Caracas Arepa Bar — the tiny East Village restaurant that helped put Venezuelan food on the map in New York City — is closing its original location after 17 years of business. Restaurant co-owner Aristides Barrios made the announcement on the restaurant’s Instagram page on Thursday.
“How many people now know arepas because of this little hole on [sic] the wall,” Barrios wrote in the farewell message on Instagram. The East Village outpost will serve its last arepa on November 8.
Barrios and co-owner Maribel Arauj debuted the original East Village outpost on East 7th Street in 2003, and quickly helped make stuffed Venezuelan arepas — the South American corn cake sandwiches filled with meat and vegetables — more mainstream in NYC. In the subsequent decade, Caracas’ popularity propelled it to open a takeout cafe — also its current home after the original location next door was destroyed in a fire — and an outpost in Williamsburg, the latter of which will remain open. In recent years, Caracas also operated a concession stand at Rockaway Beach in the summers.
Caracas’ hit arepas including its pulled chicken and avocado creation called Hot Queen, its slew of veggie options like the La Del Gato with cheese and fried sweet plantains, and its irresistible green salsa helped cement its position among the best restaurants in the city. It’s popularity also spawned a series of new Venezuelan restaurants and arepa specialists in the city including Arepa Factory in Manhattan and Guacuco in Bushwick.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, more than 1,000 NYC restaurants have permanently closed including other iconic establishments like Michelin-starred Thai destination Uncle Boons and Chinatown dumpling legend 88 Lan Zhou. Several in the hospitality industry predict many more restaurant closures are likely to follow without more federal aid as the city moves into the colder months.