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El Saboroso de Aracataca

El Saboroso de Aracataca Cart Jackson Heights NYC

Street Food in Jackson Heights After Dark

Jackson Heights is a hotbed for street food, especially on the Roosevelt Avenue strip. Over a 24 hour span, vendors will come and go. Often, they will come in certain shifts, like the incredible al pastor cart which pops up around 10:30PM. This cart replaces an Ecuadorian cart that sets up shop during the daytime and early evening hours.

Arepas: Popular Night Time Street Food

Famously, the Arepa Lady would set up shop on the corner of 79th Street and Roosevelt Avenue on Friday and Saturday nights. For years, she sold Colombian arepas to a hungry late night crowd, gaining a sterling reputation.  This acclaim spread beyond the neighborhood and into the NYC food blogging crowd. Her delicious corn cakes became so popular that she opened up a brick and mortar with her family two blocks away. Now, they can also be found in Brooklyn’s DeKalb Market Hall.
But, the Arepa Lady wasn’t the only vendor serving up Colombian corn cakes on Roosevelt Avenue. Several other carts dotted neighboring blocks offering arepas, chorizo and chuzos. You could easily miss out on the Arepa Lady without the proper due diligence. One of these arepa vendors recently became known to us just a few weeks ago.

El Saboroso de Aracataca

El Saboroso de Aracataca Cart Jackson Heights NYC

Every year, the Vendy Awards celebrates the best street food and market vendors in NYC. This year, El Saboroso de Aracataca, one of the finalists for the Vendy Cup, hails from Jackson Heights. Interestingly, he sells arepas just one block away from where the Arepa Lady used to set up. In fact, he even keeps a similar schedule, coming out only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights starting at 10PM. As it turns out, he had been vending here for over 30 years! After watching a great video of Luis Alfonso Marin Valencia, who runs the cart, a visit was in order later that night.

El Saboroso de Aracataca arepa Jackson Heights NYC Vendy Awards

Fittingly, when I arrived at the cart shortly after 10PM, Matt Shapiro from the Street Vendor Project was there speaking to Luis. Immediately, I ordered a signature arepa de queso and watched him griddle it on the cart’s flat top. Cheese was oozing out of the sides and then a mound of cool Colombian white cheese was applied on top. One bite was all that was needed to confirm what the appearance hinted – this is a delicious arepa. There is a nice mix of sweetness with salty along with a crispy exterior.

El Saboroso de Aracataca cart Jackson Heights arepa

On the next night, I went back to get a fix. This time, I asked for his homemade herb-laden green sauce on top. It adds a nice spicy kick to add another dimension to the salty and sweet arepa. Ideally, the way to go here is to get a bit of sauce on the side to fully enjoy the original product. Luis is very friendly and personable and we talked for a good half hour.

El Saboroso de Aracataca at The Vendy Awards

Vendy Awards 2018 El Saboroso de Aracataca NYC

Luis (white t-shirt) on stage for the presentation of the Vendy Cup

On the day of the Vendy Awards, Luis told me he woke up at 5AM to get ready. While en route to the ferry to Governor’s Island, one of the tires on his cart blew out. This delayed him for over an hour and caused him to arrive late. This didn’t faze him, as he had a smile on his face while serving up his delicious arepas to a massive line of eager eaters. Although he didn’t win an award on this day, he was so excited to share his food with everyone at the event.
Stunningly, he set up shop at his normal location later that night, even after a long and busy day. I asked him if he was tired and he said that all of the people at the Vendy Awards gave him energy. Even at midnight, he was still serving up his arepas with a smile. After already holding Luis in high regard from those first two visits, this day catapulted him into legendary status.
We highly recommend visiting Luis late night in Jackson Heights. Come for the delicious arepa and stay for Luis’ warm and friendly hospitality.
Where is your favorite arepa in NYC? Let us know below in the comments!
El Saboroso de Aracataca
Located at the northeast corner of 80th Street and Roosevelt Avenue outside of Ilan Ilan Shoes.
Jackson Heights, Queens, NY 11372