Posted by Jamie Shaver Marsh
Arepera Las Chamas is a welcome addition to the downtown dining scene: a low-key, low-price spot with tasty South American dishes that are distinct among H’burg flavors but not so adventurous they will frighten picky eaters.
I met two girlfriends for lunch today. There is ample parking next to the building—a definite (and unexpected) plus! The interior is simple and clean, with a combination of wall colors in cranberry, creamy yellow, and textured tan that looked sort of like stucco. They had several large photo montages on the wall featuring exotic-looking plants, waterfalls, and South American cityscapes. There is a lunch counter with wooden stools and about 10 small tables. They can probably seat ~30 people comfortably. Each table has an old-fashioned napkin dispenser with retro Coca-Cola ads (the kind of dispenser naughty boys put salt in back in second grade).
The menu is in Spanish, but if you frequent Mexican restaurants at all, you can decipher most of the options. Entrees have a description in English, and there are a few pictures. Service was a bit slow. They were attentive, but it seemed like they didn’t have enough staff to cover the crowd. A good problem, perhaps. Lunch for three took just over an hour. A tip: you pay at the counter; don’t just sit at the table waiting for your check to appear if you need to leave.
Sides and individual orders (like an empanada) were in the $1-3 range. The most expensive entrees were $8. I had the “Big Taco” for $5 even. It was a foot long, whole wheat wrap, folded in half and filled with black beans, shredded chicken (you can choose pork, beef, or no meat), a little bit of cheese, and lots of chunked avocado. It was different from a Mexican taco because of the size, the wrap being wheat, much less cheese, and no salsa/onions/peppers/tomatoes.
I also tried tostones- a squashed plantain fried in olive oil. I liked it more than plantains I’ve had in the past because it wasn’t sweet and gooey, but rather more like a thick potato chip. I’ve heard good things about the smoothies with fresh fruit and fried yucca, but I didn’t try those on this trip.
There were not vegetarian options on the menu, but the waiter said you could choose beans instead of meat in any meal. For timid eaters, there is a “Restaurant-Style Hamburger” with french fries.
Overall, I’d recommend it for a lunch gathering, if you’re not tight on time. I’ll definitely go back.