If you live in Raleigh and want to try some fresh and wonderful food based on Venezuelan cuisine, head on over to Guasaca, which recently opened off of Lake Boone Trail, right down from Rex Hospital. Believe me; you’ll be glad you did!
According to Guasaca’s website, the restaurant was “born out of the belief that it is possible to offer food that is delicious, affordable, fresh and healthy, all at the same time.” Well guess what? Guasaca lives up to all of this, and more! Needless to say I am thrilled that this new restaurant is less than three miles from home. It is set up somewhat like a submarine sandwich store – you stand in line and once you get to the counter you choose your ingredients. The line has always moved quickly when I’ve been there and the service is some of the friendliest I’ve seen anywhere.
You may wonder what the word “guasaca” means (I did.) After looking it up on the Internet I discovered that it’s basically a chunky guacamole with pico de gallo added. After trying Guasaca’s version I understand why they named the restaurant after it — it is some of the best stuff I’ve ever tasted. Just give me a couple of orders of this and I’ll be your best friend for life. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Make sure you get a side order of this with your main meal — for $2.65 you get a single serving af guasaca plus chips.
You also may be wondering what exactly an arepa is. An arepa is a corn cake made of ground maize (or flour), water and salt, which is fried into a thick bread and is a staple in Venezuela. At Guasaca, you can build your own arepa or try any of the seven signature ones. So far I’ve had three of the signature arepas, and have loved all of them.
The Vegetarian Arepa ($3.90) comes with black beans, caramelized onions, guasaca sauce and a choice of plantains or cole slaw (I had the plantains which were so yummy). This is my favorite of all of the signature areapas and the combination of the ingredients is phenomenal. It makes your mouth want to do a happy dance.
The Chicken Arepa ($3.90) has grilled chicken, black beans, pico de gallo, cheese and cilantro sauce. This arepa is also a winner. The grilled chicken is juicy and the pico de gallo is bursting with fresh flavors.
I also like the Pork Arepa ($4.10), which has braised pork, black eyed peas, pico de gallo, white cheese and mustard sauce. Do not leave off the mustard sauce – it really makes a difference and ties the ingredients together.
I can’t wait to try the rest of the signature arepas and then move on and build some of my own. By the way, one arepa plus a side of guasaca and chips is quite filling. Trust me on this. If you’re still hungry after one, go back through the line and order a second one, but I really don’t think you’ll have room.
If you don’t want an arepa (and I can’t imagine that), try one of the bowls or salads instead. I built my own salad that consisted of shredded beef (Mechada), black beans, pico de gallo, cheese and guasaca sauce (which cost a little bit extra but well worth it), with a side of cilantro sauce. Great, fresh and filling. The Mechada was flavored perfectly. I noticed that many people were getting their bowls with rice (you have a choice of white or brown) instead of the lettuce. I think this option would be especially good with black beans and caramelized onions, at least for starters.
Guasaca has a number of tables inside and also outside seating with several tables with umbrellas, which is nice on a beautiful day. The food is wonderful, the service is excellent and the price is right. Located at 4025 Lake Boone Trail, Raleigh, N.C., it is open daily from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Put this on your list places to try in Raleigh, and visit soon – you’ll be glad you did!
- Price: Excellent. Lots of fresh food for a price that won’t break the bank.
- Service: 5.00. I’m not sure if the staff is on happy pills, but everyone is nice and helpful.
- Food: 4.95. The guasaca and vegetarian arepas are addictive. Fresh and flavorful.
- Recommend: Yes, yes, yes!
- Kid friendly: Sure. I think they’d have fun choosing their own ingredients.
1= hater, 2=poor, 3=adequate, 4=above average, 5=superb
Eat, drink and be merry!
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This looks amazing and so affordable! Thanks for the heads up; can’t wait to try it :).
PJ – It is really wonderful! Try it next time you visit your parents. And then stop by my house for cocktails (and bring me some guasaca sauce!)
Looks wonderful! Is it in the same area as Buffalo Bros?
Yes – it’s a few doors down. You need to try this place!
Yesterday, Karen kindly invited me into her kitchen again, and allowed me to take photographs as she prepared some arepas. She and I both agreed: everyone should be eating these, and not just those of us who are gluten-free.
Everybody’s been going here and writing about it, and I’d say it lived up to the hype. The comparisons to Chipotle are apt, if inevitable, but the food here is fresher and more vibrant. My wife liked the pork with beans arepa, while my favorite, surprisingly, was the steak with caramelized onions (not always a fan of the steak in these kinds of dishes). The fish/plantains special was my least favorite. Next time I’ll create my own arepa. I loved the arepas themselves – think thick, moist corn tortillas. The sauce for each is served on the side, which is nice but a little confusing: do you pour it on? dip it?. The house “guasaca” sauce (somewhat like a chunky guacamole/pico de gallo hybrid) is delicious. The place is super clean and the staff is friendly. I’m eager to go back for more.
Thanks for your comments, Rusty. I may have to go for dinner tonight!
I watched as they assembled it on top of the tortilla on the grill. Healthy portions of rice, chorizo and lettuce, topped with some red onion and cilantro, and generous doses of sour cream, pico de gallo and (at my request) hot sauce. Mmm good! These guys know how to do hot sauce (and burritos).
Guasaca’s food is so good and fresh, and reasonably priced. Thanks for letting me know about the hot sauce – I will definitely try it next visit.