One of the great things about living in Southeast Colorado Springs is the local restaurants, which are criminally under-appreciated.
Southeast Colorado Springs has the best concentration of authentic ethnic restaurants in town. If you’re tired of the overwrought hipster fusion cafe-style “gastronomic experiences” owned by the same three white dudes who own everything downtown, you should come eat in Southeast Colorado Springs. If you’re looking for authentic flavors from the old country — whichever country that is — 80910 and 80916 are the place to go.
I’ve developed a pretty serious crush on plantains lately, and Southeast Colorado Springs restaurants have a variety of authentic plantain dishes. This month I checked El Taco y La Arepa (3748 Astrozon Blvd.), a cozy Mexican and Venezuelan eatery tucked inside Astrozon Plaza. Their tostones, crispy, salty fried green plantains, are different from the sweeter Jamaican-style fried plantains and the savory Puerto Rican mofongo I’ve had the pleasure of tasting recently, but make for a pleasant side to their namesake item, arepas.
Arepas are flat, round cornmeal cakes popular in Columbia and Venezuela, kind of like a cross between a corn tortilla and a pancake. Stuffed with meat and cheese, they make for delicious lunch fare. I tried La Rumbera, carnitas and cheese, and La Llanera, carne asada, cheese and avocado, and both were wonderful. The carnitas and carne asada were tender and flavorful and the cheese glued it all together inside the crispy arepa. It was a sandwich experience that was evocative of pulled pork or cheesesteak, but different and delicious at the same time. If meat and cheese aren’t your thing, they also have vegetarian and vegan arepa options.
In addition to arepas and tostones, El Taco Y La Arepa features a full menu with a variety of traditional Mexican and Venezuelan dishes.
They have standard Mexican fare like tacos, burritos, fajitas and enchiladas, as well as Venezuelan dishes like pabellon — shredded beef, rice and beans and plantains — and seafood offerings like ceviche, which features raw fresh fish and citrus, and aguachile, a Mexican dish similar to ceviche, but with shrimp. El Taco Y La Arepa is a great option for folks looking for a quick lunchtime arepa or for those looking for an elevated dining experience.