About a five-minute drive from the glitzy Las Vegas strip is *Viva Las Arepas (love that name), a bright corner joint in a decidedly more downbeat part of the city. Perfect. It’s a chance to delve into some fine Venezuelan food at bargain prices. Owner Felix Arellano is leaning over the mesquite-fired grill, cooking chicken and beef, much of it destined for the popular $5 arepas, a South American staple. But I go for a cachapa, filled with only melted mozza so I can focus on the excellent texture of this corn bread.
At this point, Felix sees me taking notes, comes over and says my cachapa isn’t the same as a cornmeal arepa. “Here, I’ll make you one, half stuffed with beef and half with shredded chicken, so you can see what a real arepa tastes like.” Both halves are delicious, especially splashed with some house-made hot sauce. Indeed, everything here is made from scratch. It’s a lot of work, but that’s what makes hands-on restaurants like these standouts.
Next time, I’ll get more adventurous and order the fried pork rinds and yucca root. Don’t think you’ll find that in any casino eatery.
Note: Felix is a partner in an excellent new gelato shop next door (Art of Flavors Gelato) and has a hot dog/taco shop truck down the street. It could be the start of a new Las Vegas strip.
Viva Las Arepas
1616 South Las Vegas Blvd Ste 120
Daily 10 am-10 pm, except midnight Friday and Saturday