As summer winds down, I find myself sadly counting down how many food trucks I’ll be able to visit before Minneapolis street food goes the way of my jogging routine and hibernates for the winter. The pressure is on! Fortunately, I think I made an excellent decision last Friday when I visited Hola Arepa for the first time. They had me at “Hola, we have Roasted Pork and Sweet Potato.”
The line at Hola Arepa is no joke. I lucked out and was only behind about a half-dozen people when I took my place in line at noon (less than 10 minutes of wait-time), but a glance behind me after I placed my order revealed a startling line of more than 20 people! Winding to the corner of the block! The people have spoken and the people adore their arepas. Enough said. My expectations rise accordingly.
I waver over whether to order their signature slow-roasted pork ($6), or to go big and get the pork and sweet potato special ($6.50). The guy at the ordering window is helpful when I express my dilemma and recommends I spring for the pork and sweet potato but be sure to put lots of the signature Hola sauce on it to get the classic flavor experience. Deal. I also order the cucumber lemonade ($2). Why not? It’s Friday. $8.50 and a swipe of the credit card later, I have my “number” –an eight of spades playing card– and my lemonade. I barely have time to snap a photo of the card before they are calling out “eight of spades” from the pick-up window of the truck.
My arepa is served in a cone-shaped wax paper bag in a brown cardboard boat with a napkin and an empty sauce cup. I note the four house-made sauce options available and ask for an extra side cup; I fill one with the mild and tangy Hola Sauce, of course, and the other with X-Tra hot sauce. I feel a little disappointed at the size of my lunch, as it looks … well, petite. I wonder if I should have gone for some chips and guac with it for filler. Oh well, I’m not getting back in that line! Onward!
My arepa taunts me with its delicious aroma for two construction-zone-filled blocks before I find a suitable place to sit. I smother it in the Hola sauce and dig in. Oh my goodness, it is tasty.
The fried cornbread is light and delicate, not at all greasy. The pickled citrus onions give an unexpected burst of freshness and zest. The sweet potato is subtle, with all of the other flavors to compete with, so I pretty much forget it’s in there. The pork is the real star of this arepa: rich, incredibly flavorful, and unbelievably juicy. So juicy, in fact, that it immediately seeps through the wax paper cone and into a huge splotch on my jeans. Even with a rearrangement of strategy (paper boat in my lap to catch the drips) and three napkin casualties, my jeans take two more greasy hits and the saucy juices are all over my hands and dripping up my forearms. I am a wreck. But here’s the thing: it was worth it, and I would do it a thousand times over again.
Don’t miss the cucumber lemonade either. Tart, fresh and delicious, its flavors are perfectly balanced and provide a great complement to the spicy arepa.
I toss the messy remnants of my meal and head back inside to work away another beautiful late-summer afternoon with a satisfied belly and a happy heart. Hola Arepa, you… complete me.
Friendly crew, fast service –once you get past the formidable line, of course!
I loved the look of my arepa in the wax paper and cardboard boat, but it was incredibly messy to actually eat. Thicker wax paper might have helped. Or wet-naps or a bib or something?
Mmmmmmmm. Five star taste.
Value for Dollars
The best value in street food I’ve had yet. Despite it’s smaller size, the arepa filled me up completely, and for only $6 (if you don’t go for a soda) it’s tough to beat that deal in downtown.
Overall Food Truck Experience
The wait can be a turn-off if you’re in a hurry, but if you get lucky like I did there’s absolutely nothing to complain about at Hola Arepa.
But don’t take my word for it!
Downtown Minneapolis or Saint Paul on weekdays
11am to 1:30pm
See Hola Arepa’s Calendar for events and schedule