In case I haven’t said it before, El Arepazo downtown is one of my favorite restaurants in town. It’s one of those restaurants that I crave all. the. time. and could visit any. day. of. the. week. The challenge is that the restaurant’s hours and location best suit everyone who works downtown. For those of us who don’t live or work there, or in Gahanna by their second restaurant Arepazo Tapas & Wine, it was a blessing when they launched the Yerba Buena food truck a couple years ago in Clintonville. Unfortunately, a very vocal minority objected to the truck’s presence along High Street, so they moved operations to Indianola just south of Morse Road, and while they did well they didn’t last long. So when we first glimpsed the beautifully decorated truck taking up its spot in the dentist’s office parking lot a couple weeks ago, we were elated. Since that opening, we’ve returned a couple times; the location is dangerously poised in between our home and Mrs. Bfast w/Nick’s work, so it’s very easy to justify stopping here for dinner. As if the food alone wasn’t justification enough…
Like the two brick-and-mortar restaurants, Yerba Buena focuses on Latin American cuisine, with dishes like the Peruvian specialty patacon or Venezuelan arepas. If you’ve somehow mistaken El Arepazo or Yerba Buena for a run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant, then think again. These restaurants focus on colorful, fresh ingredients in immensely flavorful combinations.
One of their signatures is the patacon: a bed of fried plantains are covered with lettuce, cheese, avocado, banana peppers, pico de gallo, and your choice of meat or veggies. My preference is for the shredded chicken.
Another signature is the arepa, a Venezualan specialty that’s a small fried corn cake split in half and filled with lettuce, cheese, avocado, pico, and meat or veggies. It’s a perfect little hand-held meal.
The meals are flavorful enough as it is, but the whole experience is magnified by the cilantro sauce. You get little cups of it with your meal – and you can request more – while they sell larger bottles at the restaurants. The sauce has a rich, clean quality, made from cilantro, avocado, and a blend of spices. They have mild and spicy versions. Both are excellent, but I always go for the spicy. This sauce is so good that, after you pour it out on your food, you’ll find yourself licking out the cup to get every last drop.