Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hola Arepa - Minneapolis, MN

D.Rough and I had random reasons to celebrate, so we decided to hit up a place we've been meaning to go to for months. Hola Arepa in Uptown. It was a Friday night, so we knew there was going to be a wait, but we were up for it - especially since they had a bar there. The host told us it would be about 30 minutes.

We put our name in and headed to the bar. As we were walking up, the people sitting there were leaving and told us to take their spot. We sat down and proceeded to look at the drink menu - soooooo many delicious sounding drinks. Apparently, these folks are known for their creative cocktails. All of them contain bitters, which I'm not a huge fan of, but I am able to order drinks without bitters like a grown ass man, so we're all good.

I ordered an El Camino Rojo and D.Rough ordered a Cortez The Killer. We watched the drink expert make these ridiculously expert-level drinks and were pretty impressed. These drinks were strong. REALLY strong. And delicious, thankfully. We both liked the Cortez The Killer better, but both were super tasty. This also gave us time to check out the food menu so we were ready when we sat down at our table.

We ran into some friends, like you do in Uptown, and chatted the time away. We also ordered two more drinks. I opted for the Jolly Poltergeist and D.Rough got the Southerly Pariah - again, both were incredibly strong. To the point of weavy-ness. This time, I ordered the winning drink (the Jolly Poltergeist)(again, without bitters).

It was just over 30 minutes when the host called our name and sat us at a table being served expertly by Bryce - a fellow long-haired bearded gentleman. We were already leaning towards a couple of appetizers and finally decided on the Vigoron appetizer - steamed yuca, roasted pork, citrus-cabbage slaw, pico de gallo, and chicharron on a banana leaf. After a few questions, I ordered an arepa with roasted pork and sweet potatoes and D.Rough ordered the arepa with shredded beef and plantains. If you don't know what arepas are, you're missing out. They're sort of a taco-like hand food. Picture a circular cross between a pita and an english muffin, but made out of corn meal. Then stuff it with all kinds of different ingredients (mainly the kinds of things you would put in a fancy taco) like lettuce, shredded beef/pork, black beans, onions, and other things.

The Vigoron came out and we were extremely excited for this crazy thing. It was a mound of shredded pork with some other fun things to dip the pork rinds into. Seriously this thing was worth fighting over. I was very surprised both at how large it was and also how delicious it was. I'm glad we decided on this for an appetizer.

The arepas came out just after we finished our appetizer. And I'll be honest, it was really difficult to tell which one was better.

The shredded beef was had fantastic cumin flavor and the sweetness of the plantains really cut through. The cotija cheese flavor also came through brilliantly. I was really surprised how good this thing was.

The roasted pork arepa with sweet potato was also fantastic. The green onion aioli was extremely mild and complemented the roasted pork very well. Just the right amount of sweet potato so as not to be overpowering.

The yuca fries that came with our areas were wonderful. I got the chimichurri dip and D.Rough got the aioli verde dip. Again, we couldn't decide which one was better - we loved them both.

I'll be honest, I expected to just think this place was "o.k.". I was totally wrong about it. The place is wonderful. I know there are competing arepa restaurants in the Twin Cities that are cheaper, but the arepas at Hola are much larger, more full of ingredients, and are more filling. One arepa is more than enough here, especially if you get one of their enormous appetizers (which I would recommend).

Top 5 things about Hola Arepa
1. Vigoron
2. Shredded beef and plantain arepa
3. Roasted pork and sweet potato arepa
4. Delicious cocktails
5. Both the chimichurri dip and the aioli verde dips for the yuca fries

Bottom 5 things
1. You're going to wait in line, especially in the winter when the patio is closed. There's a really good reason they're as busy as they are
2. The bartender, who is an absolute wizard, is leaving Hola Arepa to start his own distillery!!!!
3. You're going to want everything on the menu
4. I've heard people call it "Holla" arepa. Those people are idiots
5. If you don't like bitters, order your fancy drinks without them - it's that easy

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