By Liz Witbeck
Oh Corn! Arepas, a Venezuelan restaurant, in Halfmoon gives local diners a different alternative.
The business opened in April at 1505 Route 9 in Halfmoon.
An arepa, one of its specialties, is a flat, round patty of white corn. The dough can be baked, grilled or fried. Once the arepa is cooked, it is filled with various kind of ingredients a person may like. Some meat choices include shredded beef, pulled pork and chicken. Customers can also select from a number of vegetables, such as avocados and chick peas.
“Your imagination is the limit,” said owner José Theoktisto.
He said the most popular item on the menu is the reina pepiada, which means “the queen” in Spanish. The sandwich is made with chicken breast, avocado, mayonnaise and cilantro, stuffed inside an arepa.
Arepas are a staple in Venezuela, as well as in Colombia. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Often arepas are found available at roadside stands and eaten as street food.
Theoktisto and his wife, Belkis Castro, are originally from Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. They moved to the United States in 2008 to escape civil unrest and violence. Theokisto is an engineer for General Electric. Castro was working as an attorney in Venezuela.
"She lost her qualifications when we moved here," said Theokisto. "She is very social and has lots of free time now. She started working as a Spanish teacher, and received her real estate license."
Soon the couple decided to open an arepas restaurant so they could enjoy the cuisine they grew up with.
"The response has been amazing so far" said Theoktisto.
Theoktisto said sometimes when people come in, they are not even aware it is a Venezuelan restaurant. Other people have come from as far as Boston and New York City to sample the food at Oh Corn.
Besides arepas, Oh Corn also features cachapas. Whereas an arepa is made with white corn, a cachapa is made with yellow corn. It is shaped even flatter, somewhat similar to a pancake. They are often filled with cheese and have a sweeter taste than the more savory arepa, the owner said.
Snacks and side dishes available on the menu include tostones, green plantains, yucca frita, fried cassava and small fried arepas. The restaurant offers a number of desserts such as tiramisu, flan, and crepes. There are also a number of fresh fruit juices available, such as passion fruit, mango and guava. They also sell a homemade version of lemonade called papelon con limón.
The staff is generous with offering samples. Customers can try both the arepas and the juices to see what they enjoy.
"Sometimes people come in and they are not ready to order," said Theoktisto. "By the time they have had some samples, they are ready to order."
Everything is made fresh at Oh Corn. Castro does most of the cooking in the kitchen. The restaurant has six employees.
Oh Corn is a gluten-free restaurant. All of the items used to prepare the dishes are naturally gluten free: corn, cassava, plantains, and more. The restaurant also seeks out condiments and other ingredients that are gluten free.
The menu is always evolving and they plan to add some more dishes in the future. They will also add soups and salads to the menu. There is also a plan to introduce a loyalty program, to reward customers who continue to purchase food there.
Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. For more information, visit ohcornarepas.com or call 579-0858.