By John Garland
You knew about their gorgeous arepas. And you had to guess that by luring Dan Oskey away from Strip Club Meat & Fish in St. Paul, the cocktail program was going to be killer. And you’d be right on both counts.
But what remained to be seen about Hola Arepa‘s new bricks-and-mortar location on Eat Street was, essentially, everything else. What would the rest of the menu be? You can’t just have arepas at a sit-down restaurant, right? Will there be new side dishes? Composed entrées? Or what?
Christina Nguyen and Birk Grudem’s turquoise-clad South Minneapolis snack shack officially opened last Thursday. And near as we can tell, it’s been packed ever since. They feature nine different arepas on the dinner menu, along with yucca fries, plantain chips, and bar nuts to munch on with your cocktail.
But we’d suggest starting your meal in the “small plates” section of the menu – specifically, with the Shiitake Cachapas ($8.50). It’s an indulgent little disc of heaven, starting with a thin sweet corn cake, dabs of goat cheese, and what must be the Platonic ideal of a slow-poached egg. It’s topped with tender shiitake mushrooms, huitlacoche (corn smut!) and a drizzle of truffle oil.
As you might guess, a dish that prominently features three types of fungus has a certain earthy funk to it. But if you dig the smell of pu’er tea, sandalwood and leather-bound reference volumes, this is right up your alley. Also take note: happy hour runs Sun-Thu 3pm-5pm, and 10pm-close, with $3.50 tap beers and $4 house wines. You might want to show up then before it gets crowded.
Hola Arepa, 35th St. and Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis.