A Venezuelan family just moved in next door. Within 15 minutes, I had the well-heeled woman with an impressive corporate career bubbling enthusiastically about where she finds the flavors of home. Her choice: Arepas El Cacao for Venezuelan street foods in Orlando. It's no fancy spot--just a spiffy, upbeat self-service joint turning out abundantly stuffed, flavorful versions of snacks one would pick up for a quick bite in this South American country. So yesterday I tried Arepas El Cacao. The restaurant near Universal Orlando is a one-time food truck vendor that's now part of a local four-unit enterprise.
As you might infer from the name, the specialty is arepas, which here is a light, almost airy, yet somewhat crispy taco-shaped shell stuffed with the filling of your choice. At the cashier's suggestion, we tried El Cacao 2, which was loaded with pork, chicken, shrimp, and cheese, and probably some other ingredients. Tomatoes? Cilantro? Her accent was strong and I couldn't quite grasp the entire list she recited.
The arepas was satisfying, but I went crazy-wild over the cachapa con queso, a corn-based pancake filled with a gooey mild cheese. Similar items are sold at street fairs around Orlando but I've never had one this abundant, flavorful, or richly textured. It was just astounding.
The cachapa was served with a creamy garlic sauce. I spread a bit atop each forkful. The savory spread complemented the sweet corn cake magnificently.
Arepas El Cacao offers unlimited garlic sauce, plus two others, from a self-serve kiosk. The German flavor tastes like cucumbers, the Pink like Russian dressing.
We ordered blackberry and guava juices to sip with our meals. The blackberry was nicely tart. I'm told the guava was too sweet. I dislike guava so I abstained.
In addition to traditional desserts like milk caramel and nocciola, Areas El Cacao sells popular candies.
I'll be back. Instead of the mixed arepa, next time I'll work my way through the single choices. They include llanero cheese, white soft cheese, yellow cheese, handmade cheese, ham, and black beans. I will always order one of those cheese cachapas. That's my new must-have indulgence.