Most days, the Ay! Arepa cart on Cedar Street has a line that wraps around the corner of Congress Ave. Nobody seems to have a problem waiting 15 minutes to get their hands on these popular arepas, so I had to join them and see what the hype is all about.
To be honest, I didn’t know what an arepa was when I got in line. I ordered the tilapia arepa without spicy sauce and waited a few minutes before I was handed a styrofoam tray, fork and napkin. It was love at first bite. For $7, I had a hefty plate of food that I could have easily split with a friend. Inside was a grilled arepa (mashed corn dough with cheese, like a thick pancake) over a bed of yellow rice, topped with fresh grilled tilapia. It was garnished with a mix of vegetable, sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo, with sweet plantains on the side. Each ingredient went perfectly together; the arepa was sweet and had cheese mixed into the dough. The arepa’s soft texture was complemented by the tender tilapia, and the cold vegetables and sauces took away the dryness from the corn/cheese while incorporating more fresh flavors in every bite. I started to tell my friends about the arepa cart, and everyone who tried it agreed: it’s different, really nothing like anything they’d had before, and it was absolutely delicious. We joined the ranks of the other Ay! Arepa fanatics, those dedicated customers who were willing to wait in line for as long as we did.
Soon enough, I was a frequent customer at the arepa cart. I even filled a few punch cards over time (buy 9 get your 10th arepa free). Somehow I never made the connection that Rubamba, a small restaurant on High Street, was the same restaurant that made the arepas at Ay! Arepa. Since the restaurant offers arepas and burritos just like the cart does, I wasn’t expecting much of a difference between the cart and the restaurant. When I saw the menu at Rubamba, I was overwhelmed with beautiful pictures of crispy, cheesy quesadillas, ceviche, tacos, and burritos, among other things, which made ordering so much harder. Take a look for yourself.
When the Bullblog wrote a post about Chew Haven, we asked Navy out to dinner. He said yes. We feasted on all of Rubamba’s best dishes and loved every bite.
Not only was everything mouthwatering, but the presentation and care with which they prepare the dishes at Rubamba is beyond anything you’d expect. This is definitely due, in part, to the humble interior of the restaurant; it just doesn’t do it justice. I hope that one day they can expand and find a larger space, because while it’s a great setting for a relaxed meal with friends, it’s not a place to come for a more formal dining experience.
The ceviche was good, not the best one we’ve ever had but still delicious with plenty of fresh seafood.
This classic quesadilla was full of fresh chicken and cheese, with lots of seasoning on top for added flavor.
This pork empanada was amazing. It was on the smaller side which was a bummer because it was one of the best things we had.
Mexican Sandwich: Pollo Milanesa
This breaded chicken breast sandwich had refried beans, cheese, tomato, avocado, lettuce, onion, and sauce. Lauren got it (of course) and loved it, especially because the bread it was on was so soft and fresh. It was huge though. Like twice the size of her face huge.
Navy went for a classic chicken burrito. As you can see, it’s pretty fancy looking but was good nonetheless. A little on the dry side, he said.
Like the arepas from the cart, but bigger and better. The fish was amazing, plentiful, very tender, and well seasoned. So much to love.
For a cheaper grab-and-go lunch option, try their cart: Ay! Arepa. They have a cart on the corner of Elm and York, right across from Au Bon Pain, as well as one on Cedar Street what usually parks on the corner of Congress and Cedar across from the Anlyan Center (pre-meds rejoice). The carts are only there for lunch, although the York St. cart stays until 4ish.
Rubamba also offers take-out, so you can grab a meal to-go and bring it to the library as you finish studying for your midterms and writing those papers before freedom on Friday.