Viva Las Arepas leaves the kiosk—for now

Alex Espita of Colombia and Stephanie Ldesmi of Brazil eat filled arepas at Viva Las Arepas on the northwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard South and Wyoming Avenue Sunday, June 17, 2012. An arepa is a South American flat bread made of cornmeal or flour.
Photo: Steve Marcus

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.

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.

Tags: Dining
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