If you’re a dedicated foodie running out of new things to try in Chicago, how about Venezuelan? Though it is a fairly unfamiliar cuisine for most Americans, there are actually several Venezuelan restaurants here in Chicago. My favorite is Bienmesabe on Montrose Ave. Alcohol is BYOB, but they offer some great non-alcoholic specialty drinks.
If you’re not sure where to start, you can’t go wrong with the arepas. An arepa is a thick pancake made from corn flour, similar to a Mexican gordita or Salvadoran pupusa. They have been a staple food in Venezuela and Colombia since long before Columbus, possibly beginning with the introduction of corn nearly 3,000 years ago. An arepa can be filled with meat or veggies for a hand-held snack or meal, similar to a taco. Bienmesabe offers several varieties with fillings such as shredded chicken, gouda cheese, avocado, or plantain. Because they’re made from corn, they’re naturally gluten-free.
Executive chef Pedro Ron worked at and owned restaurants in Venezuela before going to Chicago. His offerings at Beinmesabe are an upscale take on Venezuelan hot cooking. “Bien me sabe,” which literally means “tastes good to me,” is also the name of a classic Venezuelan coconut cake. You can try it, or one of several other delicious treats, if you manage to save room for dessert.
Cover photo: bienmesabechicago via Instagram.