OS Reviews: Juana’s
Juana’s is one of the latest additions to State College’s food scene. Now, we can officially add Venezuelan cuisine to the list of diverse food options downtown, and it’s an addition that should make a lot of foodies at Penn State very happy.
Hungry for both food and adventure, our staffers traveled up Fraser Street to Juana’s for their first taste of Venezuelan food. Here’s what they had to say — once they finally found the place.
Juana’s is a literal hidden gem in State College. It’s located in the same plaza as Duck Donuts, but it’s tucked away between the buildings which makes it easy to miss. Still, you’ll be glad you’ve found it once you finally make it inside.
The establishment itself is small with a grand total of 12 seats — but don’t be fooled. The food is incredible. I am the furthest thing from a connoisseur of Venezuelan food, but the pollo mechado cachapas were amazing. The sweet corn pancakes were delicious, fluffy, yellow clouds, which brought a nice, subtle sweetness to accompany the perfectly seasoned shredded chicken stew. It was the queso de mano (handcrafted mozzarella-like cheese), however, that stole the show with a cheese pull that was off the charts.
The sweet/savory/cheesy experience at Juana’s is unrivaled in my opinion, and the menu is full of items that offer the same flavor profile with different ingredients. You can bet that I’ll be back to try some more. Truthfully, the only negative thing I can say about Juana’s is that it’s not open extra late, because this would make some phenomenal late-night cuisine.
It took me a few minutes to realize that Juana’s is literally in the tiny alleyway between Duck Donuts and the Fraser Street parking garage, but once I got there, I was glad I did. I’ve never tried Venezuelan food before, but I don’t have enough good things to say about Juana’s. I ordered the pelúa arepa, which is stuffed with carne mechada (shredded beef stew) and shredded cheddar cheese. It was a little messy as I ate it with my hands, but in my experience, the best meals always are. If you dine in, Juana’s also has a trio of sauces on the table — I’d recommend the green sauce. Even if, like me, you’ve never tried arepas, I’d venture to say there’s something for everyone on the Juana’s menu. In a State College quickly becoming devoid of mom and pop shops, Juana’s is a bright spot and a local flavor I’d highly recommend.
Don’t let the informal, hole-in-the-wall vibe fool you. While the food is served over tinfoil in a little basket, it doesn’t disappoint. Juana’s will hurdle your expectations like Saquon Barkley does defenders. Modest to the eye and profound to the palate, this place is the perfect next stop for hungry passersby and serious foodies alike. The Pabellón arepa, consisting of black beans, shredded cheese, plantains and your choice of chicken, beef, or shark (yes, shark), pairs well with the Papelón con Limón, a Venezuelan rendition of lemonade. The arepa is a savory sensation, brought further to life by the contrasting sweet taste of plantains. Think Yallah, but a tier above, and more ethnically authentic. Juana’s is a must-try in downtown State College and a transformational addition to an already growing local food scene.
Venezuelan food is something I didn’t know State College needed, but I am excited to add it to my fast casual rotation of Snap, Yallah, and Irving’s. Juana’s is a diamond in the rough. The atmosphere is unassuming, but the menu provides a unique taste of a great culinary tradition. Like Andy, I ordered the Pabellón arepa and enjoyed the fireworks in my mouth as result of the combination of savory chicken and sweet plantains. Most of the menu is priced under $10 and right on par with your Chipotle order. You get a decent amount of quality food and get to try something probably unlike anything you’ve had before. Support local State College businesses, folks.
My only complaint about Juana’s is that it’s a bit hard to find. We have been trying to get food from here since last semester but were unsuccessful until this week. The store hasn’t always been open during the hours posted online. There hasn’t been much information online, and two different phone numbers are listed on its website and GrubHub page. And when you go to the address, it’s not located with the other businesses in the Fraser Street Mini Mall.
These struggles while Juana’s gets on its feet are small potatoes compared to how truly good the food is. I, for one, needed only one trip to become a fan and look past these flaws. I just hope they don’t undermine the actual business and end up limiting my arepa consumption.
To help you find Juana’s, here’s the alley you need to walk down if you are standing between Duck Donuts and the Fraser Street Parking Garage elevator.
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