Raleigh, N.C. — For this Out & About restaurant review, we're featuring a unique restaurant with an interesting name: Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill. Guasaca brings the flavors of Venezuela and Latin America to Raleigh with its fresh and simple food. The menu is centered around arepas, sort of like corn bread tortilla pockets, that are popular in Venezuela.
The restaurant: The restaurant was packed when we came in for lunch, which is always a good sign. The decor is simple and modern, but bright and inviting with fresh green walls and wooden accents. When the weather is warmer, their outside patio will be a great place to enjoy a meal.
The location: Right next to I-440 and Lake Boone Trail, in the same shopping center as Bottle Revolution and Buffalo Wild Wings. With the beltline right there, it was very convenient.
The meal: While the menu focuses on arepas stuffed with delicious fillings, including chicken, veggies and pork, you can also build your own or order a bowl or salad. We all went with their pre-designed specialty arepas and some chips and guasaca (like guacamole salsa) to share.
Caitlin: I ordered the avocado chicken arepa, and I really liked it! The simple and perfectly balanced combination of grilled chicken, avocado and house sauce was creamy and delicious. The house sauce added just a little bit of spice. At first I was surprised by how small the arepas were, but by the time I finished mine, I was full. The corn in the arepa made the bread a bit denser, and it was a bit crispy on the outside.
As my coworkers will explain below, the guasaca sauce we shared was amazing.
Jodi: I suggested Guasaca for our Out & About lunch by happenstance. I was just trying to find something fresh, quick and convenient. Well, it delivered on all three factors and more.
Start with the namesake side dish. You may think you love guacamole. I do, so I eagerly ordered “guasaca sauce” and chips for the table. Well, I regretted that decision. After one bite, I did not want to share. “Guasaca sauce” is chunky avocado, tomatoes, a bit of citrus bite and a touch of spice – good enough to fight over.
For my entrée, I had the signature tilapia arepa. The tender fish was topped with baked plantains, caramelized onions and white cheese. It smelled very fishy and was served warm, with the cheese melting delightfully. The accompanying cilantro sauce truly made the dish. It was pesto-like in texture and the right counterpoint to the fish.
The arepa looks small, but they pack it full and one is enough – especially since you'll be chowing down on that guasaca sauce.
Kathy: I had the Mechadan Arepa, which is shredded beef with black beans, white cheese, pico de gallo and topped with red sauce. The beef was tender and I really liked the pita bread it came on. At first, I really thought I was going to be hungry afterwards. This little pita didn't look like much, but it was really filling. And it wasn't expensive! If you go, you must try the guasaca sauce! So good! A great fresh mixture similar to guacamole.
Tara: Guasaca is like a Venezuelan Moe's with fresh ingredients and affordable prices.
Being my first time here and seeing how the line was piling up behind me, I went with the chicken signature arepa. There are seven Signature Arepas that you can choose from or you can build your own arepa, bowl or salad but with so many choices I had no idea what I wanted.
I’m so glad I went with the signature. I don’t think I could have picked the correct sauces and combination of flavors any better myself.
When I was walking through the line I was worried that I wasn’t going to be full off one arepa but I was wrong! They stuff it full with grilled chicken, black beans, pico de gallo, white cheese and cilantro sauce. All the ingredients were really fresh and even though I usually don’t like beans these were really good. I wish it had been a little spicier but next time I will be sure to ask for that.
We also split an order of chips and guasaca sauce, which is their version of guacamole, and it is one of the best dips I have ever had. We split the order between four people and though there were plenty of chips there is really only enough dip for two to split.
For about $5 this is a great place for lunch or dinner. It gets really busy during peak lunch and dinner hours but they are fast. As long as you can get a seat you will be in and out in no time.
The bill: An arepa and a drink will set you back only about $5-$7.Two arepas, drinks and shared chips and guasaca make a quick and easy lunch date for under $15.
The service: As Tara said, the restaurant is set up like a Moe's Southwest Grill. After you order, you can watch the food being made right in front of you, and you can let the staff know exactly what you want on your arepa. Our food was prepared quickly, even though they were quite busy.
The verdict: We'll definitely be back, even if it's just for some chips and guasaca! The food was quick, cheap and yummy, and a great place for lunch.