These days Roosevelt Avenue is lined with scores of carts selling street food from all over the globe—Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, even Tibet. One of the oldest, the O.G.—which in this case stands for original grandma—is the Arepa Lady as Maria Piedad Cano has come to be known among her legions of fans. Cano has been selling the griddled corn cakes under the 7 train for almost 30 years. She rose to popularity after Chowhound founder Jim Leff, wrote a piece in the NY Press headlined “The Sainted Arepa Lady” touting her corn cakes as “snacks from heaven,” and extolling her beatific presence.
Back in the day it was something of a quest to find the Arepa Lady. I never knew whether she’d be out or not and was never sure which night club to find her in front of. In this age of social media her operating hours are a matter of public knowledge thanks to a Twitter account, @Arepalady, run by her son, Alejandro.
I like to think that I’m not as into her arepas as the überhound. I have probably eaten less than ten of her arepas de queso, which sell for $4 a pop. The puffy discs of corn flour are sweet and gooey with crisped edges from a griddling in margarine. Topped with salty quesito cheese, to eat one is deeply comforting experience. An experience that I realized recently that I have not been indulging in often enough. We are fortunate indeed to have this crown jewel of Colombian street food in Queens.
The Arepa Lady, 79th St.and Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights