I like a good human interest story. This is as much a restaurant review as it is a story of an American dream. A person comes to this country with nothing, and through hard work and determination is able to build something for himself and his family.
Javier Eastman is a busy man. He’s not only one of Connecticut’s most sought-after tattoo artists, but he also owns two restaurants in South Norwalk, both serving up a delicious taste of his Venezuelan heritage.
Javier says he always had a dream of owning a small restaurant. When he first came to this country 17 years ago he worked in construction. Through his love of art, with encouragement from his brother Harold, he found himself embarking on an unexpected career as a tattoo artist, eventually opening his own shop, Causality Tattoo Company, in 2015. (His artwork is unbelievable, just check out his personal Instagram.)
Now, together with his wife, mother, and brother, the restaurant dream is a reality with La Calle Arepas Bar and Avenida Venezuelan Food. Avenida is focused on breakfast and lunch, whereas La Calle serves up lunch and dinner. At both, you’ll find Venezuelan staples such as stuffed arepas and empanadas, with La Calle also offering complete dinner entrees as well as wine and beer.
Filling the need for Venezuelan Food In Fairfield County
In Venezuela people flock to arepas bars (also known as areparias) as people flock to diners here in the US. They are THE destination, especially for late nite eats. Javier says whenever he travels across the country, he seeks out Venezuelan restaurants. Well, now it appears people are seeking out his, with customers coming from as far away as Rhode Island and New York.
I had to ask though, why does an award-winning artist with a busy career and family decide to start not one but two restaurants, basically at the same time? Javier said when an opportunity presents itself you can’t say no. Through his tattoo career success, he was able to save a “little something” for just such an opportunity. “It’s hard. I just jumped in,” he said, “I don’t mind the risk, I started from nothing, and I could start again if I had to.”
Hard work is part of the deal. In fact, he and his brother did much of the renovation work at La Calle on their own, putting in long hours on nights and weekends. The result is a warm, welcoming, and cheery spot to grab a hearty, casual meal.
The menu at La Calle is pretty diverse including a bevy of appetizers, salads, cachapas (sweet corn pancakes), 20 different stuffed arepas (including a vegan option), patacon (fried green plantain sandwiches), burgers, hot dogs, pepitos (Venezuelan grinders), as well as dinner entrees with all the fixins’.
Among the popular appetizers are empanadas, tostone rellenos, and tequeños (fried dough filled with cheese).
One of the most popular arepa fillings in Venezuela is Reina, a blend of avocado and shredded chicken. At La Calle in addition to using it in arepas, they also have it as an appetizer served with green plantain chips.
Our favorite appetizer was the chorizo en salsa de pimenton. It’s an amazing combo of salty, fatty chorizo in a sweet bell pepper sauce.
It’s all about the arepas at La Calle
It’s clear that Javier is as passionate about food and sharing his Venezuelan roots as he is about art. This was especially evident when we started talking about arepas, a staple of Venezuelan cuisine. He learned to make them as a little kid from his mother.
“It’s the first thing you learn to make. It’s so simple but so tricky,” he said. Everyone has a family recipe, and even with the same ingredients, each person’s will taste different. Javier admits his arepas are good but that mom’s always come out better.
We sampled four arepas, all of which were overflowing with filling. This is a glorious “use two hands and multiple napkins” situation.
All were delicious, but the two standouts were the Pachanga, filled with chorizo, fried cheese, and avocado; and, believe it or not, the Vegana with black beans, avocado, and fried plantains.
Don’t Miss Out On The Fried Plaintain Sandwich
When I saw a fried green plantain sandwich on the menu, I had to have it. Your choice of carne asada, pernil (roast pork), hamburger, shredded chicken, or shredded beef is sandwiched between two slices of double-fried green plantains and topped with lettuce, tomato, fried white soft cheese, and salsas. Building a sandwich around a crunchy plantain might be my new favorite discovery.
Now when I tell you we had a hot dog, you’ll likely be thinking to yourself, “what’s so special about a hot dog?” In this case – everything! The “La Calle” features a hot dog covered in shredded beef, grilled egg, potato sticks, shredded cabbage and carrots, sweet corn, onions, and multiple salsas.
It’s a messy, delicious cacophony of flavors.
Last, but certainly not least, a highlight when it comes to dinner entrees, is Pabellòn, the National Dish of Venezuela. It’s a platter of shredded beef, black beans, white rice, fried sweet plantains, fried egg, avocado, and white cheese. This is a dish I would gladly eat for any meal of the day.
We capped off our meal with a toast of a classic Venezuelan digestif.
We left with full bellies, new friends, and plans to visit again soon. Go check it out for yourself.
La Calle Arepas Bar
74 N Main Street, Norwalk, CT
Photos by Renato Ghio