Caraquena

dieselboi

Location: 8327 N Denver St.
[Location updated June 2011]

Description:

Caraquena is the newest cart on the scene, only 4 days old.  On the side of the cart and on the menu, Caraquena is listed as Michelle’s Amazing Venezuelan Kitchen and today I enjoyed the first of what I believe will be amazing lunches.

I’m not sure I can describe what Venezuelan food is, so I won’t try.  I suggest you go peruse the menu and head on down with your questions.  What I do know is that Michelle makes her signature dishes from scratch.  When I arrived around 12:40, you could tell she had been busy and she confirmed that.  I wasn’t sure what to order from the pretty sizable menu, so she started describing items and making recommendations.  She offered up empanadas and or arepas, describing the differences.  I opted for Arepas which turned out to be sandwich like instead of a pocket like the empanada.  They have an arepa special that gets you 2 arepas and 2 sides.  While I stood around chatting with another patron, Michelle began to prepare my meal.  She pulled out a Tupperware container of dough that she kneaded into a ball to make the arepa corn flour patty.  Right there, she made it.  I was floored.  She then moved on to her cutting board to pound out freshly cut sweet plantains for plantain chips – just for me.  I felt so special.  The meal I ate consisted of 2 arepas – one of chicken and one of pork along with black beans and plantain chips with her signature sauces.

Arepa Especial

Arepa Especial

The food was excellent.  Flavorful and a plenty.  There was a lot there, so be prepared.  I’m glad I stopped by.

As stated, Michelle has been open only 4 days and admittedly is still working out new cart kinks.  Trust me, it is worth the wait.  Welcome the neighborhood Michelle and Caraquena.

[Update June 2011: Caraquena recently reopened in the Kenton neighborhood in North Portland.]

Sample Menu:

  • Cruzado – Traditional Venezuelan stew – belly warming stew made with beef shank, chicken, exotic jungle roots, corn, potatoes, carrots, scallions and cilantro – $5.50
  • Pabellon – Traditional Venezuelan plate – shredded cumin and sweet peppers, beef with house rice, black beans, sweet plantains and iceberg salad with house vinaigrette – $5.50
  • Plantains – fried with choice of toppings – between $3.50 and $5
  • Empanadas – fried corn flour turnovers – choice of chicken, beef, cheese or black bean – $4
  • Arepas – corn flour patty sandwich – choice of beef and black bean, ham and cheese, beef with herbs, chicken, veggie – $4.50
  • Combination plates for Empanadas or Arepas add 2 sides – between $5.50 and $6
  • assorted drinks available

Phone: unknown
Email: unknown
Facebook: Caraquena
Hours: Lunchtime weekdays, including Saturday

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Comments

  1. Stoked. Excited to try this cart and am so happy with the proliferation of new amazing carts in Portland. This city keeps getting better and better on the food front.

    Thanks for the write-up!

  2. I happened across this cart today as well, after passing it by but never seeing it open for a week or more. I was so glad I stopped to read the menu.

    I had the empanadas special, and for $6, got more food than I could handle. The empanadas were freshly made and fried, and that perfect combination of light and crispy. I had the cumin chicken one and the “domino” — black beans and a light, white cheese — though I preferred the chicken (“mechada”?). A side of white rice topped with more of that cheese, plus a side of fried plantains with two tasty sauces (one of which she described as a “horseradish aioli”) rounded out the meal.

    Not the lightest or healthiest fare, but really good, and very unique, to my taste. I definitely need to go back and try the arepas.

    Michelle is a great cook (she previously worked at the nearby, rarely open Golden Saigon cart on 5th) and very nice to talk to. She was a little slow today, but I think she’s still working out the process, and for food that fresh, it was worth the wait.

  3. I’ve already eaten here twice! Everything I’ve had has been fantastic, and Michelle is the best- not only does she make amazing Venezuelan food to order, she also found and returned my wallet that I had dropped near her cart.

    Highly recommended!

  4. oh my, I am really excited for this one. I love arepas so much and usually only get them when I visit new york. too bad I just had lunch!

  5. Oh, so good! I had:

    *2 arepas – one w/beans and one w/the special for today – chicken pineapple
    *plaintains – which were not squashed flat like the photo, but more like little cubes of bananas with cheese crumbled over
    *beet salad
    *Michelle also gave me a lovely little plate of red beans & rice to tide me over as I had to wait for a little while (there was a mad rush all at once!).

    The beet salad was more like a cabbage slaw with little slivers of beets and peas (?), I think. Slightly sweet, crunchy, and a refreshing touch after the hefty arepas. Everything was flavored just right – not too bland or too salty, for my taste. The arepas (new to me) were really enjoyable – they were more crunchy than I expected and a nice change from the usual bread.

    I also liked that she served my food with a paper plate w/foil on top. I love eating at the carts, but I always feel bad tossing the giant plastic take-out containers afterwards.

    I will be back there soon! Just be patient, as she is the main cook, so don’t be in a rush.

  6. I just tried this cart for the first time today. I was somewhat disappointed. I had the plate of the day which was one arepa, one empanada, coleslaw, white rice, and black beans. It was $8!!!! I wish I would have asked how much it was before ordering it (the prices were not listed on the board).

    The bacon-something empanada was delicious although the size of a potsticker. The maple pork arepa was amazing and slightly bigger than the empanada. The scoop of coleslaw was bland and the rice and beans that filled half the plate were, well, rice and beans (I only ate a couple bites).

    $8 should fill my belly but it didn’t and I’m not a huge eater. I feel like a sucker having paid that much for so little but at least I can say I tried a new (to me) cart.

