Zach Bell, Yale University
This year, food carts and trucks have been cropping up all along York Street. From the Ay! Arepa truck at York and Elm, to a halal cart at York and Chapel, students now have more options to grab food on the go instead of shuffling in line at Durfee’s. In this series, I’ll try each of the mobile food stations parked on York. This week, I tried Ay! Arepa.
Ay! Arepa made the news in September after chef Ernesto Garcia, former chef at Ay! Salsa, left his stationary kitchen to open his own mobile business. Leaving Ay! Salsa (owned by his brother Franco Gonzalez), Ernesto brought much of the menu with him, offering a very similar variety of arepas and burritos.
Last week I had a chicken arepa at Ay! Salsa, so today I ordered the pork loin arepa for comparison, a mildly spicy combo of pork, salsa, and vegetables over a sweet corn patty served with rice and plantains. The two arepa dishes were very similar in quality, although Ay! Salsa piled slightly more chicken on top of their arepa. Then again, Ay! Salsa’s version cost double Ay! Arepa’s, and I had my Ay! Arepa food in no more than three minutes, whereas Ay! Salsa made me wait considerably longer. Ay! Salsa’s arepa did taste somewhat fresher; the arepa was crispier around the edges and the tomatoes were juicier.
Still, Ay! Arepa’s convenience and speed make it a worthwhile destination for a quick lunch. For this reason, I do not think it will compete with Ay! Salsa. The former will become primarily a lunch spot, and the latter will continue to do most of its business in dinner takeout. Ay! Arepa will compete with the more established burrito cart about ten feet away though. Serving similar food to the same market, I wonder if the demand for convenient lunchtime burritos/arepas will be high enough to support two suppliers. It’s time for a Latin American food showdown on York.