I’d never heard of Bolivar Café, but after a quick Yelp search, I found out this was the place to find gluten-free arepas. This was my first 100% gluten-free arepa experience at Outside Lands in San Francisco. What is an arepa you ask? It’s a corn-based dish from South America that resembles a sandwich of sorts. Two corn cakes (note: 100% gluten free) are put together with a variety of fillings (i.e. pulled pork, mango, avocado, cheese, etc.) to resemble a mini corn-cake sandwich…
I was expecting Bolivar to be a hole in the wall kind of place that would be difficult to find, but I was surprised to find it right on the corner on Ocean Park Blvd. How did I miss this place? It’s a quaint restaurant where people come to enjoy a leisurely afternoon or evening, eating freshly prepared arepas and drinking coffee or tea from the cafe.
The arepas are made fresh and take about 15 minutes to make, so it’s not somewhere you’ll want to go if you’re in a rush. The actual arepas are also somewhat small, so you might need 2 or 3 to feel like a meal. A couple fan favorite arepas are the pulled pork arepa, roasted for 8 hours in Caribbean spices, and the melted gruyere with chorizo arepa. Personally, I loved the arepa with mozzarella, roasted red peppers and crispy bacon. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the fillings!
The staff seemed intelligent about dietary restrictions, offering to prepare the arepas on a separate counter where there wouldn’t be cross contamination. Bolivar does have a larger menu, with a few options that can be made NOBREAD-style (mostly salad). However, they’re known for their arepas and I highly recommend giving them a try! You may end up loving them as much as I do and planning a trip to South America solely to experience authentic arepas (that’s normal, right?)