Viva Las Arepas
Fried Pork Rinds & Yucca Root
Wood Fire Chicken Arepa with Tomato, Lettuce, Onions
Roasted Pork Butt Arepa with Tomato and Cheese
Guava and Cheese Pastelito
Set beside Art of Flavors, where another star-studded sampling had just concluded in the best ‘ice cream sandwich’ ever to cross my lips, it was with long-held interest and a touch of gluttony that I finally entered Viva Las Arepas; my “some for now with the rest for later” order rooted not only in convenience but also in hopes of avoiding a later trip from home for dinner. Ever popular amongst locals and tourists alike with a menu focused on the Venezuelan flatbread sandwich alongside additional items both grilled and fried the time was just past two on my arrival to the deceptively large space and greeted by a short line with the dining room 2/3 full it would not be long before I found myself standing at the counter, a friendly middle-aged man expediting orders and assigning me number #36, my five boxed selections delivered to the table a mere fifteen minutes thereafter. Clearly a restaurant vested in its core with a menu infrequent to change it was in a duo of ‘sides’ that my meal began and although bland plantains dripping with excess grease quickly proved inedible the unlikely star of the show would in fact be the wood-grilled pigskins, a crispy exterior overlying supple fat with intense brine offset by tender chunks of fried yucca. Moving next to a pair of arepas it was with the wood grilled chicken that I started yet with flavors no better than the frozen stuff from Roots sold at Walmart I quickly moved to the pork-butt, the flavor almost indistinguishable from the bird as a trickle of oil ran down my hand into the napkin below. At this point tossing what was left of each sandwich to instead sample the rinds and root with accompanying sauces it was finally with the $2 Pastelito that I finished and although tasty enough to stand on its own I couldn’t help but think that for a buck per bite I’d have been better off staying next door with another scoop of gelato.
TWO STARS: Exceptionally greasy with flavors that generally lacked any particular ‘pop’ aside from the briny pork rinds and super-sweet guava my overall take on Viva Las Arepas is that its sustained popularity is largely a result of novelty and low prices with the later probably far more important than the former considering the location and clientele. Certainly not as interesting as other ethnic eats around town nor as well executed as traditional sandwich shops in Chicago, Phoenix, or Seattle I guess I’d consider a repeat visit to experience some of the wood grilled meats but it certainly isn’t a priority – not even with Art of Flavors ever beckoning recurrent visits right next door.
RECOMMENDED: Fried Pork Rinds & Yucca Root
AVOID: Fried Plantains, Roasted Pork Butt Arepa.
TIP: Often featuring daily specials including three chicken thighs for a mere $6.50 on the day of my visit there is no doubt Viva Las Arepas offers a good value on the dollar but taking into account the quality of the product I’d sooner check out one of the local taco stands or ramen joints for ‘bang for the buck’ dining.
Art of Flavors
Samples – Chicken and Waffles, Indian Chicken Curry, Pistachio Baklava, White Chocolate Cookies and Cream, Pistachio, Butter Pecan
Lombardo Grilled Gelato Panini – Gorgonzola Gelato, Pear Chutney, Walnuts
BONUS: With little changed since my original visit (http://endoedibles.com/?p=13163) save for upgraded decor I’ll keep this update brief – order the Lombardo Grilled Gelato Panini and thank me later for it is by far and away the best “ice cream sandwich” I’ve found to date. Ever innovative and amongst the very best businesspeople in Las Vegas suffice it to say that Desyree, et al are a true local gem and with textures on par with reference standard operations like Capogiro, Grom, and Il Laboratorio with daily innovations far outstripping any of the above I would go so far as to say that there is no gelateria doing what Art of Flavors is doing stateside today…a grilled ice cream sandwich with savory and sweet in perfect harmony just another feather in the cap of a space that continues to wow.