11/08/21 4:24pm
This Colombian style burger was not created by the Arepa Lady, but rather her daughter-in-law, Nelly.

Back when I first moved to Queens in the late 90s, The Arepa Lady—aka Maria Piedad Cano a former administrative judge from Medellin, Colombia, turned street food legend—served precisely two things from her cart outside a nightclub on Roosevelt Avenue. The first, arepa de queso was a puffy disc of corn flour sweet and gooey with crisped edges from a griddling in margarine and topped with salty quesito cheese. The second, arepa de choclo, was made from a sweeter corn enfolding cheese.

Both are equally delicious and both are still served at Areperia Arepa Lady, which her son Alejandro Osorio opened with her in 2014 to return the favor of his mother supporting him and his siblings through street food for decades.

“She’s old school,” Osorio says of his mother. “We can add new things, but we can’t mess with her recipes. Those things include arepas filled with shredded beef, the fried plantain sandwiches known as patacones, and most recently, a Colombian style hamburger.

Osorio’s wife, Nelly, who runs the Jackson Heights restaurant with him came up with the idea for the burger because many diners had been asking for a burger. For Colombians though the hamburger is quite a different animal than the somewhat austere version served at cookouts in America. In Colombia, the patty and the bun are a canvas for a carnival of fruity sauces, other meats, and other textures. Arepa Lady’s Colombian burger does not disappoint. It consists of a patty topped with American cheese; ham; and crisp fried bacon topped with a fistful of crunchy potato sticks, and finally crowned with a trio of sauces green garlic, pink sauce (a mixture of mayo and ketchup), and pineapple. (My waiter, Brandon, who hails from Cali told they are fond of the tart, sweet pineapple sauce in his hometown.) For an extra few dollars you can add shrimp, which I did.

Despite all those ingredients, this was no Frankenburger, but a seemingly restrained study in excess. (It was, however messy, and you may well want to remove bracelets and other jewelry to eat it.) All the flavors—juicy patty, salty ham, and smoky bacon—worked well together and the potato sticks and sauces completed the picture, though next time I’d skip the baby shrimp.

Dining across from me in the otherwise empty restaurant a maroon robed Tibetan monk and a young friend enjoyed some chicharron and an arepa. As I was leaving I almost told them they should try the burger next time.

“My Mom hasn’t tried it yet,” Osorio told me when I asked what the family matriarch thought of his wife’s creation.

Areperia Arepa Lady, 77-17 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, 917-745-1111

03/24/15 10:07am

AREPATACONE

Chorizo and chicarron give a one-two punch of porky goodness.

The crew over at Areperia Arepa Lady have been busy these past few months. In addition to enlarging the dining room they’ve added mini arepas and patacones. The latter consists of plaintains that have been mashed, flattened and fried. They’re then topped with avocado and various meats. I went for a mixta ($8.50), topped with carne asada, chicharron, and chorizo. The combination of crunchy plantain, creamy avocado, and the one-two punch of pork made for a magnificent gutbomb. “I’ve gained 20 pounds” since we opened the Arepa Lady’s son Alejandro told me as I polished off the last bite. I believe him, I  think I gained five after my patacone.

Arepa Lady, 77-02AA Roosevelt Ave.,  Jackson Heights

06/30/14 10:13am

AREPACHOCLO

An arepa de choclo in all its cheesy, gooey glory.

One of the coolest things about Roosevelt Avenue during the World Cup is the team spirit and national pride that pervades the street. The air crackles with energy, particularly after a win. And on Saturday, Colombia won, and they won big. It was the first time that the national team made it this far, and folks in the street were partying like it too, dancing and waving flags until late into the night.  Saturday also marked a monumental win for Colombian street food. The family of The Arepa Lady, the patron saint of Colombian street food in Jackson Heights, opened the doors to their restaurant.

I like to think that this street food dream team’s opening helped buoy team spirit back home. I know it buoyed my spirits. Ever since I heard several months ago that there was going to be an Arepa Lady restaurant, I’ve been watching the space with eager anticipation.

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06/13/13 10:39am

An arepa de queso in all its gooey griddled glory.

An arepa de queso in all its griddled glory.

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. (more…)