amaizing arepa bar photo by lauren healey

First Look: Amaizing Arepa Bar in downtown St. Louis

Amaizing Arepa Bar is bringing a taste of Venezuela to downtown St. Louis. The business began at Tower Grove Farmers’ Market in 2019 as Amaizing Cakes Latin Food and opened its first brick-and-mortar at 500 N. 14th St. on Monday, Feb. 12.

The menu features an expanded selection of what was offered at the farmers market, including empanadas, along with cachapas, sweet corn pancakes; tequenos, rolled cheese sticks; and, of course, arepas, a round, flat cornmeal cake. Pasticho, a Venezuelan-style lasagna,and patacones, similar to a sandwich but with fried green plantains in place of bread, will be added to the menu in the coming weeks.

Guests can order pre-created dishes or can fully customize their meals, choosing from meats like beef, chicken, pork, ham and pork belly, along with three types of cheese at different price points. “Cheese will be brought in from Miami due to the large population of Venezuelans there,” said owner Mayra Pacheco. Typically, Venezuelan cheese is a soft, white cheese that most closely resembles mozzarella in terms of taste and consistency; it is a vital element when assembling Venezuelan specialties like arepas and cachapas.

Toppings and sides include black beans, white rice, plantains and avocado salad. Dishes are served alongside crema and a cilantro-garlic sauce for dipping or drizzling. For the many businesses in the area, Pacheco wanted to offer an option for guests to purchase five meals a week in advance.

They offer beverages like lemonade and passion fruit juice, plus Venezuelan sodas such as Malta, which closely resembles root beer with more sweetness, and Frescolita, which is similar to red cream soda. Don’t miss the chicha, basically rice pudding in beverage form, or the fresh coconut juice. For dessert, look for chocolate flan, tres leches cake and marquesa, a Venezuelan-style tiramisu.

The 3,500-square-foot space is industrial, open and airy with touches of Venezuelan décor woven throughout, some of which was made by family members of Pacheco.

The business will resume operations at the weekly Tower Grove Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings once it reopens for the season in April. Amaizing Arepa Bar is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.