It’s been a year and a half since I first bellied up to the window of Viva Las Arepas (formerly I Heart Arepas) in the Dino’s parking lot and ordered a basket of Felix Arellano’s Venezuelan cornmeal sandwiches stuffed with savory pork, beans and cheese and shredded chicken. The glowing outpost became a welcome landmark on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Wyoming, but if you drive by the kiosk these days, it’s a sorry sight: shudders down, tables gone, no more arepas.
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No need to panic, however. On January 20, the former cook at Valentino who gambled on opening his own restaurant and cooking his native cuisine debuted a brick-and-mortar Viva Las Arepas just one block south of his original location. The new, spruced up restaurant has more seating spread across a bright, wide dining room with big windows looking out onto the street. Larger digs mean a larger staff and an expanded menu that adds wood fire-grilled chicken, mixed meat platters and sides to the popular array or arepas. Smoky and moist with crisp skin, the chicken in particular is a welcome addition, leaving just enough grease on your fingers that you're tempted to lick each one.
And that kiosk? Arellano isn’t giving it up just yet. He’s already contemplating a plan to convert it into a taco shop that would serve a few varieties of fresh street tacos to the passersby and barflies that wander into the Dino’s lot. Vivan Los Tacos? I could get behind that.