Most global cuisines are pretty well-represented in the Philadelphia food scene. From Chinese to Thai, Italian to Greek, Mexican to Indian, there’s a lot of options to sate your ethnic food cravings.
But Venezuelan food has always been sorely underrepresented in our city. In fact, many South American cuisines lack a strong presence in Philly or simply have no presence at all.
One new restaurant is seeking to introduce Philadelphia to Venezuela. Puyero Venezuelan Flavor just finished its grand opening week at 524 S. 4th Street in the South Street Headhouse District.
The concept offers authentic casual Venezuelan street food such as quick-serve arepas, patacones, churros, house-made drinks, and more.
Arepas are served in crunchy, ground-maize pockets (similar to pita bread), stuffed with warm and savory meaty fillings and fresh add-ons such as avocado, fried sweet plantain, and white cheese.
Arepas are an everyday food for Venezuelans. It’s a go-to comfort food eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If the owners of Puyero have their way, the arepa will be the new taco. They are eager for Philly to embrace it.
Puyero is a family affair, designed and operated by brothers Simon and Gil Arends, along with Gil’s wife Manuela. This is the first restaurant for the trio, who all come from Maracaibo, the second largest city in Venezuela.
Manuela’s mother even owns a baking business in Maracaibo, so her passion for food and cooking runs deep.
“We want to introduce rich flavors and combinations that people in Philly would never think of,” said Simon Arends. “We also want to showcase who Venezuelans are. We like to laugh and have a good time, which is what Puyero means.”
This cheerful nature of Venezuela is reflected in the vibrant décor inside the restaurant. The space is bright and colorful. A mural on the main dining room wall is splashed with funny sayings from Venezuelan culture (with English translations). They want you to feel happy there.
Venezuelans like to put sauce on pretty much every dish. Each table at the restaurant has a variety of sauces in bottles: a green mayo, chipotle ketchup, a Sriracha-based pink sauce, and a sweet and spicy Papaya hot sauce. These sauces add a slight spicy kick, but are not super-hot.
Puyero also serves traditional sweet and tropical drinks made in house from sugar cane and seasonal fruits.
Traditional churros and marquesa are featured on the dessert menu.
The cozy spot seats 22 inside and will seat more outside when the warmer weather comes. It will start weekend brunch in the spring, and add even more traditional items to the menu as time goes on.
Just steps from the heart of South Street, the owners felt the neighborhood accurately reflected the colorful vibe of Venezuela. They also wanted to contribute to the food resurgence in the area, especially with a focus on global cuisine.
For uninitiated flavor-seekers who want to explore an unfamiliar cuisine, I can’t recommend Puyero enough.
Find them on Twitter and Instagram at @puyeroflavor, and on Facebook.
If you’re looking for an authentic taste of Venezuelan cuisine elsewhere in the city, other options include TartAreperia 18.64 at 1204 North Front Street in Fishtown and Sazon Restaurant & Café at 941 Spring Garden Street.