Since there's two relatively new places in Manhattan serving arepas, it seems time for a direct comparison. This inspiration came from an expert CHer while we dined at Caracas Arepa Bar (E 7th St and 1st Ave) in the East Village last night. We then zipped over to Chelsea an ordered the same arepas at El Cocetero (18th St btw 7th and 8th Aves).
The verdict: Caracas Arepa Bar was clearly the winner. The arepas were tastier properly cooked, crisp at the edges. The fillings (both Venezuelan spots fill the arepas like you would pita bread) were tastier, particularly the De Pabellon (think something similar to pot roast or ropa viejo). It was flavorful at Caracas, and an excellent hot sauce was on the table.
At Cocetero, the beef was bland, the arepas not fully cooked, not crispy and soggy from the fillings. (Seems like they had been sitting in the kitchen too long. Now I know understand Caracas odd practice of bringing food out as it is ready, rather than, say, waiting until everyones arepas are finished and serving them all together.)
And the dish of hot sauce was tabasco-like and, hence, not very interesting.
The cachapa a pancake made with fresh corn -- at Caracas was pretty lame; Cocetero plans to add them to the menu soon.
I did have a better meal at Cocetero two weeks ago. I noted that the chef/owner was absent last night, so I wonder if that made a difference.
Coceteros major upside is seating. Its a bigger space and has comfortable seating. Caracas is tiny and cramped, hot when its warm out, but lively, fun and has good service.
Why not include Flors Kitchen in this comparison? Well, neither of us likes Flors much.