Almost every day that I bike to work, I pass a colorful blue and red building. Out of sheer laziness, it took me a few months to look up what the building actually was — it turned out to be the home of Teote Areperia, a former Venezuelan food cart turned brick-and-mortar offering colorful agua fresca (or, freshly squeezed juice) drinks:
And of course, arepas.
What are arepas? Arepas are Venezuelan corn cakes that are griddled and baked. I like to think of them as a cross between English muffins and corn cakes. In South America, they function as toast, eaten daily with savory toppings like avocado and cheese, or sweet toppings like butter and jam. In Teote’s case, they like to serve their arepas with lots of butter and bowls of meat:
At $6 a bowl, you get two arepas and can choose between accompaniments of slow roasted pork belly, brisket, pork shoulder, chorizo, and more. The portions aren’t exactly the largest in the world (read: they’re almost insultingly tiny), so in my hangry eyes, I opted for two. I started with the Pernil — pork shoulder braised with morita chile and beer marinade, topped with cabbage salad, verde sauce, queso fresco and cilantro:
Although it was pretty tasty, it didn’t quite compare to the second arepa dish that I ordered, El Diablo. El Diablo consists of pork belly and poblano chiles glazed in a red chili maple sauce, topped with pickled onions, verde sauce, queso fresco and cilantro:
I was expecting El Diablo to be spicy because of the poblano and red chilis that were included its descriptions, but I was pleasantly surprised. The meat as a whole was surprisingly sweet, but not sickeningly so. The dish’s accompanying verde sauce, queso fresco and herbs do a good job of keeping an umami flavor to the dish as a whole. This is seriously one of my favorite dishes in the restaurant (maybe even currently in Portland), and what’s most likely going to keep me coming back to Teote.
The restaurant is divided into a downstairs section where you place your order, and an upstairs bar. The upstairs bar was colorful, but more surprisingly, incredibly well lit with natural light flooding in from several skylights and huge windows from a deck-turned-garden room:
It was the kind of place that you wanted to stay and have a couple of drinks in. They have a full bar, but my personal favorite are their agua frescas — fruit juice mixed with water, sugar and ice. In this case, we both had a pineapple and lime agua fresca:
But for a couple extra bucks more, Erlend spiked his with a shot of dark rum. The resulting drink was delicious and refreshing.
That being said, despite my overall positive experience, there are some cons to Teote. The portions can be pretty small, so it’s best to go when you’re feeling a bit peckish, but not entirely hungry. I’ve been twice now. The first time was after a heavy Crossfit workout and spent the rest of the meal fuming about how little food I’d gotten for my money. The second was when I just wanted a small snack and ordered two bowls of arepas, but only ended up finishing one. Be warned. Service can also be slow, especially when you line up to order your food.
All in all, however, the good still outweighs the bad. Especially if you get the El Diablo.