I’ve spent some time being jealous of my friends who work downtown. First, they don’t have to drive. (I’ve been known to loudly chant encouraging words to myself when dealing with the 315 and 270 merge on my way home from work: “I hate to change lanes, but I can change lanes!”) I dream of a simple bus ride and the company of a book or Twitter on my commute. A second point of jealousy is their access to El Arepazo, one of the best (and busiest) lunch destinations in Columbus. I’ve only been able to visit a few times (thanks, jury duty!) but every time, I swoon over their patacon (a Venezuelan dish of fried plantains topped with tilapia, banana peppers, avocado, lettuce and cheese) and drool over their cilantro sauce (available in mild and spicy). Alas, my work in the grocery land doesn’t free me to leave for lunch and my opportunities to shove my face full of their deliciousness are few and far between.
Happy news! While Carlos and the folks from El Arepazo haven’t done anything about my (relatively short) commute, they have made it easier for me to enjoy their wares, via their new food truck, Yerba Buena Latin Grill, which is parked on High Street near Glenmont on the north end of Clintonville. I visited Saturday and sampled most of the menu. I will be back. Often. Today’s Friday Five is a small selection of my favorite items from the truck.
1. Ceviche ($6).
While nothing can beat the poolside ceviche Maya and I had at the resort in Sabang, this comes pretty damn close. Cool bites of tilapia are topped with all the amazing parts of summer, including corn, lime juice, mango and cilantro. I could have eaten three orders, but we got the last one.
2. Fried Pork Belly ($3).
Or, as the menu says, “Belly Pork Chicharron.” It’s no secret that pork belly would make my top five of anything, but this is what I think of when I think of my favorite protein: simple, crispy, fatty and heavenly belly pork. Awesome.
3. Fried Green Plantains ($3).
We devoured these lovelies in the parking lot, while waiting for the rest of our food. Crispy and multi-textured, they were perfectly paired with that heavenly cilantro sauce.
4. Colombian Chorizo ($3).
You know when you go to restaurants, and you order the pizza or the pasta or the egg thing that has chorizo in it, and then you find some sort of ground, underwhelming… disappointingness? This is the chorizo that you were hoping for. Trust me. Order it. And if you’re not the kind of person that likes to share, order two.
5. Patacon ($7).
Last, but certainly not least, the aforementioned patacon. The tilapia version is not available on the truck, but I stole a bite or two of the chicken (beef is also an option) and wanted fifteen or sixteen more bites. As I was unwilling to trade my pork belly or chorizo for those additional tastes, I decided to wait until my next visit, and get an order just for myself.
I’ve been slow to adapt to the truck scene, mainly due to my nasty habit of not carrying cash. But I know when to compromise. El Arepazo met me halfway by moving into my neighborhood. The least I can do is keep a few bills in my pocket for a quick snack — or five.
Note: The internet says their hours are Wednesday through Saturday, from 12 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., but for the best information, “like” them on Facebook.
4080 North High Street