Arepa Lady’s back in business in Jackson Heights with a larger restaurant but same great food

Photo courtesy of Alejandro Osorio

Arepa Lady, the popular restaurant in Jackson Heights specializing in the South American delicacy, reopened last week a block away from its old location on Roosevelt Avenue.

The restaurant was forced to find a new location in March to make way for a seven-story building, said co-owner Alejandro Osorio.

“It was really disheartening,” Osorio said. “We didn’t know what to do.”

But Osorio views the forced removal as a blessing in disguise. The new location at 77-17 37th Ave. can seat nearly three times as many patrons as the prior hole-in-the-wall spot.

Arepa Lady did not make a formal announcement about its reopening on Oct. 4 in order to work out kinks. Word got out regardless and spread quickly throughout the neighborhood.

“The whole weekend was crazy,” Osorio said.

Osorio is used to seeing crowds gather for his family’s arepas. His mother, Maria Cano, has been making and selling arepas in the neighborhood since the family immigrated in 1984 and quickly earned the nickname “Arepa Lady.”

In her native Colombia, Cano was a judge who came to the United States in order to escape violence. She supporter her four sons in Jackson Heights by selling the beloved Colombian staple food in a food cart at the corner of 79th Street and Roosevelt Avenue. It wasn’t until three years ago when the family decided to replace the cart for a sit-down restaurant.

Arepa Lady will only be open for a few hours every day starting at 5 p.m. for the next two to three weeks, but Osorio said the restaurant will eventually expand its hours to match the old schedule. Once the things settle down, the restaurant will add new items to the menu which will, of course, just be new types of arepas.

“Don’t fix what isn’t broken,” Osorio said.

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