Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen closed in August of 2020, a victim of the pandemic shut-downs, and then, just as suddenly, reopened this March. Owner Adriana López Vermut and her father launched the restaurant in 2006 to try to keep a piece of Venezuelan heritage alive in San Francisco. Pica Pica specializes in the venerable Venezuelan snack food arepas, as well as their more crepe-like cousin, cachapas. Both are corn-based pockets, stuffed with a variety of savory or sweet fillings. They’re also a favorite with people who have celiac disease, as they’re gluten-free.
I over-ordered, as usual:
We got the sampler of arepas, which are made with corn flour, stuffed with: pabellón (shredded beef, black beans, and ripe plantains), pulled pork pernil, and the Caribe, with grilled shrimp. The arepas themselves were light and fluffy (think: not-as-pillowy baos).
The beef was great, with a slight sweetness from the plantain, but I liked the smokey shrimp best: plump whole crustaceans, with a crunchy lettuce and jicama salad. The BF wanted to try the empanadas, so we got a sampler of those, too: beef, chicken, and cheese. All tasty as well, bite-sized, so you can easily share a few.
We also ordered a regular-sized cachapa, which is basically an arepa but made with fresh corn instead of corn flour. The dough was crispy, light and sweet, but I wish I’d tried this with a simpler filling. Instead, we got the crispy chicken, which was pieces of fried chicken breast, and rather difficult to eat. Still, the flavor was good.
To gild the lily, we also ordered garlic fried yuca. The garlic was a tad bitter; I’d get it without, next time. We added tostones. For the life of me, I don’t get tostones, as I’ve only had ones that are tough and flavorless. These unfortunately did not change my mind. Perhaps it’s something that must be eaten just out of the fryer, as a friend counseled me. Guasacaca, an avocado sauce, came with everything, and went on everything. The other sauces were different versions of spicy/sweet. This was more than enough food, with plenty of leftovers.
Pica Pica also has ceviches and sweet plantains, full-on plates of the arepas fillings (the Caribe, carne asada, a vegetarian and vegan combo, etc.) that come with rice and beans, as well as salads and desserts — yuca buñuelos!
Let’s welcome back an old family friend to the neighborhood.
Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen
401 Valencia St.