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Posted by DID 23 Jun 2015 10 Comments

My grandfather worked for Celenese in the seventies and his job took him (and the rest of the family including my dad) from Charlotte to Venezuela. My dad came back to the states for college and the grandparents stayed in South America for over a decade. When they returned to North Carolina, they brought back with them a giant stone water filter and family arepas nights.

My grandmother would break out the bag of masa, hand form the patties and drop them one by one into a simmering pot of hot oil. We’d all gather around, taking turns eating them fresh out of the fryer, too impatient to wait for the them to cool. When I was little she’d slice and fill them with butter and jam for me. As I grew up, I graduated to soft cheese and then to the traditional beef-stew like mixture.

Henceforth, understandably, I’m a sucker for an arepa. You’d think growing up eating them would make me snobbish about my arepa quality, but it actually just makes me love arepas all the more in all forms. I’m always on the hunt. The best I’ve found so far (outside of my grandmother’s kitchen of course) are at a place called Caracus Arepa Bar in the East Village, which is not exactly convenient to Durham. For a while Beso mi Burro, in what is now Sandwich in Chapel Hill, served up pork gorditas that were similar but alas they closed years ago. I wasn’t keen on Guasaca, the one chain-like arepas joint in the Triangle, and haven’t been able to track down Arepa Culture NC, the arepas food truck based out of Raleigh. The somewhat more readily available papusa has filled the void when needed.

But now Durham has Epachamo. Open on ninth street in the old Mitch’s Tavern, Epachamo is a family run restaurant that is focused on my beloved arepas. I suggest starting with the classics - Arepa de Pabellon (shredded stewed beef, black beans, fried sweet plantains and house-made white cheese) and Reina Pepiada (shredded chicken salad, seasoned mayo, green peas and avocado). The arepas are served with a small portion of black beans and plantain chips. I ordered one of each and they tasted like those of my childhood.

When we stopped in, it was opening week and they were still just offering the fried variety. The menu says that eventually grilled will be an option as well.

The also have sandwiches and burgers, but I leave you those to try. I’m sticking to the arepas.  Epachamo does have a full bar with a fun, festive cocktail menu that includes their signature Venezuela Libre, a layered multi-color drink that looks like the Venezuelan flag that includes rum, passion fruit rum, lime and strawberry juice.

It is very much a family-run restaurant and a week in, they were still working out some of the service kinks and food timing. I’m guessing this will improve with age.

Epachamo Venezuelan Arepas Bar & Grill
730 Ninth St., Durham
Monday-Thursday 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday-Sunday 3 p.m. to midnight


  • Ralph Haygood said:

    Just this evening, my girlfriend and I ate at Epa Chamo for the first of what I hope will be many times. The food was excellent. We actually like Guasaca, but it’s too far away for us to get there often. It’s wonderful to have a good place for arepas here in Durham.


  • Ted said:


    Ate there last night with my daughter. This place is the real deal. Family from Venezuela runs the place with pride and it shows.

    As I don’t eat meat, I got a not-on-the-menu veggie Arepa. It. Was. Outstanding.

    We also got an app – Sweet Arepitas with cheese (both cojita and a crema). Very very tasty. Recco.

    Their namesake drink also very tasty.


  • Sant said:

    Too bad they aren’t open during lunch hours. Lots of folks looking for a good, tasty lunch in that area– like myself.


    Sant replies on July 25th, 2015 at 9:12 pm:

    Ok, they do serve lunch now. The grilled beef, either in the arepa, chimichurri sandwich, or family style with salad and fries is killer. The garlicky green sauce they serve with it is great. Bold flavors!


  • TarheelJ said:

    We went this weekend and it was a mixed experience. Good drinks, but they were out of a lot of their menu items and had no desserts. What we had was very tasty, but for a restaurant on 9th Street I would have expected a little more organization.


  • Div said:

    Went this weekend. Weird experience–the food was good, but there were a lot of problems with service, the staff not really understanding the menu and making dumb mistakes (which they fixed and were apologetic about), and they were out of a number of menu items. The drinks were WAY too sweet, and the bartender seemed to make them differently than they were described in the menu.

    We’ll definitely go back and try it again, but it seems like their crew needs a bit more help and training, maybe someone to help them translate and redo the menu.


  • Where to buy InstaLead said:

    Where to buy InstaLead…

    Epachamo | Carpe Durham…

  • Kelly said:

    Loved Caracus as well! Deal is sealed!


  • Faux Paws said:

    Stopped in between stops at Durham Cycles and Regulator.

    Lucky me.

    Good “to-go” street food. The chicken based “Sofrina” arepa was satisfying. Not particularly seasoned enough, but what do I know about something I’ve never eaten? Side sauce perked it up a bit.

    Very unassuming from the outside, but WOW, what a nice interior! This place ought to be jammed on nights/weekends. It’s very inviting.

    Service was very friendly and efficient.

    BTW, if you don’t what what “Epa Chamo” means, ask the young man behind the counter. I laughed out loud. Jeff Lebowski would feel quite at home, here.

    Great addition to 9th St…Perhaps the perfect marriage between Dain’s and Chubby’s.


  • DrDaddy said:

    Son and I dropped by on a rainy Monday around 7. Only a few other diners were present. Lovely server brought food and drink/dessert menu. No water offered or supplied. Ask for a drink order and we both went for the house specialty, Libre Venezuela (irony intended?). Colorful layered drink in a Blue Moon schooner! Two cherries with stems. Cheap enough ($6) but awfully sweet and unbalanced. Won’t have one those again.

    I ordered the arepa with pulled braised beef (similar to ropa vieja) and homemade fresh cheese. Black beans and a mayonesa sauce and delicate curls of plaintains on the side. Sandwich was stuffed and scrumptious. Very satisfying. Beans were a small delicate variety in delicous meatless sauce. Topped with crumbled queso

    Jon ordered a fancy hamburger specialty served with a large side of shoestring fries. All from scratch. About $10, a worth it.

    No room for dessert but many inexpensivie traditional offerings. We will certainly return.

    And the best part? Jon had asked us out and he popped for the check.


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