At the risk of blowing the cover on one of my favorite under-the-radarish restaurants in the city, I offer this review of Arepas Cafe (which I was surprised to find has received not much attention on the Outer Boroughs board thus far).
I fell for the place immediately when I stumbled in soon after moving to Astoria a few years back. The cozy, homey atmosphere and carefully made food and drinks -- with no corner-cutting or skimping on quality -- won me over immediately.
As a vegetarian, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are tons of good options (my favorite is the Guyanese Tropical -- fried sweet plantains, avocado and mild Guyanese cheese) -- which is not always true of restaurants serving S. American cuisines.
My meat-eating friends swear by the pernil, pabellon and baby shark arepas. The latter pays homage to the owner's hometown, Carupano, a small city on Venezuela's northeastern coast where seafood-stuffed arepas are popular. (Full details of my most recent meal at Arepas Cafe are at http://www.cityspoonful.com/arepas-cafe/).
I didn't trust myself to know authentic Venezuelan food from inferior alternatives, so I dragged along a friend who grew up spending summers in Maracaibo (Venezuela), who confirmed that both the food and the general vibe at Arepas Cafe are "very Venezuelan."
Go for brunch: The cafe con leche is smooth and creamy, and the new brunch menu offers several platters of Venezuelan breakfast specialties (though I always stick to the arepas, which hit the spot in the morning -- a good blend of carb, protein/fats, and piquant flavors to start the day).
Or stop by on a hot summer evening and have a pitcher of "Sangria" (ample rum with sweet fruit juices -- very stiff stuff!) with a few arepas and some small bites (e.g., tequenos, mini cachapas and other fried goodness...).
33-07 36th Ave, Queens, NY 11106