You may know them as a Findlay Market staple, perfect for grabbing a hearty bite while browsing the market. In 2021, The Arepa Place branched out from OTR and brought its mouthwatering Colombian flavors to Wyoming. We spoke with owner Isis Arrieta-Dennis to learn more about her journey as a restaurateur and the history and heritage of The Arepa Place cuisine. Alongside her mother, Isis crafted each of The Arepa Place’s authentic recipes, all of which are made from scratch using traditional methods. One of these special family recipes—Arepa de Choclo—is shared below.
What inspired you to open your first location of The Arepa Place at Findlay Market?
I was hoping to get into the restaurant business, and I believed we could offer a product or dish that was relatively hard to find in the area and would have great success. However, I had virtually no restaurant or kitchen experience. Fortunately, about the same time I was getting started, Findlay Kitchen was just opening. I knew it would be a great place to learn the trade and receive some much-needed mentoring about the industry and about using a commercial kitchen.
How did you decide to make Wyoming your second location?
First of all, my husband is a Spanish teacher at Wyoming High School, and we live just outside Wyoming. Second, we met and became friends with the former owners of CWC, Kelly (Trush) and Caitlin (Young), before opening our first location at Findlay Market. In fact, they let us use their restaurant for multiple pop-ups, so we could have more experience in a restaurant setting. We fell in love with the restaurant and the community that supported us during these tryouts. When the restaurant was for sale, we did not think twice about making an offer and buying the location.
What has been the most rewarding part of bringing your traditional recipes to the Cincinnati community?
It is gratifying to see people’s acceptance of our food in Cincinnati—especially seeing Colombians eating a dish that reminds them of home. Bringing this traditional recipe to this city is helping me to preserve part of my identity and culture. Also, the most rewarding part is having my mom be a part of a mutual/generational dream of owning a restaurant.
What’s next for The Arepa Place?
Our idea right now is to focus on providing great service and food here in Wyoming and on building a stronger customer base. Learning to run two locations is still a challenge. The Wyoming location also provides us with more space, a bar, and a beautiful patio that requires more energy. Furthermore, this year we will once again participate in more festivals and local events.
Anything else you’d like the foodies of Wyoming to know?
We would like people to know that our arepas and empanadas are made from scratch, the traditional way. We cook the hominy corn and then grind it to make our arepas and empanadas. We are considered gluten-free, tree nut-free, peanut-free, and shellfish-free.
AREPA DE CHOCLO
This traditional dish is part of Venezuelan and Colombian cuisine. Like arepas, they are popular at roadside stands. The most common varieties are made with fresh ground corn mixed into a thick batter and cooked on a budare, like pancakes. Once cooked, they are traditionally eaten with queso de mano (handmade cheese), and occasionally with fried pork chicharrón on the side.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Equipment: Small skillet/frying pan, blender or food processor, spatula, and measuring cups + spoons.
- 1 cup of sweet corn mix (P.A.N.)
- 3 cups of frozen/fresh kernel corn
- 1 cup of milk
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- 3 tbsp of butter
- Fresco cheese
- Add fresh corn, milk, butter, corn flour, and salt in a blender and blend until a thick paste forms. Let stand for about 10 minutes for the mixture to thicken.
- Preheat the frying pan over medium low heat.
- When the pan is hot, add some vegetable oil.
- Pour 1/3 cup of mixture into the frying pan, making a circle around the pan.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes and flip with a spatula. Cook for 5 more minutes until the cachapa is golden brown.
- Place sliced mozzarella on one half of the cachapa and let it melt. Fold the other half over the cheese and spread some butter on top. Serve hot.
- If necessary, keep prepared capachas warm in the oven until all are cooked.