Mon-Wed, 11am-10pm; Thu-Fri, 11am-11pm; Sat, 11am-midnight; Sun, 11am-9pm
1 at 18th St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
El Cocotero is a bright, cheerful café specializing in arepas, the delectably dense, spongy corn-flour cakes stuffed with everything from chicken and avocado to soft farmer's-style cheese. The small, affordable menu lists a few fresh, vaguely tropical salads enlivened with lime and orange vinaigrettes, pressed sandwiches, and spears of fried yuca meant to be dunked into rich, thick Venezuelan sour cream. (Or, even better: the oily, herby version of guacamole called guasacaca.) There are now nine entrées, and one is a nap-inducing doozy: pabellon criollo, a heaping platter of slightly chewy stewed flank steak bolstered by mounds of white rice and black beans and decked with fried plantains. The fact that it's dished out unceremoniously from a spotless steam table doesn't diminish the room's homey appeal, with its sky-blue walls and palm trees, colorful ceramic plates, and disarmingly friendly service.Brunch
Sat.―Sun., noon―3:30 p.m.Recommended Dishes
Arepas, $6-$8.95; pabellon criollo, $19