Food

Cheap Eats 2011: La Caraqueña

This is either the area’s most unassuming great restaurant or its most assuming cheap one. It fronts a divey motel, the ceiling needs repair, and the booths are tight fits for four. Yet owner Raul Claros Ugarte can be found every night in his crisp chef’s jacket, and the soulful dishes he sends to the table–inspired by the cuisines of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Chile–are distinguished by touches typically found at places charging three times as much.

You see them in the artfully presented mango-avocado-and-corn salad, in the refinements of the peanut and black-bean soups, even in the arepas and salteñas, which in lesser hands taste like hearty grab-and-go food but here possess an appealing lightness. Even simple fare such as black beans and rice gets loving attention.

Also good: Arepa sifrina (corn cakes with chicken salad, avocado, and cheese); JP’s Favorite arepa (sirloin, onions, cilantro); diputado (a Chilean sandwich of sliced sirloin, onions, and scrambled egg); pabellón criollo (shredded-beef hash with beans and rice).

Open Wednesday through Monday for lunch and dinner.

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