If you didn’t know La Caraqueña was here, you would never stop by. The motel it belongs to is on the, shall we say, seedy side, and the exterior is dulled from age. Inside, though, the setting conjures a cafe in Miami’s South Beach with its coral-colored walls, polished hardwood floors, and pulsing soundtrack. Raul Claros’s Venezuelan cooking is equally eye-opening, evincing the precision and finesse of finer dining. Privilege the entrées and you miss what’s most exciting—the soups, including a subtle and soothing sopa de mani (peanut soup), and the arepas, warm, griddled cakes of corn (opt for grilled, not fried) with any number of fillings, among them an unlikely and wonderful combo of chicken salad and avocado.
Where you can get it: 300 W. Broad St., Falls Church; 703-533-0076
Also good: Shredded-beef and black-bean-and-cheese arepas; black-bean soup; pabellon—a dish of pulled beef with rice, black beans, and plantains—with avocado.