  7. I love this place! Michelle’s food is flavored perfectly, not too spicy but still savory and unique. The arepas are like a cornmeal “sandwich” filled with different meats depending on the day. Michelle is always gracious and fun. I have never been charged more than $6.50 a plate and have plenty leftover. Have no idea what the previous poster is talking about!!!! The imported sodas are $1.50 maybe the last woman got a drink along with her meal? Regardless if you’ve never tried Venezuelan food you’ve GOT TO DO IT!! Like Cuban but MEJOR!

  8. I was very excited to eat at Caraquena. Being a Venezuelan myself, I was looking for some good home cooking to bring me back to memories of home.

    It was truly disappointing. It is a shame to call that Venezuelan food. It is not typical and has been changed so much that it should be called Venezuelan inspired food instead of the real thing. You would never find the types of fillings used here in Venezuela. Also, names have been misused calling drinks, things that they are not…. like chicha for example.

    The food is not bad but sends a wrong message about Venezuelan food. The owner was not friendly and when asked how she was doing she would reply tired. That is also not the Venezuelan attitude of people known for their happy spirits, warmth and hospitality.

    A shame to Venezuelans everywhere….

  9. If you enjoy lukewarm, bland, overpriced food served by a condescending & rude proprietress, then Caraquena is for you!

    I tried this cart on an afternoon when I was seemingly the only customer. Even though we had a conversation about what vegetarian options were available, she still served me up an arepa stuffed with shredded beef. I went back to the cart : “Are you sure my food is vegetarian??”. “Oh sure. It’s the ‘veggie lamb’”. Went back to my plate & actually tried it on good faith. Well, it wasn’t veggie lamb. When I took the plate back to the cart to provide a visual & ask once again “Are you SURE this is the veggie lamb??”, she admitted “No, that is beef. Who did I give your food to?”

    Even though this was the first time I’ve eaten beef in 20 years, I was gracious & waited for her to re-prepare my food. While I waited, she became defensive & condescending, telling me I had “confused” her (and caused her incompetence?). All in all, a very unpleasant experience. I asked for my money back & will never return. Luckily there are many good carts on Killingsworth with tasty food & pleasant, service-driven folks. I suggest you try them instead.

  10. I visited Caraquena today and I would say it wasn’t exactly the traditional Venezuelan food I was expecting, it was delicious. It is surely more a Venezuelan Portland joint than a traditional one.

    The owner was friendly and very gracious giving me a side of plantains and even a drink on the house…it might have been because I mentioned I am Colombian.

    I would definitely go back and I’m recommending it to all my Venezuelan friends so they too can try it.

  11. I went to this cart a few weeks ago, and was very disappointed. The owner was extremely rude. While I was waiting for my fried plantains, a woman approached the cart and asked if they sold a certain food (can’t remember what). The owner curtly replied “No, that’s not even a Venezuelan food.” The customer, after looking at the menu, replied, “Sorry, I meant the ___” (an item listed on the menu). The owner then stopped what she was doing and berated the customer for not knowing the difference between the 2 items. A few minutes later, a customer who ordered ahead of me asked the owner for a fork. The owner snapped, “Didn’t you order the empanadas?” The customer replied she had, and the owner, after practically throwing a fork at her, said in a very rude way, “those are supposed to be eaten with your HANDS.”

    And on top of it all, my fried plantains were not good and were overpriced.

  12. First and foremost, the Refuel Station North food pod is a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. I am thankful to all the pod owners for their long days and consistent hours of operations!

    As a neighborhood local I have been making my ways around the pod and my first disappointment came from Michele and her Carquena cart. When I approached the cart, I was having a hard time deciphering the menu as many items were crossed out and it was unclear to me which special board fillings went with which menu item. When I asked for further clarification, her response was curt, stating “Exactly what don’t you get.” She then turned her back to me and continued on with her other conversation through the back door.

    While I was tempted to walk away I did not and sadly, the food did not make up for Michelle’s abrupt nature. While I know, empandadas and arepas are fried, I found both to be very greasy and the horseradish flavor in the sauce did not bode well with the sweetness of the fruit filling.

    Again, I only want these carts to flourish and succeed, but perhaps this/these review(s) will encourage better customer service and a little TLC in the food preparation.

  13. Went here and enjoyed my meal. She was pleasant to me when I went there. I have been meaning to go back a few times but the cart was not open on either day I went. Then tried to go again last week and her cart was gone from the lot. Anyone know if it closed or just relocated?

  14. Matthew Lyon says:

    Michelle was talking about relocating out to St. Johns, but I’m not aware of any pods out there currently. Something about being near the Safeway.

  15. Hello, I’m from Venezuela and the food was very VERY disappointing. it is a more American Venezuelan cart food. you fwill never find those arepa fillings in venezuela.

  16. Where is it ?, where is the address of this site ?. Thanks

  17. vanessa says:

    nice a lot comments from americans talking about the great services a wonderful food and one venezuelan have to say something about it! dude I’m from venezuela too and is really hard to find all the ingredients the we have over there! so if you think you can make better food than her open you’re own restaurant! just be proud and say thanks because this people really enjoy our food!

  18. Cynthia says:

    I just found out Caraquena is now located in the Kenton neighborhood, N. Denver and N. Willis. I’m so happy because I live nearby. Hope people will seek out this cart, the food is delicious.

  19. with all these negative reviews, i feel a need to comment and balance them out. i ate at caraquena for the first time last night. they were set up outside the quiet music festival at disjecta. both the women working were extremely nice to me. the wait was about 10 minutes which seemed appropriate for freshly made food. they only had one option, which was a seven dollar plate of caramelized garbanzos and rice, a ground beef arepa, yam empanada, slaw, a cookie, and an orange slice. everything was fantastic and very filling for seven dollars. i will definitely be back and recommending this cart to friends.

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