Food and Local Business Editor
Cachapas Y Mas, a family-owned Venezuelan restaurant, which first gained popularity in the early aughts as the food truck El Dugout in Washington Heights, is serving yoyos, arepas, and tequeños, to name a few choice offerings, at its newly opened Ridgewood location at 678 Seneca Avenue, just off of the Seneca Avenue stop on the M train.
Cachapas Y Mas has some heavy-hitting foodie credentials: In 2009, The New York Times told the world that “for plantain lovers, it [Cachapas Y Mas] may be the best thing since sliced bread.”
Proprietor Larry Villalobos moved to Maspeth from Venezuela a few decades with his wife Jackie and two children, so the move from from Washington Heights to Queens just made sense.
the story behind cachapas y mas
Cachapas Y Mas originated years ago, when Larry, who had been a cab driver at Fenix Car Service for nine years, spontaneously decided to quit and buy a truck, which was and is still located a few blocks down from the new Cachapas Y Mas on Seneca Avenue.
Villalobos’ decision to launch a business happened lightning fast. “One day, I saw in the Spanish newspaper a sign that said ‘I’m selling a truck.” On that very same day, he went to the car service’s home base and sold his car, radio, and antenna “for $3,000,” before telling his family about his plan.
“It was an ugly truck, with no wheels or nothing,” smiles Larry.
His daughter, Ivette Villalobos, one of the owners at Cachapas Y Mas Ridgewood, runs the business with her brother Jesus Villalobos and her husband Nathaniel Ramm. Ivette tells Bushwick Daily that she and her family were shocked when her dad made the split decision to sell his radio and car to open a food truck in Manhattan.
“Everyone in the family was like, what the fuck are you doing? This is crazy,” Ivette recounts.
Nobody could have dreamed that within the year they would have opened their first brick and mortar location on Dyckman Street in 2005, she says.
The Early Days at El Dugout
Reminiscing about the food truck days, before the storefront on Dyckman Street, Ivette remembers her parents devoting entire weekends to making a ton of food for their friends, trying out new recipes, and seeing what everybody liked.
Every other day from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., Larry would park the truck across the street from a nightclub and in the vicinity of many other bars in northern Manhattan to do business.
Ivette tells us that those first regulars, many of whom would wait at their parking place for El Dugout to open every day, encouraged them to open as a restaurant.
Cachapas Y Mas’s success can be measured in plantains. Larry says the business has grown “from 10 plantains a week to 1,200 plantains a week.”
Larry’s brother Gean opened up a Cachapas Y Mas location in the Dominican Republic, too, and the Villalobos family also has their eyes set on branching out to New Jersey, at which point it will become a full-fledged chain.
Last year, before they realized they would expand to Ridgewood, Ivette, Jesus, and Nathaniel opened the food truck Cachapas On Wheels. This past summer, the truck received the People’s Choice Vendy Award for their Yoyo sandwich, which uses sweet plantains as a bun sandwiching one’s protein of choice.
What to Order
As a Bushwick restaurant industry gal myself, I know how valuable recommendations are, so when Ivette told me that her favorite fixing for the Yoyos was the shredded beef ($7.50), I dived right in.
The shredded beef in the yoyo has so many layers of flavor that savoring this dish is like counting the rings of a tree stump. A long marination period is part of the recipe—in fact, “That’s the key,” smiles Larry.
If you’re looking for something smaller, a classic snack food item, the Tequeños ($1.50 for a two-piece order), feature a rich pastry crust wrapped around salty queso blanco. The cheese and the dough are well-balanced, and the dish is a delicious marriage of cheese and bread.
A perfect lunch dish is with some less carby components is the Arepa Reina Pepiada ($6), a chicken avocado salad arepa: like everything else, it is delectable.
I recommend washing everything down with their Papelón ($3), a classic Venezuelan beverage made from raw hardened sugar cane juice with fresh lime.
Next time you’re in Ridgewood, save some room for Cachapas Y Mas, Bushwick!
All photos by Cristin Noonan for Bushwick Daily.