March 30, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
A beloved Jackson Heights restaurant that specializes in Colombian cuisine is opening a new location in Astoria.
Arepa Lady, a family-run business known for its authentic Colombian arepas, will open in the middle of May at The World Artisan Market, a repurposed warehouse building located at 34-39 31st St. Arepa Lady will be the latest establishment to open in the building following on from Urban Vegan Roots, Sotta La Luna, Sala and Elevenses.
Alejandro Osorio, 43, who is originally from Colombia, is opening the 2,000 square foot space with his wife and his brother.
It will be the third restaurant under the Arepa Lady name following on from its flagship 77-17 37th Ave. Jackson Avenue space. The company’s second restaurant is located in Brooklyn.
Arepa Lady has been a fixture in the Jackson Heights neighborhood for decades and was initially established by Osario’s mother Maria Cano, a judge who moved to the United States to escape violence in Colombia. She began to sell the Colombian cornmeal pancakes from a food cart more than 30 years ago and soon earned the nickname “Arepa Lady.” Cano has now retired from the business, Osario said.
Osorio said the family will be bringing his mother’s famous arepas to the new Astoria location. Some of the arepas include the arepa de choclo, which is made with grilled fresh corn and topped with a white farmer’s cheese, and the arepa de queso which consists of corn flour with mozzarella cheese in batter and white cheese.
Customers can choose from a range of toppings in their arepas including sirloin, chicken, chorizo and Carne Desmechada, known as shredded beef.
The new restaurant will also offer a range of patacones, which are green plantains that are flattened before being fried, and picadas, a popular dish consisting of mixed meats.
The family plan to expand the menu in Astoria to include seafood options. Drinks will include a range of cocktails as well as Colombian beverages like Aguardiente, which is firewater.
Osorio said he is excited to expand the business into Astoria and was attracted to the The World Artisan Market, which consists of a row of restaurants in an old warehouse building.
“It’s a really nice location with the high windows and we have all the other restaurants next to us,” Osorio said.
He said the family has not finalized the cosmetic design of the space, although it will have a Colombian feel and a bar area on one side.
They are waiting on a permit from the fire department to come through before starting the build-out and the work won’t take long to complete, he said.
“The permits are taking forever right now. It seems like there is a lot to do but we will get it done quickly,” Osorio said.
Arepa Lady will seat around 50 people and the family plan on hosting live Colombian music at the venue too.
Osario said that the determining factor in moving into the space was an exclusive outdoor area situated to the rear of the soon-to-be restaurant. Osario said it is around 800 square feet and is ideal for outdoor dining in the warmer months.
Osario said he is looking forward to opening in Astoria since his family has a connection with the neighborhood.
The family initially settled in Astoria when they immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s. They lived on 31st Street – about 10 blocks away from the upcoming restaurant — for around a year and then moved to Jackson Heights, he said.
Osorio said he still enjoys spending time in Astoria and regularly socializes in the neighborhood.
“I think I’ve been to every restaurant in Astoria,” he said.