When I first placed ArepaZone on my extensive “to-eat” list, I didn’t realize it was located basically around the corner from me in Union Market. It was too close to miss, and the perfect bike ride for such a nice evening. As we pulled our bikes in and parked, I suddenly remembered why I never come to Union Market:
- It’s packed. The streets around it are basically the lawless wild west of DC where anything goes and stop signs are mere suggestions.
- Sensory overload. Even–or maybe especially–at dinnertime, there were too many options, and I already knew where I wanted to eat! I can’t imagine coming here and trying to choose between all the kiosks.
- Whyyyyyy does this even exist? It’s just a giant, overpriced hipster food court!*
But I came for arepas and I found them. We ordered one thing from each category (arepa, cachapa, tequeno) and set about finding alcohol. It took an awfully long time for our food to come up given that everything is just some variation of a griddled corn cake sandwich.
We started with the tequenos. I knew I was getting fancy mozzarella sticks but these were atypical–much less stringy and gooey than mozza, but with a nice pastry crust. The stand-out was the cilantro-garlic mayo dipping sauce which I probably would have just eaten with a spoon if nobody was around to judge me.
I ordered the Pabellon arepa because, in case you’d never noticed, I can be convinced to order anything if it contains the word “sweet,” “plantain,” and, to a lesser extent, “beef.” This arepa had them all! The meat was pulled well but not super flavorful, plantains were not quite as good as expected, and it was all encased in a slightly difficult-to-eat soft, saline arepa wrapping. It was good, and after a couple of tequenos, I saved half my arepa for tomorrow’s lunch. Just kidding, I’m totally going to eat it at 1 a.m.
My husband got the Primera Dama cachapa. The shredded chicken was soaking in tomato sauce, and melty queso de mano oozed out. The cachapas have the added benefit of the sweet corn wrapper that you would think would be exactly the same was the arepa but was actually completely different, like the crispy corners of a pan of cornbread. My husband also boxed up half of this. I assure you he will also be eating his at 1 a.m.
Price: $15 per person.
Bottom line: ArepaZone is good for what it is, which is food truck food trying desperately to break into the overpriced hipster food court scene. If you’re at Union Market anyway and you want some FANTASTIC drunk food, go for it. If you just want a classed-up cheesy carb-bomb, find literally any pupuseria. At least pupusas come with vegetables.
*Except you, Harvey’s Butcher Shop. Your brisket is amazing and I love you.
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