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Warren Rojas is one of our area's most underrated restaurant critics. He first wrote about La Caraqueña here, in the October issue of Northern Virginia magazine. Take a look at those pictures of the arepas. Todd Kliman than picked up on it in Washingtonian here, and between the two positive reviews, I felt negligent for not having tried it myself. La Caraqueña has a bright new sign outside, but sits in the parking lot of what can only be called a fleabag motel. As I drove into the parking lot, I said out loud to myself, "God this place is a dump." That impression went away the moment I walked into the restaurant - a completely empty restaurant at 12:45 on a weekday. Warren's review was on the wall, and a gentleman was standing behind the cash register, all by himself. "Do you do carryout?" I asked him. He handed me a menu, which I began to look over. Then I looked up at him, and asked, "Do you make your salteñas here?" The look I got was a curious mixture of politeness, frustration, and what amounted to almost complete dismissal. "Yes," he said. "We make everything here." "I'll take two of them to go." I stood around waiting, and after a moment, he said, "It's going to take about fifteen minutes. You might want to have a look at the paintings on the wall [for sale], or have a seat." So I went out, made a quick call, then came back in, grabbed a menu, and sat at a table and waited. I read that all items are cooked to order, and that this is not fast food - they don't even have a paper carryout menu. After a couple of minutes, he came back out to the register, and asked me if I'd ever been in before. I told him no, but that I liked the salteñas at El Pike in Seven Corners. He perked up. "You've been to El Pike?" he said. "Yes. I don't like the ones at Luzmila's [down the street] as much because they use a lot of sugar." That was all it took. He became animated and engaged in the conversation. "Salteñas are all over Bolivia," he said, "and you can't find the real ones here. Wait until you try mine." "Are you the GM?" "No, I'm the chef." It was Raul Claros. After a few more minutes, he went back into the kitchen, then came out and handed me a bag. He said, "Here you go, sir. You're about to have salteñas like you've never had before." His confidence bordered on cockiness. And he was right. El Pike's have been very good in the past; La Caraqueña's were fantastic - the best I've ever eaten. And yet, the dining room was empty. My friends, I cannot vouch for the rest of this menu, but after Warren and Todd raved about the arepas, can there be much doubt about them? I propose a $20 Tuesday, sooner rather than later, at La Caraqueña. I am utterly intrigued from what little I've seen, am going back for a more thorough exploration very soon, and have a feeling that this little restaurant is doing something very important, in a small-scale way. Please try it and give us your impressions. Cheers, Rocks.
My son says I need to watch 'Narcos', & I tried Arepas Capitol down in Woodbridge & it was awesome-fresh & delicious. My only experience was years ago at La Caraquena, & this topped it! --- I lucked out again yesterday- I had to meet a friend down in Woodbridge (she lives in Montclair) & I picked Arepas Capitol off of Yelp. It was awesome, & I don't understand why it was not packed at lunchtime yesterday. Next to BJ's, small storefront- I ordered the Reina pepiada (chicken salad w/ avocado) arepa & the empanada pabellon (shredded beef, cheese, plantains) . They were both amazing, delicious, my friend got a regular shredded beef & cheese empanada, but then ordered 2 empanada pabellon for dinner that night. Service & food were excellent, & I'm looking forward to heading that way & trying out more stuff (but I think I ordered the perfect items, if that makes sense).
I could well have missed a previous thread for this place. If so, my apologies. We stopped by the Royal this past Friday for drinks and some food before a show at the 930 Club. A few quick thoughts on the place. It's a smaller, neighborhood spot. I was only in the downstairs, which was all self seating, but there's an upstairs as well. Not sure how large it is. In the downstairs I think they had around 16 seats (eight or so at a larger communal high table and around eight at regular height tables) as well as somewhere around ten seats at a curved bar. The cocktails are really good. Horus Alvarez is a fantastic bartender, and he's running the show here as well as at Vinoteca. The cocktails my wife and I had were all fantastic. They're also making their own vermouth, which I was able to sample, but at this point they're not using it in any of the cocktails on their menu. Service at the bar, where we were seated, was also fantastic and attentive the whole time. Small, but solid wine and beer list. The food was good as well, although there were a couple of misses. Almost the entire menu is small plates (of course). The two exceptions, which we didn't try, were a burger, and a steak with roasted potatoes. The stuffed arepa was fantastic, with a great braised pork filling. I could eat many of these. The grilled avocado (with quinoa and lentils) was also fantastic, and the grilled quid was very good. The plantains themselves didn't have a ton of flavor, but the sweet crema accompanying them was wonderful. The corn and tomato salad with chickpeas was the one miss, with very sub-par tomatoes. Probably a miss-order on our part. Anyhow, we were very pleased with our visit. It's a good neighborhood spot, and a good low-key option for drinks and food before shows at the Howard Theater or the 930 Club. They are also open early for coffee service and breakfast, which is something I'd appreciate if I lived in the neighborhood.