Arepas are corn cakes that are grilled or griddled. Depending on the culture, they can be split down the middle and generously filled with various ingredients, but the main ones are cheese and copious amounts of butter. Other variations include arepas that have cheese in the dough and others that are cooked in coal-fired ovens. No matter which arepa you're getting, they're all worthy of being eaten as a snack.
Colombian arepas differ from Venezuelan arepas in that they are topped instead of filled. When eaten by themselves, they can be a bit bland, but the toppings of meat and cheeses make up for lack of flavor and provide enough change to make for an enjoyable experience. True Colombians eat their areas with "hogao," a cooked mixture of onions and tomato.
Where to try them in Miami: La Ventana Restaurant. 710 Washington Ave Miami Beach, FL 33139. (305) 673-0912
Venezuelan arepas are thicker, split open and stuffed with fillings ranging from cheese and beans to pork or shrimp. Just like the Colombian arepa, it is not flavorful on its own, but do not be deterred by this. Think of a Venezuelan arepa like a sandwich, with the arepa itself being the bread. It is all about the filling, with the arepa being used more as a vessel than the main star. Top your arepa with "guasacaca," a thin and acidic avocado-based sauce, as it compliments the fillings and is a contrast from the rich and heavy fillings.
Where to try them in Miami: La Latina. 3509 NE 2nd Ave Miami, FL 33137. (305) 571-9655
Although not exactly an arepa, El Salvador has a similar enough version of the dish called a pupusa. The main difference between an arepa and pupusas is that the latter is made from nixtamal (hominy) It is also filled before it is cooked, usually some pork, white cheese or black beans.
Where to try them in Miami: El Atlacatl. 3199 SW 8th St Miami, FL 33135. (305) 649-8000