Authentic Arepas, Colombian Cuisine, At Aqui Es Santa Fe

This casual eatery around the corner from The Capitol Theatre has a lighter take on Colombian food—and amazing arepas and empanadas.

Aqui Es Santa Fe in Port Chester has been hiding in plain sight for 7 years on a side street across from the Metro-North station, but it’s in plainer sight now that The Capitol Theatre is in new glory days nearby. The welcoming Colombian restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including arepas made with organic corn, traditional soups, and unpretentious main courses—all named after things in the Bible. Chapter and verse are whimsically lettered on colorful walls and handwritten on foil stars that hang from the ceiling, twirling above you.

Since falling in love with arepas (cornmeal patties) at Caracas Arepa Bar in Manhattan years ago, I’m always on the hunt for good ones (forget those treacly things sold at street fairs). Aqui Es Santa Fe serves arepas in so many ways, I had only to decide whether to have them as an appetizer (topped with spinach and gorgonzola or grilled chicken and salad) or as the side with my main course. Unusually, they’re made thin here, serving as a flatbread. The appetizer arepas are enough for a light main course, for me; the side-dish arepa (same size, topped with cheese) wasn’t quite soft enough. But behold: The same dough, used for empanadas, is transformed into a delectable, unusual entry in the annals of empanadas. Its crisp, fried exterior gives way to fluffy, almost potato-like insides, oozing with melted mozzarella and guava or spinach, or filled with pulled beef (I would steer you away from the nondescript chicken). These come with your choice of excellent homemade salsa or hot sauce, and it is worth mentioning that they are $1.30 each. Amen to that.

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Above photos by Leslie-Anne Brill

Salmon with arepas are a pricey choice for lunch; the interior of Aqui Es Santa Fe is covered in Biblical writing.

There’s skirt steak and fried shrimp here, but dishes purposefully skew light—steamed, grilled, plenty of veggies, most main courses served with salad. Grilled salmon (“Jericho”) on a raft of fried plantain, topped with avocado and tomato, was somewhat bland (and, at $17.95 at lunch, a bit pricey). But this place can be counted on for a fresh, delicious salad, and even the side salad is generously portioned. Among the large selection of tropical juices is a delicious one I’d never tried: lulo (or naranjilla—little orange), a citrusy nightshade native to Colombia. In the traditional style, the fruit is blended until frothy with either water or milk.

You’ve no doubt been eyeing the plate of alfajores at the counter—those dulce de leche sandwich cookies rolled in coconut. Made by a friend of the owner, they’re better than most. So is the flan (above), garnished with fresh fruit and a sprig of mint. Go up to the counter and nose around—you might find homemade muffins, or bite-size pan de bono (Colombian cheese bread). Linger over coffee (Colombian, of course). No one’s rushing you.

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Aqui Es Santa Fe
32 Broad St
Port Chester
(914) 305-1060; aquiessantafe.com

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