Venezuelan arepas made at Ravenswood restaurant

CHICAGO (WLS) -- At a Venezuelan restaurant in Chicago, they are serving that country's most famous export - the arepa.

BienMeSabe in the Ravenswood neighborhood is one of the city's only Venezuelan outposts, where they make dozens of fresh arepas all day long.

You know the kitchen is Venezuelan, when you see the iconic bag of PAN corn flour.

"Arepa is a Venezuelan daily bread, it's made with corn flour, salt and water," said owner Pedro Ron.

They take time, and rather than exact measuring, it's more of a feel for how thick and soft the dough should be. Each stubby pancake is formed by hand, then griddled on both sides.

"It's flat, but you can cut and fill with whatever you want," he said.

Once sliced open, the options are endless, but the pabellon is a good place to start. The meat portion, at least, looks a lot like a Cuban ropa vieja, a mild shredded beef dish.

"Pabellon arepa is filled with shredded beef, black beans, Caribbean cheese - it's white cheese...and sweet plantains," said Ron.

Then there's the reina pepillada, or creamy chicken salad, served with a pile of freshly-grated gouda cheese.

"That comes with shredded chicken, avocado, a little bit mayo, but it's really, really good," said Ron.

They also have a good appetizer sampler, including mandocas, made from raw sugar and sweet plantains; tiny empanadas and tostones - or unripe green plantains - topped with crema, plus tequenos - a kind of eggroll-looking wheat flour that's been stuffed with cheese and fried.

But Ron says it's the arepas that are the real stars, and the neighborhood has come to embrace them.

"They love it, the arepas."

Even though there is a set number of arepas underneath that section of the menu, you can also mix and match and choose your own filling and your own cheese if you want to get a little creative.

EXTRA COURSE: Three unique, non-alcoholic drinks at BienMeSabe
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In this week's Extra Course, ABC7 food reporter Steve Dolinsky talks about three non-alcoholic drinks at BienMeSabe in Chicago.

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