by Ian McNulty
The arepa is the staff of life in Colombia, where these golden-griddled cornmeal cakes are eaten throughout the day. Closer to home, they’re also the foundation for the menu at Maïs Arepas (1200 Carondelet St., 504-523-6247), which opened this week on the edge of Central City, near that neighborhood’s border with Uptown and downtown.
The restaurant comes from David Mantilla, a former partner in Baru Bistro & Tapas, who is a native of Cali, a large city in western Colombia. His menu highlights the traditional flavors of his hometown and features arepas with a dozen or more different fillings, from pulled pork to steak. There’s ajiaco, an Andean potato soup with shredded chicken, and the bandeja paisa, a Colombian-style mixed meat platter with grilled skirt steak, chorizo, chicharron, fried egg, plantains and avocado, plus, of course, arepas.
Mantilla says the restaurant’s name is a play on words, combining the French word for corn with arepa to suggest the Creole-style approach he’s after at Maïs Arepas.
“Back home, the culture is a mix of European, African and native people so that’s the idea of Creole I think we share with New Orleans,” he says.
The restaurant space was formerly Surrey’s La Playa, the soup-and-sandwich spinoff of Surrey’s Café & Juice Bar.
Maïs Arepas serves lunch Tuesday through Saturday and dinner Tuesday through Sunday and reservations are accepted.
1200 Carondelet St., 504-523-6247