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Food & Dining in Venezuela


Along the coast the seafood is excellent and other specialities are tequenos, a popular hors d’oeuvres, thin dough wrapped around a finger of local white cheese and fried crisp; Arepas, the native bread, made from primitive ground corn, water and salt; Tostadas, used for sandwiches, the mealy centre is removed and the crisp shell is filled with anything from ham and cheese to spiced meat, chicken salad or cream cheese. Cumin and saffron are used in many dishes but the distinctive and delicate flavour of most of the popular dishes comes from the use of local roots and vegetables.

Criollo is the national dish made with shredded meat and served with fried plantains and black beans on rice. Hallaca is a local delicacy, eaten at Christmas and New Year; cornmeal is combined with beef, pork, ham and green peppers, wrapped in individual pieces of banana leaves and cooked in boiling water. Parrilla criolla is beef marinated and cooked over a charcoal grill. Hervido is soup made with chunks of beef, chicken or fish and native vegetables or roots. Puree de apio is one of the more exotic local roots, boiled and pureed, with salt and butter added, it tastes like chestnuts. Empanadas are meat turnovers, Roast Lapa is a mouth-watering large Rodent, and Chipi Chipi Soup, made from tiny clams is delicious. Guasacaca is a semi-hot relish used mostly with grilled meats.

Most bars are open very late and there are no licensing laws. There is no good local wine, although foreign wines are bottled locally. There are several good and very inexpensive local beers, Polar is the most popular. Mineral waters, gin and excellent (very cheap) rum are also locally made. Coffee is very good and a merengada (fruit pulp, ice, milk and sugar) is most refreshing. Batido is similar but with water and no milk. Cuba-libre is the national alcoholic beverage using Rum, cola, ice and lemon.


Caracas has a lively restaurant scene. The local upper and middle classes support a host of fine restaurants and trendy joints. World and fusion cuisines are the rage, along with sushi bars and upscale steakhouses. New places open and close with the frequency and fanfare worthy of New York City. If you're serious about delving into the local restaurant scene, pick up a copy of the latest edition of Miro Popic's Guía Gastronómica de Caracas/Caracas Restaurants Guide (, a comprehensive, accurate, and bilingual guide to metropolitan restaurants, cafes and nightspots.

Chez Wong, Plaza La Castellana (tel. 0212/266-5015), is widely considered the best Chinese restaurant in town, while Da Guido, Avenida Francisco Solano, Sabana Grande (tel. 0212/763-0937), and Vizio, Avenida Luis Rocha, bottom floor of the Casa Rómulo Gallegos, Altamira (tel. 0212/285-5675), are recommended for Italian cuisine.

On a more popular level, simple arreperías and informal fuentes de soda, the local equivalent of diners, are ubiquitous. Be sure to stop in to one or two of them for a light meal and a bit of local color. Given the prevalence and popularity of huge modern malls, you can usually count on finding a wide selection of restaurants, as well as an assortment of American-based and -styled fast food chains, in most of them.

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