Taste of Houston: If you’ve never had Venezuelan food, check out Arepa Xpress in Spring for traditional Latin flavors
SPRING, Texas – Houston’s Venezuelan population is booming and – like any other transplant – the natives are always looking for a place where they can sit, enjoy a strong café con leche and enjoy a meal that reminds them of home.
For many, that place is a little Venezuelan place in Spring called Arepa Xpress Cafe. The restaurant offers all the typical favorites from arepas that come with a wide variety of fillings to pabellón criollo, which comes with shredded beef, black beans, rice and fried plantains.
The business originally opened in 2012 and was bought by the current owner in 2015. Manager Maria Ordonez said that it wasn’t smooth sailing at first, but through hard work and listening to criticisms, they were able to become a hot spot for Venezuelan food.
“My mother bought this restaurant from a couple who had owned since 2012,” Ordonez said. “It was very challenging when we became the new owners because most customers were unhappy with the food and service. Therefore, we began making changes to the menu, adding new items and making sure the food tasted (as) if they were eating their grandmother’s food. Then, we started receiving more positive feedbacks from customers.”
Ordonez said that now, the restaurant’s fresh food and unique flavors are what set it apart from other places.
“It tastes different than Mexican, or any other type of Latin food,” Ordonez said. “Our shredded beef is everyone’s favorite. We have customers who would come to the restaurant just to try our shredded beef. We do not have frozen food, and we’re always trying to make it as authentic as possible.”
Authentic indeed. Arepa Express Cafe features a wide variety of classics like cachapas -- which are corn pancakes that traditionally come with a mozzarella-like cheese -- to empanadas, which come filled with a variety of fillings.
However, according to Ordonez, people love to try the Arepa Xpress sampler or the arepa pabellón.
The sampler comes with two mini arepas, two mini empanadas, two mini cachapas and two tequeños (or Venezuelan cheese sticks), and Ordonez said it is a perfect choice if you can’t decide what to get.
“The sampler is a plate every customer wants to have," Ordonez said. “We have customers who only come to get the sampler. It is an appetizer platter that we came up with for those customers who were afraid to try our food, and it was the best we could’ve done because everyone loves the food once they try our sampler.”
Ordonez said the arepa pabellon is special because it has all the elements of Venezuela’s most traditional dish, but inside a delicious, hand-held arepa, which comes filled to the brim with shredded beef, black beans, cheese and fried plantains.
“We know that if a customer is new and wants to try one of our arepas, we recommend this one because we would not be wrong,” Ordonez said. “We know everyone loves it once they try, and most customers either come back for one or two more.”
Try something new
While people tend to go for empanada, tequeños and arepas, Ordonez said that you’d be missing out if you skip over some of the other menu items like the patacon sandwich or the pepito.
A patacon is a smashed, twice-fried plantain, and in a sandwich, it is used at the replacement for the bread. At Aprepa Xpress Cafe, the sandwich comes with lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheese and ham, and people can choose between shredded beef, roast pork, beef fajita or other meats.
“The patacon sandwich is very popular in the city we come from that is Maracaibo,” Ordonez said. “It is so good, you wouldn’t even imagine. You will never go wrong with a Patacon sandwich, especially if you (add) any of our four different sauces ... which are garlic, chimichurri, spicy and corn.”
The pepito is a Venezuelan sub sandwich and though it may not sound that enticing, Ordonez said it is a game-changer.
“The (sandwich) is a bolillo bread that has beef fajita, bacon, lettuce, ham, two types of cheese, and three different sauces,” Ordonez said. “I guess most customers, when they come to our restaurant, they want to try something different than bread ... but, I know that once they try ours they will taste the difference, and would love it.”
What people are saying
And customers do love it, according to Yelp.
“So happy we finally got a chance to stop and try this place out,” said Jennifer S. on Yelp. “My husband is Colombian (neighbors with Venezuela) and I’ve always had homemade arepas. I honestly don’t have anything bad to say about this place. The employee that helped us out was very friendly. My husband and I shared the sampler and cheese sticks. It was just enough for us. The flavor of their chicken brought back memories to my mother in laws homemade empanada chicken stuffing. It was very flavorful. The condiments were great for the sampler. I look forward to coming back and trying other dishes. They also make their soups on the weekend.”
Cici S. said, “The food here is so bomb. I always get the Sampler plate so I can eat a little of everything. I lovvvveeee their empanadas the most. The food tastes consistently great every time I come here. There’s a lot of different options on what you can get. So many different types of arepas! Oh and can’t forget they have bomb sauces!”
“Found this place on Yelp, and I am glad we tried it,” said Zahir P. “Came by for lunch and tried their sampler plate and 3 Arepas/3 Pastelles - delicious! The arepas were simply delicious! Don’t forget to throw in the various sauces they have - hot, garlic, chimichurri! Definitely planning on coming here again. If it’s your first time, I highly recommend the platter to taste various items. For dessert, we had the tree leches and tequenos dulches (a must if you like caramel)!”
Supporting the local scene
Apart from the family restaurant, Ordonez said they like to support other local spots. Some of their favorite go-to places are Crust Pizza, which has multiple locations across the Houston area and Anchoi Huston of Pho & Boba Tea in Spring.
“I would recommend both places because the food is always fresh and delicious,” Ordonez said. “Customer service is good as well.”
Ordonez said the restaurant also tried to help with local schools and other community events.
“We have attended cultural events and brought some samples for students and parents,” Ordonez said. “We have given food to teachers and staff, as well as coaches. We are trying to attend a local event every month to support our schools and churches.”
4334 FM 2920 Rd, Ste 170, Spring, Texas
Mon: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Tue: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Wed: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Thu: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Fri: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sat: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sun: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.