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7: Hola Arepa's Beef & Plantain Arepa

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What happens when a spirited local food truck makes the leap to a brick-and-mortar restaurant? In Hola Arepa's case: all good things.

See also: 8. Octopus at Borough

Street food is undeniably fun, but let's be honest, not always the easiest thing to eat. At Hola Arepa's colorful eatery, you get the same killer menu plus equally fast and friendly service, at the comfort of your own table. Plus beer and cocktails! With the music pumping and sunlight streaming into this private wonderland, the food tastes even more delectable. Especially the shredded beef and plantain arepa.

The arepa itself -- a Venezuelan cornmeal flatbread -- is the perfect vehicle for any number of fillings. The buttery, rich dough is crisped to perfection on a flattop grill, and then stuffed sandwich-style with a kicky combo of Latin-inspired ingredients. Consider yourself forewarned: Arepas arrive hot and filled to the brim; they're easy to pick up, but hard to put down (this is where a private booth comes in handy). Take a big juicy bite and forget about the dribble rolling down your chin.

The shredded beef and plantain arepa mingles textures and flavors, leaving a pleasing tingle on the tongue. The headliner is spicy slow-cooked beef with just a hint of smoke, offset by crisp pickled red onion and soft black beans sandwiched in between. Gooey, sweet plantain is the perfect counterpoint, taking the edge off the heat and bringing the arepa into harmony. Served with yuca fries and the dipping sauce of your choice, the meal is hearty and filling. It's comfort food for a more enlightened Midwestern palate.

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