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Omnivore - Arepa Mia opens in Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Lis Hernandez shares her Venezuelan favorites

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Lis Hernandez is back in town after a few years in Florida. Lis was chef at the defunct Stella in Grant Park where Doc Chey's is now. She used to make a summertime pizza with fresh figs that I still fantasize about.

Now, the native of Venzuela has opened Arepa Mia in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. I suggest you get there as soon as you can. You won't find arepas like this anywhere else in the city.

An arepa is a cornmeal patty split in half and stuffed with a variety of ingredients. Lis is using locally sourced meats and vegetables.

There are seven varieties on the menu. I chose the pabellon, which Lis said is the favorite in Venezuela, adding that "this is what I want to eat before I die." Its contents include shredded beef, black beans, plantains, and feta cheese. It was deliciously messy and not easy to pick up. Once I managed to do that, biting into the slightly crunchy corn patty caused contents to ooze out the sides. But that's what forks are for.

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The rich flavors benefit from a hit of the almost fiery green sauce on the counter. The green color is not from tomatillos or avocados. It's green chiles. Lis grew up eating it and the recipe is her mother's. There's also a red sauce that is tamer but you won't get the same complexity of flavors.

I was completely stuffed after eating the pabellon, but also tried an empanada. These too are a departure from the usual around town. Instead of a virtual flour dumpling that's been fried with a small amount of filling, these are also made of cornmeal flour and firmly stuffed with various ingredients. They are served with two different sauces - nata, which is similar to creme fraiche, and guasacaca, which vaguely resembles chimichurri.

There was no way I could eat the whole empanada, which was served cut into four pieces. I forced half of it on a doctor sitting next to me who had already wolfed down an arepa, too.

There are a few sides on the menu - fried sweet plantains, black beans, and house-made yucca and plantain chips served with nata and guasacaca.

It's good to have Lis back in town although I'm afraid I'll become as addicted to her arepas as I was to her fig pizzas.