Jakob Lazzaro: You’ve heard of Mexican food, but what about Venezuelan food? Evanston is home to La Cocinita, one of the only Venezuelan restaurants around Chicago. Jakob Lazzaro spoke with front of house manager Antwan Ward to find out what it’s all about.
Antwan Ward: It’s definitely not cuisine that you find on an everyday street corner or restaurant.
Jakob: Founded by Venezuelan chef Benoit Angulo and his wife, Rachel, La Cocinita started as a food truck in New Orleans about 5 years ago. A truck in Chicago followed, and the first storefront location opened in Evanston last year.
Antwan: So it’s giving them that same kind of excitement and enthusiasm they would see when they see the truck, but it’s putting it on a plate of food here in the restaurant.
Jakob: La Cocinita has a seasonal menu, with a focus on fresh ingredients. Customers can have entrees served in tacos, a bowl, or in arepas, which are traditional Venezuelan cornmeal patties.
Antwan: once an order comes up for arepas, we take the arepas themselves, put them back in the oven, and we toast them for about 3 minutes so the outside stays flakey, but the inside is nice and warm and doughy like a biscuit. Take it out, cut it open, take that meat that’s been braising for two and a half hours inside of there. You take maduros, which are sweet plantains, fry ’em up for five minutes, smash ‘em, cut ‘em in half, put ‘em up inside.
Jakob: Many of La Cocinita’s customers are students, so they try to keep most meals around 10 dollars. Northwestern senior Udita Persaud has been to La Cocinita several times since it opened.
Udita Persaud: I really like plantains, and I don’t find plantains here cooked, like, around Evanston. I really enjoy plantains – that’s why I come.
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Jakob: In the end, I ordered the Pabellon – shredded beef, maduros, queso fresco, cortida cheese, black beans, and cremita – on arepas. It cost me 10.41 with tax and a 10 percent wildcard discount. For Medill, I’m Jakob Lazzaro.