Simon A. Arends, Gil J. Arends and Manuela Villasmil announce the grand opening of Puyero Venezuelan Flavor at 524 S. 4th Street in South Street Headhouse District. This casual Venezuelan street food concept specializes in quick-serve arepas, patacones, and other incredibly delicious food. Dishes pair perfectly with tropical specialty drinks made in-house that are sweet and perfect for Philadelphia’s hot summer days. The dining room is fresh, colorful and vibrant with humorous proverbs that will make you laugh and music that will make you want to tap your feet. Grand opening festivities will include free giveaways between March 17-19th including arepas, churros and other signature Latin dishes.
Puyero is a family affair – being designed and operated by brothers Simon and Gil, along with Gil’s wife Manuela. This is the first restaurant for all three young new restaurant owners. The menu is designed by Claudia Zamora, a Venezuelan chef living who is just as passionate about Venezuelan food and culture as the Simon, Gil and Manuela.
“We want to introduce rich flavors and combinations that people in Philly would never had thought of before,” said one of the three partners, Simon Arends. “We also want to showcase who Venezuelans are and as one of the different stories that come from Latin America.”
Puyero currently seats 22 people inside, with expanded seating coming outside later in the spring. Starting this Friday, Puyero will open every day (Tuesday through Sunday) at 11:30am for lunch and stay open through dinner until 10:00pm Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, and 11:00pm on Friday and Saturday. The entire menu is available during lunch and dinner – with brunch options to come later in the spring. Delivery is now being offered through Caviar. Parking for Puyero is available at meter spots along 4th and South streets, or there are nearby parking lots in the District. The restaurant is in walking distance from Old City, Rittenhouse, Center City, South Philadelphia and the waterfront.
Puyero serves Venezuelan street food with a special focus on the arepa – the quintessential Venezuelan plate – and the patacon – a sandwich made from plantains. Savory sides include the Venezuelan favorite tequeños – cheese wrapped with dough which is later deep fried – which goes great with the house-made sauces. There is also the very richly flavored mandocas – a combination of corn flour, plantains and a hint of cinnamon topped with salty white cheese and cream. Plus, don’t miss the fried yucca served with guasacaca – an avocado based mix.
WHAT IS AN AREPAS?
The arepa is a crunchy ground maize patty with a soft and warm inside filled with juicy and exotic stuffings. Arepas are a boom in NY. “We noticed that in Philly there is a void waiting to be filled by the right arepa. Some say the arepa is the next taco. We couldn’t agree more,” added Simon. “The arepa is in Venezuela is the everyday meal. You have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is our comfort food. The food our parents make us. When you are growing up, you learn how to pat an arepa.”
Puyero also serves traditional sweet and tropical drinks, perfect for those hot South Street days (and nights):
* Papelon con limon – sugar cane sweetened water with lemon
* Chicha – a rice based, kind of shake with cinnamon
* Cilantro lemonade – a twist on the lemonade adding a touch of cilantro
* Tamarind juice – made from tamarind fruit with simple syrup.
Other juices and drinks will be added based on seasonal fruit selections available
The green mayo is the kind of sauce that one might find when they are eating in street carts. Pink sauce sriracha, and chipotle ketchup are spicy twists on typical sauces used for traditional sides. Papaya hot sauce is sweet and spicy.
“In Venezuela we like to put sauces on our food. We like to grab the container and spray all that sauce on sides (tequenos and pastelitos), arepas, empanadas, burgers, hotdogs, anything you can think of…we have four sauces right now,” said Simon.
Venezuelans are very witty and quick to come up with jokes. If you say something, the answer to that will probably be a good pun. Puyero has funny proverbs. “We like to laugh when we are down and we like to laugh when we are happy.”
“Not only is Venezuelan flavor in our food, it is who we are,” said Gil. “Colorful, optimistic, irreverent and witty. We are proud of it. Venezuelans are joyful and ingenious. We like to laugh at ourselves. We love to listen and tell stories. We love eating a good arepa, no matter it’s filling. And we enjoy sharing it with everyone! That’s who we are. We relish it, and in Venezuela, when we have a ton of fun we are gozando un puyero.”
AUTHENTICITY IS KEY
“We want to be a hotspot for all Venezuelans. The Venezuelan IT place to go to,” added Simon. “We want the non Venezuelan crowd to want to come here because it is authentic.”
