If you’ve never tried Venezuelan cuisine, the time is now. Papelón Venezuelan Arepa Bar has recently joined the food scene in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, and it is a must-visit.
As the name suggests, this spot specializes in arepas, a South American classic made with corn flour dough and filled with select meats, cheeses, and more! We visited this counter-service eatery to have a taste for ourselves and to meet the incredible brother duo that runs Papelón Venezuelan Arepa Bar.
When you first arrive at Papelón, you will be greeted by the smiling faces of the owners, Armando and Leonardo, or their sister who also has joined the team! The menu is the perfect size for a casual spot like Papelón. It hits a variety of arepa options as well as some shareables, traditional Venezuelan beverage choices, and even a dessert option.
Both of the appetizers are incredible, but our heart belongs to the tequeños. The menu describes these as cheese fingers wrapped in dough, but that does not do justice to these little nuggets of deliciousness! Think of a mozzarella stick, but way better. These come with two dipping sauce options, a cilantro sauce and a garlic sauce, but are truly so delicious as is.
The other appetizer option is empanadas. Empanadas are a food item you’ve likely heard of before as they are popular in a lot of different cultures’ cuisine. One order from Papelón comes with three empanadas – one shredded beef, one shredded chicken, and one cheese. These are also super tasty and pair great with the two dipping sauces!
The Main Event
Now looking at the main event – the arepa. There are seven different options on Papelón’s menu. The one that comes loaded up with a variety of fillings is the Pabellón, a great choice. The Pabellón comes with your choice of shredded beef or shredded chicken, black beans, sweet plantains, and queso fresco.
Our personal favorite is the Borracha which means “the drunk one”. In Venezuela, arepas are commonly bought after a night of drinking as a quick and easy street food. We definitely see why, LOL. The Borracha comes stacked with roasted pork and shaved Gouda cheese. Eat it as soon as you are handed it and enjoy the shredded cheese. Or let it melt and then go in for a bite. Either way, you can’t go wrong!
By nature, arepas are gluten-free due to the corn flour dough used as the base. Papelón also offers vegetarian options including the Veggie arepa and the Dominó arepa. These two are filled with a combination of black beans, different cheeses, plantains, and avocado, yum!
Bear in mind all of the arepas are made to order. So if there is something you don’t like on any of the menu items, you can ask for your arepa without it. The dietary accommodations make Papelón great for groups.
Top off your meal with the dessert item, Golfeados! This is a sweet molasses roll baked with anise seeds and topped with queso fresco. This combo of flavors is so unique and like nothing you’ve ever had before. Go full in with a big bite or cut it up to share!
The one surprise menu item we weren’t expecting to go crazy for was the Venezuelan soft drink, Fress Kolita. This canned drink can be found in the cooler at Papelón. It tastes like a cherry cream soda and is truly so incredible.
Other authentic drink options include the namesake, Papelón, which is a combination of sugar cane and lemon, and the Parchita, a passion fruit flavored beverage. The owners truly want to give you the full Venezuelan experience from what you’re eating to what you’re drinking.
We could tell by talking with Armando and Leonardo that they truly have such a passion for the food from their home country. By bringing the famous arepa to Pittsburgh as well as limited-time specialty items, these brothers are crushing it.
Keep an eye out for limited item releases on their social media, like last month’s item cachitos! After talking with Armando and Leonardo, they might have something special cooking up for the holidays…so give them a follow on Instagram to stay updated.
The next time you’re looking for a quick bite for lunch or dinner, consider trying Papelón Venezuelan Arepa Bar! Trust us when we say as soon as you have it once, you’ll want to go back for more. Visit Papelón on Murray Ave in Squirrel Hill Wednesday through Monday from 11am – 9pm!This content was provided by a local, independent contributor to Made in PGH, a lifestyle blog.