Oct. 5, 2018 By Tara Law
Arepa Lady, a popular Colombian restaurant in Jackson Heights, reopened yesterday in a space a block away from its old location, restaurant owner Alejandro Osorio said.
The restaurant was forced to vacate its 77-02A Roosevelt Ave. storefront in March in order to make way for a 7-story development.
The restaurant, now located in a bigger space at 77-17 37th Ave., is offering the same menu of arepas and toppings as before. However, Osorio said he plans to expand the menu once they get up used to running the new kitchen.
Osorio said that Arepa Lady had not made a major announcement about the reopening because he is “still working out the kinks,” but that the restaurant’s opening night had attracted a large crowd anyway.
Arepa Lady has been a fixture in the Jackson Heights neighborhood for decades. Osorio’s mother, Maria Cano, a judge who moved to the United States to escape violence in Colombia, had earned the nickname “Arepa Lady” when she began to sell the Colombian cornmeal pancakes from a food cart 30 years ago.
The arepas were wildly popular, and Cano’s family opened the brick and mortar restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue four years ago. Osorio began to take over most the day to day workings of the restaurant from his mother, but she still frequents the restaurant’s kitchen to make sure that it kept up its high standard, Osorio said.
The future of the restaurant was cast into doubt last August, however, when the building’s owner notified Osorio that Arepa Lady had just six months to move in order to make way for a new mixed use building at the location.
Fortunately, Osorio managed to find a new space this January at the former location of City Coffee.
Osorio said that he is excited about the new space, especially since it is so much bigger than the old restaurant. While the old restaurant only had enough seating for 10 people on the street and 18 people on the interior, the new space has enough seating for 52 guests.
For the next two to three weeks, Arepa Lady will only be open for a few hours every day starting at 5:00 p.m. However, as the staff becomes more accustomed to the space, the restaurant expects to expand its hours to match the old schedule— from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.
Osorio is also planning to add new items to the restaurant’s menu, such as seafood and vegetarian options.
Although he takes pride in the new location, Osorio said that it was tough to have been forced out of the old restaurant.
“It’s sad, especially when it’s your first place,” Osorio said. “You invest so much time and energy into it.”