One of my favorite features of Orlando’s foodie scene is food trucks: mobile gourmet restaurants on wheels that pop up all over the Central Florida region. Found at farmers’ markets, local hotels, and special food truck bazaars that collect dozens in one place, food trucks are easily accessible, but often have limited options for gluten-free diners.
Luckily, there are a special few food trucks who work to make sure their offerings are both delicious and gluten-free. Because of them, those with food restrictions can join in on the fun. Although I’ve found a few trucks in the past (see those here), I was excited to find Pepa’s Arepas by way of Sarah from Gluten Free and Dairy Free at Walt Disney World. From afar I couldn’t wait to return to Orlando to check out their delicious take on Venezuelan street food.
Pepa’s Arepas proudly serves up non-traditional Arepas. A common street food in Venezuela, arepas are similar to sandwiches with corn cakes standing in for traditional bread. Wanting to take arepas to the next level, Pepa’s gives the street food an international flair, infusing the tastes of Italy, the Mediterranean, and other Latin cuisines.
I visited Pepa’s Arepas at their stop at Tasty Tuesdays in the Milk District. This weekly event brings multiple food trucks and people from all over Orlando together for a night of fun and food.
The menu is entirely gluten-free except for the panko-breaded and fried items. If you are avoiding dairy, simple request that dairy-containing ingredients be left off (mostly watch out for cheeses). The staff on board the truck were knowledgeable about their ingredients, and helpful in answering my questions.
I ordered the la griega confundida without feta cheese, a fusion of Greek and Italian flavors onto one delicious arepa. Thick slices of tomatoes were surrounded by arugula and drizzled over with a healthy serving of Pepa’s homemade sweet basil vinaigrette. The vegetables were fresh and the dressing an absolute revelation with its creative merging of basil and balsamic flavors with an unexpected sweetness. I asked about the ingredients in the dressing and they include honey, balsalmic vinegar, basil, black pepper, and garlic. The arepa cakes themselves were sturdy enough to support the ingredients, and had a delicious crunch on the outside and soft chewiness on the inside. I loved how big the flavors were while at the same time the arepa was not too heavy on a hot, muggy night.
For proper arepa consumption, I was advised to wrap the tray-lining paper around the sandwich and it worked perfectly to allow me to eat the arepa as a sandwich while at the same tome not have the ingredients completely fall out the back of the sandwich. I thought I’d pass the technique along because it’s perfect for food truck events where tables and utensils are in short supply.
My mom placed an order for yucca fries with salsa verde, Pepa’s only side item. Unfortunately, the fries are not celiac safe because they are made in a same fryer with the panko-breaded fried chicken. My mom really loved them though, noting their crisp and crunchy texture and tasty salsa.
Pepa’s Arepas was a total home run for me. My arepa was simply fantastic and it was so much fun to be able to enjoy a warm Orlando night eating street food under the stars. I hope someday Pepa’s switches to a gluten-free breading to transition to a 100% gluten-free truck and that I can try the yucca fries as well. Nevertheless, I count myself as Pepa’s newest fan and look forward to seeking them out around Central Florida.
Cuisine: Venezuelan, Latin Fusion
Ideal For: Lunch, Dinner
Price: My arepa was $9. Others were $10, yucca fries were $3.
Accessibility: Wheelchair accessibility varies based on location
Special Features: Have a party that needs a culinary boost? Call Pepa’s for catering! Find more information on their website.
Disclaimer: This review is based upon the information I have at the time of the review and does not reflect changes in ingredients or availability of items. Please contact the restaurant directly for up-to-date information and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. I was not compensated for this review and it is a reflection of my personal opinion.