May 31, 2024 - News

The Richmond area's Venezuelan food scene is booming

a picture of an arepa with plaintains, avocado, cheese and black beans in front of an "I love arepas" sign

The Arepa Vegallon at Bocata Arepa Bar. Photo: Sabrina Moreno/Axios

Venezuelan restaurants are having a (hopefully permanent) moment in the Richmond area.

Why it matters: The crisis in Venezuela has forced more than 7.7 million people to flee, and our food has become a way to keep parts of our culture alive — no matter where we live.

The big picture: Venezuelan cuisine, largely known for its arepas, hasn't been widely popular in Richmond.

  • Kanoa Latin Cuisine, one of Richmond's earlier (and only) Venezuelan restaurants, closed in 2016 after barely a year.

Yes, but: Now we have at least five spots.

  • One of the most known is Bocata, which opened in Southside in 2016 before moving to Short Pump in 2020.
  • In 2023, Yelp named it as one of the top 100 best places to eat in the U.S.

Others include:

The latest: Then there's Maracucho's RVA, which opened a little over a month ago in Midlothian.

  • The name is a reference to a nickname given to Venezuelans from Maracaibo, which has a famous bridge that's part of the restaurant's logo.

Naturally, I went with my dad. Here's what we got.

A spread of maltin polar, arepas, chicha and empanadas
The spread at Maracucho's RVA (tequeños not pictured). Photo: Sabrina Moreno/Axios

For drinks:

  • Maltin Polar, a malt beverage made from cane sugar. $3.50.
  • Chicha, a creamy rice-based drink that's mixed with condensed milk, vanilla and cinnamon. $6.

For food:

  • Two rounds of tequeños. $10 for 5.
  • Empanadas with cheese and carne mechada. $3.50 each.
  • Agüita de Sapo arepa, the owner's recommendation, which is two fried arepas holding together shredded pork, fried cheese, shredded cabbage and house sauces. $16.

The bottom line: I've been Venezuelan my entire life, and eating at Maracucho's was the first time I'd had an arepa like that — and I loved it.

  • Now I'm manifesting more Venezuelan restaurants on the way to try and recommend.
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