Anybody who hangs around South Street in Queen Village knows that, from a culinary standpoint, it’s hard to find something relatively quick and reasonably priced that isn’t in some way, shape or form related to cheese-steaks, pizza, wings or bar food. Which is why we are happy to see something like Puyero, 524 S. Fourth St., open up shop.
Bright, colorful and casual, Puyero specializes in Venezuelan street food with a menu focused mainly on arepas — a ground maize patty with a soft inside that is filled with various stuffings — and patacones, a sandwich made from plantains.
The arepas menu has the most variety, with fillings ranging from black beans and smoked salmon to shredded beef, pork or chicken. The pabellon arepa ($9) is a good place to start, with shredded beef, black beans, plantains and white cheese. The flavors and textures are inviting and somewhat familiar to American palettes.
For something more exotic and adventurous, try the patacon pisao ($8.50) — almost bursting at the seams with shredded chicken, ham, white cheese, gouda, cabbage, ketchup, green mayo and mustard, sandwiched between two generous slabs of fried plantains. It’s delightfully complex, with the crunchiness of the plantains and cabbage playing off the meatiness of the ham and chicken and the swirls of the numerous condiments. (You might want to keep a lot of napkins handy because it’s hard to keep everything contained.) The patacon has similar qualities to a Cuban sandwich, but enough authentic Venezuelan ingredients to make it vibrant and new.
Speaking of tastes and textures you see all the time, the yuca fries ($4) are the denser, starchier Venezuelan counterpart to gigantic French fries, which go well with a kick of chipotle ketchup. The tequenos ($4.50), deep-fried dough wrapped around white cheese, is sure to become a house favorite, as it marries the buttery goodness of a croissant with the warm, cheesy comfort of a mozzarella stick.
The refreshments ($3) also walk the line between familiar and exotic. The cilantro lemonade was the kind of drink summer days were made for. The sugar water plays like a strong iced tea on the tongue. Mix the two together and nothing else will satisfy your thirst quite the same way.
Puyero is a little piece of South America that is a welcome sight near South Street. Give it a try.