Venezuelan bistros are popping up all across Miami

By Alona Abbady Martinez

Boca’s Grill
3399 N.W. 72nd Ave., Miami, FL 33122  • Tel:  305-592-6333
Chef Cesar Gonzalez hails from San Cristobal and settled in the Miami suburb Doral where he owned a marketing company while pursuing his culinary hobby he shared on Instagram. Soon he had 350,000 followers, so when the opportunity arose to open his own spot, he didn’t think twice. Guests enjoy Arepa Reina Pepiada, grilled cornmeal cake filled with avocado chicken salad, and Pabellón, Venezuela’s national dish of seasoned shredded beef, black beans, rice and fried plantains. Beverages include fresh tropical fruit juices and homemade Venezuelan chicha, a rice milkshake sweetened with condensed milk, the beverage of choice for Venezuelan children.

El Saman Arepas Bistro
4709 NW 79 Avenue, Doral, FL 33166  • Tel: 786-391-1297
In 1977 Jose Blanco sold food from a tiny kiosk nestled under a monkey-pod tree in Maracay, Venezuela. Almost 30 years later, Samán Arepas Bistro came to Florida, both in Orlando and in Miami, serving grilled cornmeal cakes – staple street food in Venezuela. Highlights include Arepa Pelúa, shredded meat and yellow cheese, black beans and grated white cheese, and Catira, or “Blondie,” shredded seasoned chicken and yellow cheese. Other must-try Venezuelan treats: Tequeños (a rich pastry crust wrapped around salty queso blanco then deep-fried) and Cachapas, sweet corn pancakes nestled with fresh mozzarella-style Venezuelan cheese.

Doggi’s Arepa Bar
1246 Coral Way, Miami, FL  33145  • Tel: 305-854-6869, and 7281 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33138;  Tel: 786-558-9538
This tiny jewel is packed with Venezuelans (always a good sign). Favorite arepas include the Arepa Santa Barbara, marinated steak with thick avocado slices, tomato and shredded white cheese, and the Arepa with Asado Negro, traditional Venezuelan stew cooked with papelón (raw brown sugar). Venezuela’s national sauce, Salsa Rosada (a combo of mayo and ketchup), is drizzled on practically everything. Doggi’s also offers Patacones, a specialty from Maracaibo: thick slices of deep-fried green plantain that get smashed thinner, then refried again and topped with Salsa Rosada and shredded cheese. Wash it all down with Polar, Venezuela’s signature Pilsen beer.

Cardón y El Tirano
3411 S.W. 8th Street, Miami FL 33135 • Tel:  305-392-1257
This cozy establishment is the brainchild of Venezuelan-born chef Francisco Anton. The restaurant boasts a fusion of dishes from Venezuela, Mexico, the Caribbean and Peru. For Venezuelan inspiration, don’t pass up the Seafood Arepitas, mini cornmeal cakes served with clams, mussels, tiger shrimp and calamari, along with avocado mousse, marinara sauce and Guayanés cheese. Meat lovers will enjoy the Tostones Picanha, tostones with seared Brazilian beef, white cheese, or Pork Belly Cachapas. End the meal with their signature dessert, Plantain Bombolini, served on a bed of Nutella with pistachios and avocado ice cream.

Amelia (Opening Fall 2017)

Venezuelan-born Javier Ramirez, celebrated Miami restaurateur with award-winning restaurants Alter and Cake Thai, will soon launch his latest concept, Amelia, which has strong ties to his homeland. Amelia, described as a “Latino diner,” will feature creative spins on Venezuelan standards like the Arepa Reina Pepiada and Cachapa Con Queso Guayanés. Ramirez has partnered with Venezuelan chef, Carlos Garcia, named one of the “Best Chefs in Latin America” by S. Pellegrino, as well as Nidal Barake, a food writer, world traveler and co-founder of Gluttonomy.

Alona Abbady Martinez lives in Plantation, Florida. She writes about food and family on her blog, Culinary Compulsion, and is currently working on her book, My Culinary Compulsion, a global food memoir with recipes. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.