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VIVA LAS AREPAS

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Downtown

1616 Las Vegas Blvd S.

Las Vegas, NV 89104

702-366-9696

website

$10-$15

Daily 8am-12am

Venezuelan

A-

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

A small restaurant serving up authentic Venezuelan food.

Where is it?

On Las Vegas Blvd. between The Stratosphere and Downtown.

What kind of food is served?

Venezuelan including amazing arepas.

What is the atmosphere like?

Sunny and bright with big windows showing the seedy neighborhood it's in.

How is the service?

Very good and fast.

What are the prices like?

Downright cheap, especially for the quality.

What else do I need to know?

They do take out.

What's the bottom line?

Terrific food and at terrific prices.

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FULL REVIEW

From Wikipedia: Arepa (Spanish pronunciation: [a'repa]) is a flatbread made of ground maize dough or cooked flour prominent in the cuisine of Venezuela and Colombia. It is eaten daily in those countries and can be served with various accompaniments such as cheese (cuajada), avocado, or (especially in Venezuela) split and used to make sandwiches. Various sizes, maize types, and added ingredients are used to vary its preparation. It is similar in shape to the Mexican gordita and the Salvadoran pupusa. Arepas can also be found in Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and the Canary Islands.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let's talk about how good they are and let's talk about the best place to get them in Las Vegas (and possibly anywhere outside of South America).

Viva Las Arepas is a small storefront restaurant located in what is otherwise a rundown stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard between The Stratosophere and Downtown. It's the stretch of the street with the no-tell motels, bail bonds offices, pawn shops, and wedding chapels that most people drive through on their way between The Strip and Fremont Street. If you are looking for recognizable landmarks, it is right across the street from the White Cross drug store and about a block almost smack dab between the Olympic Gardens strip club and the Chapel of the Flowers wedding facility. So yeah, it's a neighborhood most people don't go to unless they have something to sell or want to drunk-marry that girl "Cynammon" they just met at the strip club.

If you let the somewhat less-than-desirable (but certainly not the worst) neighborhood deter you from coming here then you only have yourself to blame for missing out on some amazing, affordable food.

The restaurant itself is like a colorful oasis in the midst of urban blight. There's a lovely little canopy covered outdoor patio in front (where you can get a nice view of people going in and out of the 7-11 or AM/PM) and the inside is all sunny yellows and oranges with a few tables and counter service.

The menu is authentic Venezuelan, which is not the same as Mexican in case you are wondering. They have empanadas with shredded beef or chicken; pastelitos, which are sort of like a puff pastry filled with ground beef or guava and cheese among other options; grilled meats done over mesquite wood including chicken, pork spare ribs, beef, and more; and of course the arepas, which are the centerpiece of the offerings.

They come in more than a dozen varieties including wood fire or shredded beef, chicken, pork butt, black bean and cheese, garlic shrimp, ham and cheese, eggs with ham and cheese, beef with plantains, and more. If you are having a hard time deciding, note that each one is a little bigger than a CD so feel free to get a couple if you want to sample the options. Each comes with a tangy sauce and you can also get sour cream, avocado, or more cheese if you are feeling crazy. Just note that they are more filling than they look so be prepared for a waddle back to your room if you eat more than one.

The fluffy corn bread mixes perfectly with the stuff stuffed into it and add that little dollop of sour cream to the top and it's just heaven. We sampled a bunch of them and found every one to be better than the last although if I had to pick a favorite I'd probably go with the roasted pork.

So hopefully I have convinced you to come here for the food alone but if you need an extra incentive, how's this: nothing on the menu is over $10 except for the whole roast chicken, which weighs in at least three pounds, and comes with two sides at $17. The arepas are $5-7, the empanadas $3, and the pastelitos less than $3. You could easily do a full, very satisfying meal with a beverage (they have a variety of fruit drinks and Venezuelan sodas) and tax for under $15.

It's hard to find food this good that is this inexpensive anywhere in Las Vegas and virtually impossible on The Strip. So get out of your billion-dollar resort digs and head here for a great meal, even if you aren't on your way to marry Cynammon.

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