Can’t get to Cuba? Come to Hola Arepa in Minneapolis for great Latin food.

Hola Arepa is serving up some of the finest Latin food this side of Miami and here’s the kicker, everything on the menu is gluten free unless otherwise specified.

Located at 3501 Nicollet Aveneue South you will find this wonderful two-year old restaurant (and food truck) that will challenge your palette with each delectable bite.

Their first time I drove buy I was very apprehensive because the meticulously designed building looks like what I would imagine a restaurant in Cuba looks like, a slightly sun-lite, faded aquamarine blue painted and wood building.

Yet what I noticed was the long-line of very happy looking customers that were waiting to get into this gem of a restaurant.

While you may to have wait to get your table, trust me it’s well worth it. And even though the line may seem long, because the food is brought tableside fast, tables quickly turn.

For the months in Minnesota where we can eat outide, there is also a rather large outdoor patio area that is somewhat hidden from the parking lot.

Speaking or parking, this is the only downfall of Hola Arepa. It was difficult to find a parking spot in their lot and due to the hustle and bustle of activity around Hola Arepa, we had to park several blocks away.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty: the drinks and food. So far we have been there twice and each time we have tried a couple of different items. You can find their entire menu here.

Assuming you are of the legal age, while you are waiting for your table, mosey up to the bar to check out their specialty cocktails.

The two specialty cocktails I would highly recommend are the El Diablo and The Passiflora.

The El Diablo uses Agavales tequila, ginger syrup, lime juice and creme de cassis. The ginger give you a nice extra burn in the back of your throat.

The Passiflora is by far our favorite specialty cocktail at Hola Arepa. With Gordon’s vodka, passion fruit, lemon, Dolin Genepy angostura bitters, and a sprig of rosemary, this is the perfect drink for a hot summer night. Okay, any night.

For dinner, Hola Arepa has snacks, small plates and Arepas. Prior to coming to Hola Arepa, I wasn’t even aware of what an arepa was, but these cornmeal griddle cake sandwiches as to die for. Well, not literally die,  you have to give an arepa a try.

For our snacks, we have tried the yuca fries, tortilla chips with three salsas and the arepitas, which are fried arepa balls stuffed with jalapeños and goat cheese. The guava sauce for dipping is sweet, literally and figuratively.

With the tortilla chips, make sure you go “all-in” and get the guacamole and the queso fundido cheese sauce. Trust me, your taste buds will thank me later.

As for small plates, we’ve tried the need picadollo molotes, the plantain tostadas, and the shitake cachapa. Hands down, my favorite was the plantain tostadas, which was actually the reason how we heard about Hola Arepa.

Hola Arepa

To make the plantain tostadas, Hola Arepa takes two fried green plantain tostadas, topped them with braised beef, citrus crema, tamarind sauce, watermelon radish and pickled onion. The combination of flavors exploded in my mouth.

Lastly we moved on to the Arepas. The way to think of an arepa is similar to pita bread. Instead, the arepa is a cornmeal griddle cake sandwhich, opened on on side then stuffed with a variety of amazing alternatives.

We have tried four different Arepas, any of which would keep us coming back for more: slow-roasted pork, chimichurri chicken, shredded beef and plantain, and the chorizo sausage.

Now even though I don’t dig on swine, friends and family though the slow-roasted pork was quite divine. As for me, I love the chimichurri chicken and the shredded beef and plantain Arepas.

Hola Arepa

Everything we have tried so far at Hola Arepa has been spectacularly complex when it comes to flavors, yet simply constructed and presented for your palates’ enjoyment.

So if you can’t get to Miami or Cuba, but want to eat some amazing Latin food, head to the corner of 35th Street and Nicollet Avenue South in Minneapolis. You won’t be disappointed.