Framed by a glass window, the wall was colored a bright shade of canary yellow, and the inside was packed full. It was the kind of place where you have no option but to hear the conversation at the next table. We were at Valencia Luncheria where the overhead sign said Venezuelan Beach Food. Guy Fieri was here to film an episode of his popular show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The reviews from the Times and local papers were good too, so when we were told that we would have to wait nearly an hour for a table of four, we decided to stay put.
At the end of what was a very long wait, we were seated at a corner table and handed our menus. My friend ordered The Works (1 arepa, 1 empanada, ceviche, plus rice, beans, plantains, and avocado) which at $12 was like a sampler plate (pic above). The empanadas are fried pastry dough stuffed with a variety of fillings and arepas are essentially fried corn cake. Both offer combinations like cheese, avocado, chorizo, spinach, salmon and beef. Except for the salmon, all the others cost less than $5 so yeah, the prices are pleasantly low.
The best thing on the table was an assortment of squirt bottles with two red and one green condiment. Forget the reds, go for the green – it is probably cilantro-based and adds zing to any and every item on the menu. I thought the empanadas were in want of seasoning but a generous dash of the magical green and problem solved. If you ask me, the arepas scored over the empanadas anyway. But when it came to creativity in the choice of fillings, it was a tie. My favorite was the ‘Real Deal’, an arepa stuffed with stringy gooey mozzarella and spicy chorizo. We washed down the fried fare with jugos (juice).
Overall, I liked the vibe of the place, but the experience would have been better if the place was bigger and we didn’t have to wait so long.