Part of the charm of Maria Piedad Cano (better known as the Arepa Lady) is not knowing when one will find her cart and golden arepas below the No. 7 train in Elmhurst. But, since June her arepas have been in regular supply at the brick and mortar shop her sons Douglas Arevalo and Alejandro Osorio opened nearby. Ligaya Mishan files on the simple restaurant this week:
Does the magic hold? Yes, on evidence of the arepa de queso, a thick moon of a corn cake with closely set air pockets that make it seem as if it's contracting and expanding at the same time. The dough, made with a flour of corn that has been cooked, then ground, is faintly sweet and velvety from mozzarella kneaded in. Inside is all give, outside a veneer of crispy patches and crumbs of salty-sour queso blanco with a touch of bounce.
But it's not quite the same. "No restaurant can replicate the miracle of an arepa de queso handed to you straight off the griddle, cheese inside caught in flagrante, shapeshifting, ready to gush out." And, in Mishan's eyes, no one can match the true Arepa Lady's charm.