After 17 years, Caracas Arepa Bar is closing in the East Village
Caracas Arepa Bar in the East Village in June 2019. Map data © 2020 Google
Before the entire East Village was a hub of hip food, the stretch of East 7th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue was somewhat of a pioneer in the new guard of restaurants, and one of the first places to set up here was Caracas Arepa Bar. In 2003, the Venezuelan restaurant was opened by owners Maribel Araujo and Aristides Barrios, who met at another arepa bar in the city of Caracas and often get credit for popularizing arepas in the city. But, sadly, after 17 years, the restaurant is the latest to fall victim to the pandemic and announced on Instagram that the last day for their East Village location will be November 8.
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What a hell of a ride it was… ✴17 YEARS… Lots of memories, friends and arepas… I feel nostalgic and sad but satisfied. How many people now know arepas because of this little hole on the wall… ⏳Come to say good bye this week⌛ Thank you to all who helped build this place, we did it with our own bare hands. Thank you to those who helped us navigate these 17 years… Those part of the team, now became family and those supporting us over the years, also became family… We’ll keep harvesting Arepas in BROOKLYN while we can… THANK YOU ALL! ▶️Arístides (Gato)◀️ #endofanera #caracasEASTvillage #thankYOU #eastvillage #lastdays #goodbye Window art by the one and only @ana_handmade
Arepas are a type of corn muffin, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, stuffed with fillings like cheese, shredded chicken, chorizo, plantains, avocado, and roasted pork shoulder. On their website, Caracas explains that they “are not a fast food joint, and certainly not a ‘Nuevo Latino’ restaurant,” but instead are “driven by a combination of nostalgia, entrepreneurship, and authenticity.”
Though Araujo and Barrios are no longer married, they remain co-owners. According to Edible Queens, Barrios is the “holder of the secret house sauce recipe.” And since the East Village location was a success, it allowed them to open another full-service restaurant in Williamsburg. Here, they have a large dining room, an outdoor patio, and a rum bar called Roneria Caracas. In 2011, they opened a seasonal outpost in Rockaway Beach. These other two locations will remain open.
On their Instagram post, Araujo and Barrios did not cite the specific reason they’re closing, but it’s likely due to reduced business in the wake of the pandemic.
It’s not known exactly how many NYC restaurants have closed in the past seventh months, but Eater estimates it to be near 1,000. A September report by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, various estimates predict that one-third to one-half of the city’s restaurants and bars could close in the next six months to a year. This would mean the loss of 8,000-12,000 establishments and 106,000 to 159,000 jobs.