Happy Pappi Arepas Bar has been adding a new flavor to the Binghamton area since its opening in October.
Luis Carrillo began serving arepas in his food cart on Collier Street near the Broome County Courthouse, as well as in the Broome County Regional Farmers Market. He noticed the business’ growth and decided to take his business to Chenango Street in a promising new Venezuelan cuisine bar, Happy Pappi Arepas Bar.
“Everybody knows us from the food cart,” Carrillo said. “All of a sudden we realized that we had outgrown the little cart and needed something else.”
Carrillo was born in Caracas, Venezuela. He said he traveled throughout his life, living in Brazil, England, Peru and the United States, but spent most of his time in Venezuela — where he was brought up on arepas.
“Everybody has arepas in Venezuela,” Carillo said. “It could be for breakfast, it could be for lunch or it could be for dinner.”
Carrillo serves traditional Venezuelan dishes and uses authentic stuffing for the arepas. Some of the stuffing specials include Perico, Chorizo, La Pelua with shredded beef, La Catira with chicken, peppers and onion, and Reina Pepiada — a Venezuelan chicken salad with avocado.
“If you keep on coming and you change the stuffing, you’ll see that they all are different,” Carrillo said. “My stuffings are traditional.”
Carrillo said he began working in the food industry as the food and beverage director of hotel corporations such as Wyndham, Sheraton and InterContinental, where he managed multiple restaurants and bars.
“I had to oversee five restaurants and five bars plus room service plus weddings — that’s how I learned food and beverage,” Carillo said.
All of the food served at the restaurant is prepared by Carrillo. The three arepas sauce options were each uniquely flavorful. The Guasacaca sauce had a blend of avocado, cilantro and peppers, the Mojito sauce had a flare of spice to it with habanero red peppers and the Besitos de Alba sauce was sweet and fresh with mango and hot chili.
Carrillo described his experience in the Binghamton area and his beginnings as a food vendor. He said that — at first — he didn’t believe people when they complimented his food.
“Venezuelans have come here and said that I have the ‘real deal,’ that I have really good arepas,” Carrillo said. “When I first started, I thought people were just being kind to me saying ‘your food is so good.’”
In Binghamton, Carrillo’s Happy Pappi brand has flourished and grown over five years. Carrillo said that he came to the area to be with his wife, co-owner of Happy Pappi Arepas Bar, Dawne Adams. He said he enjoys living in upstate New York and has a good impression of Binghamton.
“I’ve always told [Adams] that if I had moved from Tallahassee to [New York], stayed upstate, I would have never left.”
Carrillo also spoke about the restaurant industry in New York. He said that it is best to go into the industry early on and to persevere through the hardships and gave advice for aspiring students.
“In New York state it’s very difficult,” Carrillo said. “You have to know what you’re doing, you have to have some background and you definitely have to persevere cause it’s not something that comes overnight. If [students] have a good product and something that nobody else has, people are going to show up.”
Happy Pappi Arepas Bar will be featured for the first time in Restaurant Week from March 21 through March 30. It will be serving appetizers, arepas and a specialty Venezuelan dessert.