Chicken chimichurri arepa
"A lot of people have never even heard of arepas, but people really received them well," says Birk Stefan Grudem, co-owner of Hola Arepa. "We still get people coming up and asking, 'What is that? Is it spicy?' And then they taste them and they like them. I love that!"
See Also: Hola Arepa on Spam fried rice, resume padding, and the best bartender in town
These crispy griddled corn cakes are the work of Grudem and his partner Christina Nguyen, who rolled out the Hola Arepa truck in 2011. The arepas, which come packed with slow-braised meats, tender beans, crumbly fresh cheese, and a bevy of zingy sauce options, are hard not to love.
They've even garnered famous fans like Andrew Zimmern host of the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods. He recently tweeted to his 425,000+ followers that the Arepa runners were looking to move into a brick-and-mortar space -- and then named an address. They were inundated with messages from hungry critics, friends, and fans wondering if it was true.
The address in question was one that the pair had considered, but ruled out. That they are looking to open a restaurant hasn't been a well-kept secret. They have been looking, but won't leap until they find the exact right fit. As of right now, nothing has quite fit the bill. "[We want] a fun neighborhood spot. Hopefully a full-on bar. This dude," Nguyen nudges Grudem, "needs to come out of retirement and get back behind the stick."
"Sit down table service," Grudem adds. "But with a focus on speed. We'd like to have craft cocktails, but have it be fun. It would be about the guest's experience."
The fare wouldn't exclusively be arepas, but all kinds of Latin dishes, moving beyond the taco and burrito. Not that there's anything wrong with a burrito. The pair admit their favorite food truck to swap lunch with is the World Street Kitchen truck, known for their irresistibly satiating Yum Yum Bowls and spicy Bangkok Burritos.
Trying to get a better handle on their vibe, we asked who would be their dream team choice of front of house manager. "Tim Niver," Grudem says without hesitation. "That same feel that Dan [Oskey] has where he could give you the most heartbreaking news you'll ever hear and you'll walk away loving him. Niver really knows how to control a room. The Strip Club never misses a beat. They'll clear the tables, do the right things, but never lose the fun. You go to New York or Chicago and those servers know the wine, know the food. It all goes back to service."
"There is nobody better than Birk," interjects Nguyen. "He's the best bartender. He's so good at being able to tell what people want - whether they want to talk or learn more about what they're getting or if they just want to sit there. He's really good at reading people."
This sounds like our kind of joint. We'll just have to wait until they've found the right spot. In the meantime, find where the Hola Arepa truck is parked by following them on Twitter
, or by visiting their website
City Pages on Facebook | Hot Dish on Facebook | Twitter | e-mail us
Get your tickets to this year's City Pages Iron Fork competition! Sign up for our newsletter below or click here to purchase directly.