After years of serving arepas on the streets and operating a stall in Union Market, Arepa Zone is getting its first true restaurant space this summer.
It'll open in the coming months just below Thomas Circle — taking over the space (1121 14th Street NW) Latin-style food spot, Chix, abruptly left behind earlier this month — with new things the fast-casual Venezuelan company has never tried before: breakfast, beer, and late-night dining.
Arepa Zone co-owner Gabriela Febres said the existing space is approximately 2,300 square feet and features a mezzanine area that could become a lounge. “We’ve already started with our architects,” Febres told Eater, citing plans to welcome guests to the new restaurant this August. Given that the space was previously a restaurant, she said the changeover would be “mostly cosmetic changes.”
While the structure may not undergo a dramatic overhaul, Febres is branching out on the business side. She plans to integrate daily specials currently offered at Union Market — including a rice- and bean-y pabellon bowl, as well as fried plantain dishes — into the core menu at the new location. She said the new Arepa Zone will also feature breakfast arepas (including one with scrambled eggs, onions, tomatoes, and bell pepper), as well as empanadas stuffed with cheese, shredded chicken, ground beef, and shark meat (cazon).
On the beverage side there will be an espresso machine for caffeine junkies, a Zumex cranking out fresh juices, and a rotating selection of local brews. “We’re gonna add a beer tap,” Febres said, floating plans to serve a lighter beer, a dark beer, and a seasonal offering — once she figures out which local breweries she’d like to partner with.
Febres is also stepping things up service-wise. “We want to explore late-night,” she said. At least initially, Febres intends to stay open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays to gauge interest in after-hours dining.
Those that can’t come by the new shop needn’t worry about going arepa-less, as the truck is expected to keep rolling and the Union Market stall is staying in place. “This is just an addition to the business,” Febres said of the expansion.