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Restaurant Review: Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill, Raleigh, N.C.

Guasaca Courtyard entrance

If you live in Raleigh and want to try some fresh and wonderful food based on Venezuelan cuisine, head on over to Guasaca, which recently opened off of Lake Boone Trail, right down from Rex Hospital. Believe me; you’ll be glad you did!

According to Guasaca’s website, the restaurant was “born out of the belief that it is possible to offer food that is delicious, affordable, fresh and healthy, all at the same time.” Well guess what? Guasaca lives up to all of this, and more! Needless to say I am thrilled that this new restaurant is less than three miles from home. It is set up somewhat like a submarine sandwich store – you stand in line and once you get to the counter you choose your ingredients. The line has always moved quickly when I’ve been there and the service is some of the friendliest I’ve seen anywhere.

Guasaca order here

You may wonder what the word “guasaca” means (I did.) After looking it up on the Internet I discovered that it’s basically a chunky guacamole with pico de gallo added. After trying Guasaca’s version I understand why they named the restaurant after it — it is some of the best stuff I’ve ever tasted. Just give me a couple of orders of this and I’ll be your best friend for life. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Make sure you get a side order of this with your main meal — for $2.65 you get a single serving af guasaca plus chips.

Guasaca guasaca

You also may be wondering what exactly an arepa is. An arepa is a corn cake made of ground maize (or flour), water and salt, which is fried into a thick bread and is a staple in Venezuela. At Guasaca, you can build your own arepa or try any of the seven signature ones. So far I’ve had three of the signature arepas, and have loved all of them.

Guasaca's Signature Arepas

The Vegetarian Arepa ($3.90) comes with black beans, caramelized onions, guasaca sauce and a choice of plantains or cole slaw (I had the plantains which were so yummy). This is my favorite of all of the signature areapas and the combination of the ingredients is phenomenal. It makes your mouth want to do a happy dance.

Guasaca's Vegetarian Arepa

The Chicken Arepa ($3.90) has grilled chicken, black beans, pico de gallo, cheese and cilantro sauce. This arepa is also a winner. The grilled chicken is juicy and the pico de gallo is bursting with fresh flavors.

Guasaca's Grilled chicken arepa

I also like the Pork Arepa ($4.10), which has braised pork, black eyed peas, pico de gallo, white cheese and mustard sauce. Do not leave off the mustard sauce – it really makes a difference and ties the ingredients together.

Pork Arepa with a side of Guasaca and chips

I can’t wait to try the rest of the signature arepas and then move on and build some of my own.  By the way, one arepa plus a side of guasaca and chips is quite filling. Trust me on this. If you’re still hungry after one, go back through the line and order a second one, but I really don’t think you’ll have room.

Two arepas = too much at once!

If you don’t want an arepa (and I can’t imagine that), try one of the bowls or salads instead. I built my own salad that consisted of shredded beef (Mechada), black beans, pico de gallo, cheese and guasaca sauce (which cost a little bit extra but well worth it), with a side of cilantro sauce. Great, fresh and filling. The Mechada was flavored perfectly. I noticed that many people were getting their bowls with rice (you have a choice of white or brown) instead of the lettuce. I think this option would be especially good with black beans and caramelized onions, at least for starters.

Guasaca shredded beef salad bowl

Guasaca has a number of tables inside and also outside seating with several tables with umbrellas, which is nice on a beautiful day. The food is wonderful, the service is excellent and the price is right. Located at 4025 Lake Boone Trail, Raleigh, N.C., it is open daily from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Put this on your list places to try in Raleigh, and visit soon – you’ll be glad you did!

Guasaca outside eating

Ratings

  • Price: Excellent. Lots of fresh food for a price that won’t break the bank.
  • Service: 5.00. I’m not sure if the staff is on happy pills, but everyone is nice and helpful.
  • Food: 4.95.  The guasaca and vegetarian arepas are addictive. Fresh and flavorful.
  • Recommend: Yes, yes, yes!
  • Kid friendly: Sure. I think they’d have fun choosing their own ingredients.

1= hater, 2=poor, 3=adequate, 4=above average, 5=superb

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

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