Teote's Venezuelan Fire

Arepas, grilled meats, and mezcal form a new haven of vibrant Latin American flavors

By Benjamin Tepler December 2, 2013 Published in the December 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

Grilled short ribs with beans, rice, fried plaintains, and arepas at Teote

Nestled on SE 12th Avenue between Hawthorne’s bustling traffic and Ladd’s Addition’s verdant maze is a fresh vision of Venezuelan eating. Behind Teote’s bold, Technicolor exterior, aromatic cornmeal arepas, flavor-packed grilled meats, and a bar dispensing mezcals and chocolates merge into one of Portland’s most exciting new finds. 

Teote is the brick-and-mortar reincarnation of Fuego de Lotus, a former SE Division Street food cart that served “inauthentic” arepas, thick cakes of fried masa popular in Venezuela and Colombia. With the upscaled digs, chef-owner Michael Kennett has taken a big step forward with an expanded menu and deeper flavors.

Ten varieties of dialed-in arepas—perfectly golden, with a crackling exterior and fluffy masa center—anchor the menu, alongside a cast of grilled chops and ribs, fried snacks, and family-style dinners for large parties. 

Beam in on El Diablo, a devilish plate of slow-cooked pork belly, red chile maple sauce, salsa verde, and queso heaped over arepas. From the grill come thin, crosscut South American short ribs marinated in serrano chile and lime, and lamb chops glazed in smoky morita chile sauce, both seared to a bloody rare. For an extra kick, go for the squeeze bottles holding scorching hot sauces. Wash it down with a rotation of fruity agua fresca, spiked to order.

Teote’s ambitions stretch to an antique carved wooden bar on the second floor. This is the Jaguar Bar, Kennett’s after-dinner concept for smoky mezcals, pour-over coffee, and a variety of house-crafted chocolates, all served in flights. Out back, an 80-seat patio fans out from a giant fire pit, set aflame for fireside snacking. Fuego de Lotus may be extinguished, but Teote is burning brighter than ever. 

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