After eating more than your share of bandejas paisas, are you ready for a break from Colombian food? Or at least a slight variation? Then it’s time you tried a Venezuelan arepa! And I’ve found a great place to do just that: Los Chamos in Laureles.
Los Chamos (“Los Muchachos” or “The Boys” in Venezuelan slang) opened its doors about two years ago. Jesús Sánchez, along with his two brothers, runs the restaurant just off the Setenta. His family moved here from Mérida, Venezuela, looking for a better quality of life and to open new horizons.
Venezuelan Arepa vs Colombian Arepa
So what is it that makes the Venezuelan arepa different from the Colombian arepa? As I see it, the most important difference lies in the arepa itself (not what’s stuffed inside it).
The Venezuelan arepa is thicker and softer than its Colombian counterpart. This makes it much easier and more pleasant to eat. The juicy, flavorful carne mechada (shredded beef) doesn’t hurt either!
In case it’s not already obvious, I have to admit that I have a strong preference for the Venezuelan arepa. Hopefully my Colombian friends will forgive me….
Various types of Venezuelan Arepa
The Venezuelan arepa comes in a few different varieties.
One of the most popular types at Los Chamos is the pelua, which includes carne mechada (shredded beef) and queso amarillo (semi-creamy yellow cheese).
Another favorite is the catira, with pollo mechado (shredded chicken) and queso amarillo. The reina pepiada rounds out the top three, featuring the distinctive pollo frio (chicken salad) with aguacate (avocado).
Each of these popular arepas will run you just 9000 pesos ($3.00). To spice things up, you can add additional ingredients for a small charge of 1500 pesos. The selection includes some offbeat choices such as huevos de codorniz (quail eggs) and pico de gallo, as well as more standard add-ons like avocado and tomato.
Queso blanco (Venezuelan white cheese) is also available, in addition to the aforementioned queso amarillo (semi-creamy yellow cheese).
In addition to the popular carne mechada (shredded beef) and pollo mechado (shredded chicken), Los Chamos also offers a few other meats. These include cerdo (pork), chicharrón (pork rind), tocineta (bacon), and chorizo (sausage).
For further variety, diners can choose the mixto option, which combines shredded beef and shredded chicken. Meanwhile, the mariscos (seafood) arepa combines octopus, shrimp, and prawns.
Not Just Arepas
The menu at Los Chamos started with just arepas, but has now expanded to include some other typical Venezuelan dishes. Among them is the cachapa, a sort of sweet corn pancake stuffed with meat and cheese.
Los Chamos also serves a traditional Venezuelan lunch dish called pabellón, which includes the black beans typical of Caribbean cuisine, in addition to plantain, shredded beef, and Venezuelan white cheese. This dish is served as a plate as well as in a stuffed arepa.
The Venezuelan hamburger also gets a spot on the menu. Jesús says the main difference between the Venezuelan version and others is the sauce. I pressed him for details on this special sauce, but was promptly told that it’s a secret family recipe.
For those who like to mix in something sweet with their meal, the maduro frito (fried sweet plantain) might just hit the spot. It combines fried plantain with ham, cheese, avocado, and a choice of beef or chicken.
Reflecting the cultural diversity of their homeland, Los Chamos also includes their take on the popular Lebanese shawarma. It’s served on pita bread with a choice of beef, chicken, or a mix of the two.
You’ll want a good drink to wash down your tasty arepa. Los Chamos offers a nice selection of natural juices, as well as beer, soft drinks, aguardiente, and rum.
The Bottom Line
I’ve eaten at Los Chamos numerous times over the past several months. The service has always been good, and the friendly employees were quick to recognize me when I returned for a second visit.
With extended hours, Los Chamos is a great spot for late night dining when out enjoying the Laureles nightlife. They’re open 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Los Chamos is located at Circular 5 #70-30, just west of the bustling nightlife of La 70 (Setenta). It’s about a 10-minute walk or a short taxi ride from the Estadio metro station (Line B).
Have you tried both Colombian and Venezuelan arepas? If so, which do you prefer and why? Let us know about it in the comments section below. Also make sure to tell us about your favorite Medellín arepa joints—whether Venezuelan or Colombian. All photos courtesy of Los Chamos.