ok so i finally made it out to roosevelt and 79th tonight to find the ever-elusive "sainted arepa lady" of chowhound lore.
got there around 11:30pm and looked for an old latina woman with a food cart on the northwest corner. sure enough, i saw someone fitting that description near (but not exactly on) that corner--on the north side of roosevelt, about 30 feet west of 79th street and in front of a skin care store.
initially excited that i'd found her, i began to have doubts when i saw that she was selling shish kebabs and sausages-on-a-stick as well--would the great arepa lady do such a thing? after all, i was under the impression that she only sold her namesake corncakes, nothing more.
nevertheless, i had to give them a try--after all, i'd schlepped all the way out to jackson heights just for this reason.
i looked around, trying to see if there was anyone else in the area who fit the description of the arepa lady, as i wasn't convinced that this was her. but since no one else was around i figured i'd give her food a shot.
she had several arepas already sizzling on the griddle, so i decided to order 4 (2 for me, 2 for the ball-and-chain back home). while she diddled with the cakes, slathered them in margarine, and poured crumbly white cheese on top, i took a good look at her so i could accurately describe her to you guys and see if in fact i'd found this mythical arepa lady.
for those in the know, please tell me if the following accurately describes THE sainted arepa lady that everyone raves about:
-she was short and somewhat dark-skinned.
-she's fairly old (but not THAT old, like i'd imagined), with curly dark brown (or maybe black) hair that's gray around the ears.
-she was wearing a white tag with her name (maria cano, i think) and some other information, presumably required by the city to prove that she's a licensed street cart vendor.
-she spoke pretty decent english, or at least enough to completely understand and communicate with me; i didn't speak with her extensively enough to deduce the extent of her english skills.
-when i asked her about her hours of operation, she said she's at that spot on fridays and saturdays around that time (11:30pm).
-as mentioned earlier, she was also selling shish kebabs and sausages-on-a-stick.
why am i asking all of this? because honestly, the arepas weren't as transcendentally amazing as everyone had said.
granted, they were pretty tasty--good flavor, slightly sweet, nice and buttery. my main gripe is that they weren't as crispy on the outside as i'd imagined; perhaps this is the way they're supposed to be? (forgive my ignorance, as i'm the farthest thing from an arepa expert.)
in any event, i certainly didn't expect the arepas to be mushy, as mine were. well, that's not entirely fair; the bottom was ever-so-slightly crispy, but the top was decidedly mushy.
texture aside, i still wouldn't put these arepas in the "so-amazing-i-must-go-out-of-my-way-on-a-saturday-night" category.
that's why i need you guys to confirm if i found the right lady, or just an impostor. because if this really WAS the sainted arepa lady, i definitely caught her on an off-night.
The Arepa Lady
Roosevelt Ave and 79th St, Queens, NY 11372