Snack Attack: Arepas at Row 34
This weekend, sate your snack attack with a savory Venezuelan arepa from Row 34.
Executive chef Francisco Millan introduced the hand-held, stuffed maize snack on the Fort Point spot’s new Sunday brunch menu, highlighting an item customers wouldn’t normally find at Row 34, while simultaneously showcasing his South American heritage. Each gluten- and dairy-free arepa patty is prepared with cornmeal, water, and salt, then seared on both sides and puffed up in the oven.
“You certainly get a corn flavor from it, but it’s airy and fluffy, and it has a nice texture to it,” Millan says.
In Millan’s home country of Colombia, most would just eat the patty with dinner, he says. But Row 34’s version is more akin to the Venezuelan presentation, which plops food inside a split arepa to make it a sandwich. Millan enjoys this spin more, because of the possibilities it offers.
Each week’s featured arepa sandwich is different. Since debuting the dish in March, Millan has filled his arepas with spicy grilled shrimp with chipotle mayo and avocado, marinated tomato salad, traditional Venezuelan shredded chicken salad (his personal favorite), and even a familiar pairing of fried oysters with pickled onions and chili lime aioli.
“Being a sister restaurant of Island Creek Oyster Bar, we get a lot of requests for their oyster slider, so we did a variation of that in arepa form as an ode to that,” Millan says.
In deciding the week’s featured arepa, Millan’s recipes are dictated by seasonality and weather, but also simply by what’s in the kitchen that Sunday. Some days, he says he’ll show up the night before or the morning of the counter service and assess what to make for brunch.
But don’t worry. Millan has many ideas. In the future, he hopes to feature arepas with fried squash blossoms stuffed with lobster and cream cheese, a personal riff on a crab rangoon, as well as bluefish arepas, and one with house-made mozzarella. The restaurant often teases the week’s signature arepa on Instagram prior to brunch, so monitor that to plan ahead.
If reading this has induced a grumble in your hungry belly, you’re not alone: Millan says Row 34 sells out of arepas most weekends. Though he has no plans to move it beyond a Sunday-only offering, the counter service special isn’t going anyway anytime soon.
“I envision it going into the winter, and even doing some braised chicken or pork in the fall,” Millan says.
Whatever the contents, stop by Row 34 next Sunday and try one of these fleeting creations.
$10-$14, Sundays only, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Row 34, 383 Congress St., Boston, 617-553-5900, row34.com.