Shredded-beef arepa from Aripo's
Aripo’s shredded-beef arepa


The arepa, a plump, saucer-sized disk of white cornmeal, is the star attraction at this new family-run Venezuelan charmer. “I cook the food I grew up with,” says José Rodríguez, a partner. “All my mom’s recipes.” After a thorough grilling crisps the edges, the arepa is split open and stuffed with one of 19 different fillings, from shredded chicken with avocado salad to minced shark. Best of all is the conquera, a hearty mix of red peppers, onions, sweet plantain, thick black beans, and mild white cheese ($4.80). All can be ordered at the counter along with other treats, such as cornmeal-based empanadas ($2.95 to $3.25) and cachapas—soft, stretchy cheese sandwiched between two large golden corn pancakes and paired with shredded beef, chicken, or sautéed veggies ($10.80). Beers are on hand, but fresh-pulp-squeezed juices, like mango or passion fruit, keep the tropical vibe going. So does quesillo, a flan so light and soothing that we bet it would even mellow out Ozzie Guillen after a tough game. 118 N. Marion St., Oak Park; 708-386-1313


Photograph: Courtesy of Aripo’s