa TX is conveniently located off the Dallas North Tollway and Lebanon Road within the Shops at Starwood. It really is the perfect spot to bring your family, friends and coworkers to experience something new and out of the norm.