Forget singing for your supper — at WezzArepas, they’re dancing for their supper, and you’ll want to fall in step after your first bite.
“Our food makes you want to dance!” exclaims Tricia Leon, co-owner of the Colombian street food sensation. It’s fitting that Leon and her husband, co-owner Wilmer Bernal, met at a dance club 16 years ago. Their relationship has always centered around a mutual love of music and food, and since opening WezzArepas as a market pop-up in 2017, they’ve been known for their fun presence at night markets and festivals around LA, blasting salsa and reggaeton as they serve up sweet corn arepas, signature “Colombian Mastiff” (loaded hot dogs with bacon, cheese, crumbled potato chips, and a trio of sauces: cilantro aioli, Thousand Island-inspired, and a sweet-and-tangy pineapple sauce), and equally loaded Salchipapas (given the same treatment as the hot dog, but in french fry form).
“Our food makes you want to dance!”
Over a four-way video call with Leon, Bernal, and “all-star” WezzArepas employee Victor Gomez, I asked the team to choose one song that encapsulates the soundtrack of WezzArepas; they all agreed it would be “Pepas” by Farruko, a high-energy track that makes you “feel like you’ve enhanced your senses and you're living in the moment,” explains Bernal. “It’s all about the energy — if we have good energy, high energy, then so will our customers.”
Gomez credits the team’s dynamic essence to Bernal himself. “All of our sauciness comes from Wilmer, whether he’s drawing people in with great music at a festival or checking in on customers with personal follow-ups after they order online,” says Gomez. “The main pillars of this business are love, comfort, heart, and soul. You can really feel how much we all care and make you part of our family.”
If it feels like family, it’s because it really is all in the family. The third owner of WezzArepas is Leon’s brother, Didier, and Bernal’s mother makes the empanadas from his childhood for the concept. But Bernal admits that his family’s love of cooking didn’t exactly get passed down to him — he had to make it happen. Growing up in a Colombian household that centered around food made him “more of a food fanatic than a cooking fanatic,” but he now appreciates learning the chemistry of how ingredients interact and mastering the art of the grill. Running the kitchen may not have been on his bucket list, but stepping into the role has allowed him to have an extra sense of pride when customers fall in love with his food.
“The main pillars of this business are love, comfort, heart, and soul. You can really feel how much we all care and make you part of our family.”
And people so loved their food that starting in 2023, the team opened a ghost kitchen in LA’s Koreatown to serve a wider audience. Customers can enjoy many of the pop-up’s mainstays and more, from their rice bowls with beans, plantains, and marinated beef or chicken to crispy corn cakes (WezzArepas gets its name from “Wez” for West Coast and the “zz” from the mozzarella used in this dish). Not to mention their delicious arepas and variety of sauces, like cilantro aioli, sweet and tangy pineapple sauce, creamy tomato-based pink sauce, and Ají (aka "Colombian spicy pico de gallo”).
One of the biggest challenges in having a ghost kitchen, however, is the FOMO. “One of our favorite things to do is to watch the customer take the first bite,” says Gomez. Though that can’t often happen with pickup or delivery, the team recently got something even better: a glowing online review from a local chef. “She went into detail of every single thing she ordered, and our minds were just blown!” shares Bernal. “It’s very gratifying to see that what we’re doing still impacts people, and they’re liking it. That’s actually the best part of this new chapter.”
As for what’s next, if Bernal and Leon could tap their heels together and have a wish come true, WezzArepas would become a brick-and-mortar restaurant that is “still small, intimate, and quick food, but with good music playing that encourages people to have a good time, hang out for as long as they want, and then move on,” Leon says. “We just want to be a part of their journey — and make it a damn delicious one.”
If that journey includes dancing, then all the better.
PHOTO CREDIT: Stan Lee
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