VISION FOR PUYERO
“When we thought of doing Venezuelan food there was no way around the fact that we needed to serve arepas,” said Simon. “Venezuelan food are arepas and arepas are Venezuelan food. We wanted to offer something that was cool and hip. Nothing better than street food to do this. We started looking at our street food and began to build around it. We added the patacon, pan-con-queso (we have hot dogs and burgers that have not been added to our menu yet), tequenos and mandocas.”
Gil added, “Street food is associated with the cities. You don’t really have street food in towns. Most of the Venezuelan population lives in cities (89%). A third of the population lives in the 5 major cities. That was exactly what we were aiming for. Bring the experience that the urban Venezuelan has when they go out to eat and dine in the Venezuelan streets.
“Being millennials ourselves, we wanted to project who we are. That is exactly what we worked around. We wanted to show something that was authentic and real. We did not want to create this “Epcot Center” version of Venezuela,” said Manuela.
MEET THE OWNERS
Gil Arends was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, the second largest city and the oil capital of the country. When he was a kid – just like the majority of Venezuelan kids – he dreamt with becoming a Major League Shortstop. He first visited Philly in 1997 to visit his aunt. That summer he attended the Phillies baseball camp and since then has been a fan of the team. He has visited to Philly about 8/9 times to either spend the Christmas Holidays or the summer’s in the area. After finishing school in Venezuela in 2003 he moved to Cherry Hill, NJ and lived there for a couple of years. He went back to law school in Venezuela and was he completed it he came back to Philly (2011) with his now wife Manuela. After Maracaibo, Philly is his second home – no other city in Venezuela represents what Philly represents to him. He is a Phillies sports fan. He also enjoys listening to music. He DJs at Y-Not Radio (internet radio station based in Philly) where he plays alternative music from different countries.
Manuela Villasmil was born in Paris, France to Venezuelan parents. At the age of 2 her family relocated back in Venezuela. Maracaibo became her home until she moved to Philly (2011). Manuela studies PR and Marketing in Maracaibo. After finishing school she worked with her mom, a renowned baker in Maracaibo, in her baking business. She has always had a passion for cooking and food.
Simon A. Arends was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela where he grew up and lived his entire life until moving to Philadelphia in 2015. Before relocating to Philadelphia he had visited the city approximately 12 times dating back to 1997. Simon studied Architecture in Maracaibo, Venezuela and completed his studies in 2014. He worked for a couple of years for architecture firms until deciding to open Puyero Venezuelan Flavor.
“We feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with our family,” said Simon. “These are the people that have been with you for the longest time. They are the people that you trust the most and you know what to expect from them. They want to see you succeed just as much as they want to succeed themselves. We feel it is very special to have the opportunity to work with each other.”
He added, “Businesses in Venezuela tend to be run by families. Even large businesses. Either because they have inherited them or because when someone wants to expand their business the first people they’ll bring in is there family members.”
Currently, Puyero has created three full-time and one part-time position – with growth projected to go up to potentially 10 full-time and 5 part-time positions over time.
Down the road, look for special theme nights and dishes. Special theme nights or weeks based on Venezuelan holidays as well. We want to be able to promote cultural events and musical events in the future, both in the space and maybe outside our dining room as well. Also, look for the launch of lunch and brunch items, and rotating menu items.
WHY SOUTH STREET?
“We like South Street because of its colorful vibe which reminds us of the culture back at home,” said Manuela. “We think it’s one of the hottest streets in Philly during the summer. It reminds us of the hot days back home. Also, there is a food resurgence in the neighborhood – especially with a focus on global cuisine – and we wanted to contribute to that.
SOUTH STREET FOOD REVIVAL
Puyero Venezuelan Flavor is the newest addition to South Street’s thriving food scene that boasts exciting new additions in the last two years (Bahn Mi and Bottles, Hungry Pigeon, Plenty Queen Village, Malbec Argentine Steakhouse, BeerLove, Whetstone Tavern, Mi Lah others) on top of celebrated standards (Serpico, Brauhaus Schmitz, Ela, Bridget Foy’s, Bistro Romano, Bistrot La Minette, Percy Street Barbecue). The restaurant is located just steps away from the heart of South Street, near 4th and South.
Connect on Twitter and Instagram at @puyeroflavor, and on Facebook at Puyero Venezuelan Flavor.