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First Look: Hola Arepa's new restaurant

Say hello to Hola Arepa's new restaurant
Say hello to Hola Arepa's new restaurant
Joy Summers

Those slow-braised meats, stuffed into tender/crispy corn cakes have found a permanent home. Birk Stefan Grudem and Christina Nguyen have pulled their turquoise truck into their new address at 36th and Nicollet in Minneapolis. They've pulled together a dream team of area bar talent, a highly skilled kitchen crew, and friendly service staff and thrown in outdoor seating for the warmer months. Tomorrow, they unleash upon us the next chapter in Hola Arepa's tasty journey.

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Eat in or drive by, the new Hola Arepa hits the spot
Eat in or drive by, the new Hola Arepa hits the spot
Joy Summers

Working behind the bar is a collective of some of the best drink shakers in town. Birk was a barman himself in another life. He drew on those friends and contacts to pull together the team, led by Best Bartender Dan Oskey. Oskey was once Grudem's boss when they first met years ago at Longfellow Grill. Now the tables have turned. 

Bottled cocktails are all the rage
Bottled cocktails are all the rage
Joy Summers

Joy Summers
Bottled cocktails are all the rage
Most of the cocktails are pre-made. Bartender Adam Harness jokes, "We're more like bar preppers." That means for most of the cocktail list, drinks only need to be grabbed out of the cooler. The bartenders pop that signature blue cap off, pour the concoction over ice, and voila.

They came in like a Wecking Ball
They came in like a Wecking Ball
Joy Summers

Joy Summers
They came in like a Wecking Ball
Adorable arepitas harbor a hot secret
Adorable arepitas harbor a hot secret
Joy Summers

The menu boasts salads, snacks, small plates, and entrees. We nibbled on some toasty corn nuts mixed with fried fava beans while waiting for our arepitas. Arepa dough is wrapped around diced jalapeno tucked into molten goat cheese atop a sweet-tart quince sauce. The cheese takes on a Juicy Lucy style heat, and although we were warned, we might have still dug in too greedily and nearly burned off a taste bud or two. They were fantastic for pairing with the light, tequila-spiked cocktail and only $6.

Mushrooms on savory sweet corn cake with the best egg ever
Mushrooms on savory sweet corn cake with the best egg ever
Joy Summers

The shitake mushroom cachapas were a dish of incredible beauty. A slightly sweet, extra crusty corn-studded cake was topped with creamy crumbles of cheese, luscious bites of mushrooms, and umami rich huitlacoche, then drizzled with a touch of truffle oil, garnished with crispy micro greens, and crowned with the most ethereal egg we've ever tasted. Cooked sous vide, the white was so light it's a wonder it didn't float off the plate, but it was grounded by a golden yolk the texture of refined custard. Although, it was a small plate, it would have made a nice, light meal for $8.

Va-va-vigoron with chicharron
Va-va-vigoron with chicharron
Joy Summers

tender strands of pork topped with a bright tomato salsa 

The coveted seats at the bar go quickly
The coveted seats at the bar go quickly
Joy Summers

Hola Arepa's co-owner Birk Stefan Grudem
Hola Arepa's co-owner Birk Stefan Grudem
Joy Summers

Hola Arepa opens for business beginning at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow and will close around midnight. From then on, they will be open from 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday. 

For this weekend only they will open at 11 a.m., but after that, they will be open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (though eventually they hope to be open until midnight on Sunday). And downtown day-dwellers take heart: The truck will continue to serve lunch in Minneapolis for the warm-weather season.

3501 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis

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