Hot Plate

!Ay, arepas! I'd never been much impressed by arepas, those little corn bread disks beloved by homesick Colombians and Venezuelans. Plantains got my attention; chimichurri, the snappy cilantro-heavy green sauce, made me take notice; spit-roasted chicken, with its salty, crispy skin, I adored. And in such company, arepas seemed like afterthoughts, solid room-temperature starch circles designed to support their higher-flying compatriots.

But at Dodo's Chicken (9431 Richmond, [713]789-3636), a Colombian fast-food joint way out west between Gessner and Fondren, the arepas seize center stage. Served hot out of the skillet, their thick white crusts crunch just a little as you bite into them, giving way to the soft, molten center. The taste is elemental and pure: cornmeal, oil, the merest hint of salt. And they're cheap: $1.35 gets you six, each about the size of an iMac's mouse, or you can order them as part of Dodo's remarkable lunch special, $4.55 for a quarter of a roasted chicken and two side dishes.

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Lisa Gray