Restaurant Review #1: Hola Arepa

My food philosophy is all about balance. This means something different for everyone, but for me it means I cook really healthy food for myself, and then have fun when I go out to eat. I love finding new restaurants and trying new foods, and being too concerned with healthy eating makes it less fun. That’s not to say I never chose the healthier options, I just don’t restrict myself.

Because I love restaurants so much, I’m dedicating a new blog feature to restaurant reviews. I’ll share what I loved, if there was anything I didn’t like, and what you can’t miss!

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My first review is of Hola Arepa, a new restaurant in Minneapolis near Eat Street. The concept began with a Food Truck and expanded to include a gorgeous restaurant. They serve Latin cuisine and specialize in the Venezuelan style stuffed arepas.

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Right away, regardless of the food, we knew we were going to have a great dinner. The restaurant is gorgeous and bright and feels like summer. As my brother commented, “it feels like we just got transported to Florida.” While waiting for a table we sat at the bar, which includes a huge open window when the weather’s nice, and ordered a drink. With a lot of fun cocktail options to chose from, we decided on the “Center Court” – pisco, pimm’s, honeydew-chamomile soda, and grapefruit bitters. The friendly bartender brought it out and we loved what we were served – it’s light and refreshing but still has a lot of flavor, perfect for a summer night. Next time I’ll try another of their bottled cocktails or the sangria of the day.

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We were quickly seated and decided on an appetizer – the Shiitake Cachapas: a sweet corn pancake topped with shiitake, huitlacoche, truffle oil, goat cheese, and a soft poached egg. Oh my god. I would go back for this dish alone – it has a strong mushroom flavor layered with sweetness from the pancake, creaminess of the cheese, and the poached egg added the perfect finishing touch.

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For dinner we ordered arepas: Slow-roasted Pork, Fried Egg & Ham, and the Black Bean & Sweet Potato. As a pescatarian, I didn’t try the meat ones, but they got great reviews from my family.

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The Black Bean & Sweet Potato arepa came with tomato, citrus onions, homemade queso-fresco, and green onion aioli. I loved it! The sweet potato was cooked perfectly, the corn cake was phenomenal, and the citrus onions added a unique twist to the arepa.

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Each arepa came with a side of yucca fries and your choice of aioli verde or chimichurri sauce. We all went for the aioli which was a great call. The fries are a twist on french fries, and are big thick slabs of yucca fried up. The whole was phenomenal and none of us had room for dessert (although the women next to us ordered a big homemade ice cream sandwich – next on my list).

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Additionally, Hola Arepas is a great place to go with a diverse group of eaters. Everything on the menu (unless otherwise noted) is gluten-free and plenty can be made vegan. I highly recommend stopping in for a quick lunch, dinner, or drinks at the cool bar.

Check back soon for more restaurant reviews – most will be Chicago restaurants but I’ll throw more in from my hometown, Minneapolis.

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