****As of 2/6/12, Caracas has closed.****
I know it is said often these days, but it really is true that Indy has so many ethnic restaurant gems scattered throughout the city and I think Caracas Arepas Grill is certainly one of them, and quite a unique choice as well. The menu just calls itself more generally a “Latin restaurant,” although most of the press you see calls it specifically Venezuelan. Regardless of where it comes from, it was all pretty good.
I went with the BFF and we decided to split a ton of stuff to get to try lots of things. The first thing they brought, and probably a favorite for both of us were the “Patacones con Esmechada o Pollo” ($6). These were fried green plantains topped with shredded beef or chicken, onions, cilantro, white cheese and their house sauce, which seemed to be made with avocado and cilantro-- among other things I am sure. They also bring you a big squeeze bottle of this sauce, as well as a bottle of very spicy red sauce to use throughout your meal. A lot of the green sauce was used on this visit. It is delicious. I found a little of the red sauce went a really long way, and it was pretty much just pure heat without a lot of flavor in my mind, so I only used a bit to taste it. Anyway, the patacones were obviously cooked to order, as the plantains were very hot—these are green plantains so they do not have the sweetness the ripe plantains have. I liked the combination of these with the tender shredded meat (we had some with chicken and some with beef) and the fresh raw cilantro and onion. They were almost a little like nachos in a way, but very unique and with a lot more variation in flavors. They were lovely in their presentation as well as the taste. These would be on the must order list again.
We also tried a cachapa filled with ham and cheese ($7). A cachapa is a sweet corn cake that is cooked on the grill (obviously with some oil) and then folded around other ingredients. I really enjoyed the flavor of the corn cake itself—there were obvious bits of corn in the mix, and it was really sweet, but in a good way, like perfect corn. We were both sort of torn about how we felt about the fillings—the soft cheese was good, but the ham was just like pretty basic deli ham. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t overly exciting either. Maybe one of the other fillings might be more interesting, or even just cheese on its own. My only other complaint was they seemed a little greasy maybe, like maybe when they were grilled; a little too much oil was used. But I would certainly try them again.
Probably our least favorite thing was the empanada that we shared, which was filled with cheese ($2.50). It wasn’t bad, and the deep fried corn batter had a nice sweet corn flavor, but it just didn’t compare to the other things. They didn’t have any complexity I guess—it was really just the two ingredients, and even after doctoring it up with more of that yummy green sauce, I didn’t see them as something I would likely order again. It definitely would have benefited from a few more ingredients inside.
Finally, we shared the “Reina arepa” ($4.50). I mean it is called an “Arepas Grill” right? So we had to get at least one arepa. There are several different fillings for these little sandwiches—the one we chose is described as shredded chicken, avocado and a little bit of mayo. It was delicious. As soon as BFF bit into it, she said, “Oh, you’re going to like this,” and she was right. It sort of reminded me of a chicken salad that was made with pretty much just shredded chicken and avocado—the avocado mixed with a bit of mayo and onions just turned into a green-ish mix that tasted heavily of the avocado. The onion flavor was also certainly there (our server warned us if we didn’t like onions not to order it). It was creamy, smooth and quite filling. The arepas are on the small side of sandwiches compared to U.S. standards (I mean come on, does anyone really need a foot long sandwich?) but I only had half of it (of course with a lot of other stuff), and I was full. I think you could make a nice lunch of one, but others might disagree. The bread here is different from the other things, in that it is more like bread, well, sort of like an English muffin consistency really. The round piece of bread is sliced, but not all the way through (and then filled). The bread could also be compared to a slightly thicker pita. This one was a little tough to cut in half in order to share. Actually, all the other items we had were fairly large in size—the empanada and the cachapa were like the size of a tortilla folded in half. It was hard to tell from looking at the menu what the size was, but they are pretty large.
The interior of the restaurant is extremely clean, and quite a bit bigger than I expected. There are booths and regular tables as well. Our server was very friendly and helpful in answering questions. The recommendations she made were quite good. The service and atmosphere were a positive part of the experience, although don’t go here looking for anything fancy. The food is the reason to go, and it is reason enough (and I think they even have margaritas).
Caracas Arepas Grill
7940 N. Michigan Road