Day 9: The Patron Saint
Jackson Heights, Queens — A tip came in about a little gem in Jackson Heights serving up the hands-down best arepas in NY, and possibly the world. Her name is simply the Arepa Lady aka The Patron Saint as locals have come to call her. A former judge and lawyer, she swapped her robe for an apron and now sentences all that are bestowed upon her 10-20 seconds of deliciousness so good it ought to be illegal. I inhaled my first arepa (con queso) in under 20 and immediately hopped back in line for more. Alejandro and the Arepa Lady (real name Piedad) worked side by side handling the griddle and line of hungry StreetGrubbers in melodious harmony. When I told Alejandro about my challenge, he mentioned a burger cart on 31st that was simply “insane”! Needless to say, I’ll be pinning that to my NOM map. I got their choclo for the road and while both were absolutely delicious in their own way, my pick goes to their classic arepa con queso.
Let’s talk about the arepa choclo first. It was bigger, thinner, and folded like an omelette. It looked and actually tasted like a pancake, except denser and chewier. It was sweet, almost maply, and the cheese inside salty, so the combo reminded me of breakfast. The charred outside tasted like the crust of pizza. It was good, but not nearly as fantastic as the classic.
My first bite of the classic caught me off guard. I’d had arepas before (or so I thought) from street fairs in the city and they were always dense and heavy, with the outsides feeling grainy and crumbly. These were completely different. The exterior was crisp like the thinner version of a crème brûlée shell. The inside was fluffy and buttery and tasted like a sweet buttermilk biscuit. The cheese was mild and incorporated into the batter, making them super luxurious and pillowy soft.
The extra melted queso atop stringed like a fresh slice of pizza, and made it so much fun to eat. It was light, airy, soft, sweet, and slightly savory and I just can’t understand how something so simple can taste and make me feel so darn good. I’d had a lot of delicious grub so far, but this is without a doubt my favorite to date. Find the Arepa Lady on Friday and Saturday nights on 79th Street and Roosevelt Ave. Be sure to follow her tweets before you go however – I’ve been told her schedule sometimes varies. Don’t be surprised if you see me back in Jackson Heights this weekend for round two.
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