A friend sang the praises of Guasaca South American Grill soon after it opened back in December 2012. It took us a while to get there, but as soon as we did, we were hooked.
This local restaurant on Lake Boone Trail across from Rex Healthcare in Raleigh might remind you of places like Chipotle or Moe's Southwest Grill. You can choose from fillings such as rice, beans and various meats to fill a bowl or salad or, in the case of Guasaca, their arepas.
Guasaca's food is based on Venezuelan cuisine, according to its website. Arepas are Venezuela's "everyday bread," the website says. They are made of corn instead of wheat and, like a pita, can be filled with all sorts of ingredients. They include Guasaca sauce, which is the Venezuelan form of guacamole.
What makes all of this family friendly? First, it's incredibly affordable. One arepa, which is more than enough for me, typically costs less than $4. My family of four spends less than $25 for a very filling dinner featuring fresh, locally prepared food. It is so good.
It's casual. Like Chipotle or Moe's, you order at the bar and take your own food to your table.
And there are plenty of kid-friendly options. The first time we went, my nine-year-old filled up her arepas (she likes to eat two) with pork, cheese and salsa. I ordered one with just cheese for my four-year-old, who almost immediately eschewed it for my vegetarian arepa, which is filled with beans, a spicy cole slaw, carmelized onions and Guasaca sauce.
The next time, I ordered a vegetarian arepa for my four-year-old, who ate nearly the entire thing. It's the one place where I know my preschooler will leave full.
Picky kids can choose from fillings such as cheese, chicken, beef and black beans. Or they could nosh on an order of chips and Guasaca sauce.
We've been back many more times, taking family and friends there when we can. It's a family favorite. I highly recommend it.
Guasaca is at 4025 Lake Boone Trail. It's open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily.
If you've saved any room after lunch or dinner, Guasaca sits in the same complex as an Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt store. It's also a few steps from The Tumble Gym, which offers classes, camps and parents' night outs.