TacoArepa Opens in Downtown Bethesda
Roche brothers have opened their third restaurant on Fairmont Avenue
TacoArepa is open at 4905 Fairmont Ave.
TacoArepa, a new fast-casual restaurant from the Roche brothers, has opened in Woodmont Triangle.
The Fairmont Avenue restaurant, which opened Friday, is a personal project for Alonso Roche, who, along with his brother, Alvaro, co-owns three other Bethesda eateries: Bold Bite, R Family Kitchen & Bar and 202 Donuts. TacoArepa’s menu is inspired by the brothers’ childhood growing up in Venezuela and sailing around the Caribbean in their father’s sailboat.
“I think arepas are something interesting, you know, you’re cooking from what you know and who you are and that’s the idea,” Alonso Roche said. “It’s personal for my brother and I—it comes natural when it’s the food you grew up eating and you love.”
The menu offers a choice between a taco, tostado, bowl or an arepa—a Venezuelan corn cake. The dish is filled with carnitas, Cuban chicken or chickpeas and other toppings. Roche said the menu items are “comfort food” and a homage to his Cuban grandfather and curry dishes from the West Indies.
With a full bar, the restaurant also serves tropical cocktails and has a beer list of five on tap and two in bottles. As early as next week, Roche said they plan to start phasing in Frida Beer Garden, an adjoining concept that will occupy the paved space between TacoArepa and 202 Donuts.
Once it’s open, the beer garden will offer a longer beer list, with local and selected international craft beers, and long tables for seating. There also will be lawn games like cornhole and Nerf basketball hoops.
TacoArepa has a playful attitude as well—domino sets will be available and Roche said he hopes to start a small league for the game, which is popular in Latin America. The “TacoArepa & Domino Bar” on their signage is a reference to their love of the game, which they hope to share with customers. He said he put in the three TVs largely with the World Cup this summer in mind.
TacoArepa is in a soft opening, Roche said, as he continues training staff and plans on adjusting the menu. Finishing touches are still being added to the restaurant. During the opening weeks, the restaurant plans to donate some proceeds to a Venezuelan charity.
The Roches initially planned on opening in October, but were delayed by permitting issues. The space was formerly occupied by Fresh Grill, which closed abruptly in 2012 after construction of the adjacent Bainbridge Bethesda damaged the structure.
Roche said he’s hopeful about the restaurant, which is his and his brother’s third restaurant on Fairmont Avenue. R Family Kitchen opened in late January on the corner of Fairmont and Norfolk avenues after the Roches closed TapaBar, which was located in the same space.
“It’s challenging,” he said. “Being a small business owner is a challenging thing, but we got the opportunity to get these great spots and we’re trying to make a go of it. I hope and I think this is going to be a great concept and I hope people will come and give us a chance, like our food and like what we’re doing.”
TacoArepa, which seats 60 inside, is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily.
The future site of the beer garden and a mural of Frida Kahlo, whom it's named after. Photos: Joe Zimmermann