Puyero: Venezuelan Flavor
Just a few meters off the corner of 4th and South Street, there is a small Venezuelan restaurant called Puyero. This homely restaurant is more than just a place to eat though; it is a portal into Venezuelan culture, and not only for its food but also with the music they play and their big wall of Venezuelan traditional sayings that have been translated to English. As a Venezuelan student who is been away from home for nearly 4 years, and not really good at cooking, coming to Puyero and having the opportunity to enjoy our traditional food in such a home-like setting is invaluable.
The owner, Simon explains why the ambience of the restaurant it’s so important: “What we want to do is teach people about what Venezuelan food and culture is, I think that is our main goal”. Simon also explains that people who have no previous experience with Venezuelan food often find themselves surprised with what they get. “People relate Hispanic food to Mexican food because it is the one you see more here in the states, and it is pretty interesting that when they come here they think our food is spicy and our food in Venezuela is in general not spicy”. So what should you expect when you go to Puyero?
Puyero`s menu offers a variety of traditional Venezuelan dishes, going from side dishes all the way to deserts and even drinks, which they try to keep as authentic as possible. While they offer many different sides you can (and should) start your meal by ordering some tequeños. Tequeños are very similar to mozzarella sticks, but much better. Tequeños are also a very traditional side dish, as Simon explains” “Every party in Venezuela has to have tequeños, and if you don’t have tequeños in your party then is a bad party”.
For your main course you can go with either an arepa or a cachapa. Arepas are the most popular Venezuelan plate. They are essentially corn patties stuffed with different fillings. “[It’s] our everyday food, we have them for breakfast, lunch, dinner” says Simon. My personal favorite would be the “reina pepiada” which comes filled with chicken, avocado and gouda cheese. On the other hand, cachapas are sweet corn pancakes, and these are also offered with a variety of fillings. My personal recommendation would be to get it with just cheese and nata which is similar to sour cream. Moving on to the deserts, we have either churros or marquesa. Churros are fried dough filled with chocolate, while a marquesa is cookie and chocolate layered cake. If you happen to need any help picking, the staff at Puyero is always ready to assist. The food here is delicious and authentic, so regardless of what you pick you can be sure that you are getting a real inside taste of our food and culture.
The owner Simon explains that luckily for them most of the ingredients and utensils they need to keep the menu authentic can be found somewhat easily in the states and when they can’t find them they say they go for “really close substitutes that do not make much of a difference.” This helps preserve the food’s flavor so you know you are getting a real taste of Venezuelan cuisine, which is their ultimate goal.
“As a Venezuelan place we are introducing new flavors into the American crowd… a lot of people come in here and they do not know what an arepa is, and part of what we do is try to show them what our products are.” Although this approach has been a challenge, he says it also brings great rewards: “This past weekend a family came in here with two young kids, and the kids said ‘this is the best food I’ve had in my life, do these guys have awards?’ And those are the biggest rewards because people like it and then, as an ambassador of Venezuela, it feels good to know people are accepting what you bring and what you are doing”.