The pandemic provided food and beverage industry veteran Ana Alexandra the time to start a concept churning out arepas, a traditional Colombian treat rarely found in the Lowcountry.
These Colombian cornmeal cakes are made using water, masa flour and salt and can be baked, fried or grilled. They come in different shapes and sizes and are traditionally found in Venezuela and Colombia, where Alexandra’s mother grew up.
“My mom was born and raised in a little town outside of Cali, Colombia, and lived there until she was 23,” said Alexandra, who moved to Charleston in 2013. “I used to go there as a kid, and eating that food was always one of my favorite things.”
Alexandra said only a handful of Charleston food trucks serve arepas, mostly as side dishes, and she couldn’t even find a frozen version at the local specialty grocery store. So she took matters into her own hands.
“During the quarantine, I started cooking Colombian food because I had the extra time,” said Alexandra, who found her initial arepa recipe online.
“To be honest, it’s three ingredients: water, salt and masa, and you kind of just have to nail the hydration and the humidity,” she said.
You might recognize Alexandra from her Instagram account @beergirlmeetsworld where she chronicles her adventures at local bars and breweries. She’s also worked at Daps Breakfast & Imbibe, Holy City Brewing, Freehouse Brewing, Melfi’s, Little Jack’s Tavern and most recently Herd Provisions, where she first served her arepas during a staff family meal in July.
She received a five-star review from her coworkers, so when Herd Provisions was forced to temporarily close due to the pandemic, she turned arepa-making into a small business, launching Mama Ana’s in mid-July. Alexandra makes her arepas each week in the Herd Provisions kitchen before selling them online for pickup or delivery.
The first few batches of Mama Ana’s arepas, which are pan fried in a cast iron skillet, were relatively simple, but she quickly expanded the operation to include fillings like guava and cheese (Bocadillo) and sweet pepper relish. She later added Herd Provisions meat to the menu with her Desayuno (sausage and cheese) arepa.
Order three Mama Ana’s arepas for $13, six for $25 or 12 for $45. She’s also selling homemade jams, two rotating meat sauces and crispy arepitas chips.
To place an order, send Alexandra a direct message to her Instagram account @mamaanasarepas, or visit one of her pop-ups at local establishments like Two Blokes Brewing or Fatty’s Beer Works, where she’ll be on Oct. 10 from 3-7 p.m.
“I’m really kind of just winging it,” she said. “I feel lucky that I get to eat arepas everyday.”
For more information and to place an order, follow Mama Ana’s on Instagram