Atlanta Orders In: Cylantro’s Venezuelan Cuisine expands to Roswell

Cylantro’s Sampler includes mini arepas, a tequeno and an empanada. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Cylantro’s Sampler includes mini arepas, a tequeno and an empanada. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Be it barbecue or fried chicken, Asian or Mexican, gas-station restaurants are a Southern tradition. And, whether the dishes represent local favorites, or the cuisine of immigrants, the best places serve food that’s simple and delicious.

Danny Alvarez opened the prototype of Cylantro’s Venezuelan Cuisine in 2015 in a tiny storefront attached to a gas station in Canton, hoping to introduce cornmeal arepas to the area.

Ultimately, the space proved too small, but it made way for similar locations in Woodstock and Kennesaw. And, the newest Cylantro’s recently opened next door to From the Earth Brewing on Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell.

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Pabellon criollo includes shredded beef with rice, black beans and sweet plantains. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Pabellon criollo includes shredded beef with rice, black beans and sweet plantains. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

“This is a family business,” said Alvarez, who was a chemist working in the petroleum industry before he decided to make the move to the U.S. His brother, Denny, followed, and, together with some partners, they hope to operate at least seven more Cylantro’s in the near future.

“People say that’s crazy, but we’ll try to do it, little by little,” Alvarez said. “I love this country, because it gives you that kind of opportunity. Opening in Roswell in a shopping center was the next move. It’s more like a proper restaurant, with tables, and it was already doing really good in the first week, so we’re really happy with that.”

Sancocho is a Venezuelan-style soup, with vegetables, beef and chicken. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sancocho is a Venezuelan-style soup, with vegetables, beef and chicken. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Cylantro’s managed to survive the pandemic on the strength of takeout, but Alvarez said it hasn’t always been easy.

“When it started, it was really bad for us,” he said. "We suffered and thought maybe we’d have to close the restaurants, or something like that. But, we don’t have a lot of people sit down, and a lot of our orders are takeout and UberEats and Grubhub. Now, things are running like usual.”

Mexican-style tacos on corn or flour tortillas, with cilantro and hot sauces, are popular at Cylantro’s. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Mexican-style tacos on corn or flour tortillas, with cilantro and hot sauces, are popular at Cylantro’s. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Among the most popular menu items are arepas, empanadas and tequenos.

“The food is the most important thing, and the arepas are the main thing,” Alvarez said. “The most popular arepa is called reina pepiada. It was invented in Venezuela. It’s chicken salad with mayo, cilantro and avocado. The name came from the Venezuelan woman [Susana Duijm] who won Miss World, and that’s because it’s so beautiful.”

You’ll find a reina pepiada in the popular Cylantro’s Sampler, along with three more mini arepas, a cheese tequeno and a beef empanada. The Venezuelan cachapa, a sweet corn pancake stuffed with cheese, is another favorite.

The Venezuelan cachapa is a sweet corn pancake with cheese. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal Constitution
The Venezuelan cachapa is a sweet corn pancake with cheese. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Two more substantial offerings beloved by Venezuelans are sancocho, a hearty soup with root vegetables, beef and chicken, and pabellon criollo, a plate with shredded beef, rice, black beans and sweet plantains.

In addition to Venezuelan cuisine, Cylantro’s sells a good bit of Mexican food, too, including tacos on corn or flour tortillas, with house-made sauces on the side.

“We had a really good Mexican friend who made really good, authentic tacos,” Alvarez said. “No Tex-Mex — the real deal tacos. This guy was so generous to teach us how to make them. They are really popular, and the price is really good.”

With all that, though, the signature cilantro sauce, which comes free with nearly every menu item, may be Cylantro’s greatest claim to fame, so far.

“The cilantro sauce became so popular — people started asking us for more to take home — that we started selling it in a big jar,” Alvarez said. “You know, all our food is really tasty, but the sauce gives it that extra punch.”

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CYLANTRO’S VENEZUELAN CUISINE ROSWELL

Menu: Venezuelan and Mexican

Alcohol: no

What I ordered: Venezuelan cachapa sweet corn pancake with cheese; Cylantro’s Sampler, with mini arepas, a tequeno and an empanada; sancocho Venezuelan-style soup, with vegetables, beef and chicken; pabellon criollo, with shredded beef, rice, black beans and sweet plantains; Mexican pastor, chorizo and chicharrón tacos on corn tortillas. While each dish was different, and delicious, the sweet and savory cachapa and the hearty sancocho traveled the best and impressed me the most. For $1.99 each, the large-size, bargain-priced tacos are outstanding.

Service options: dine-in or takeout; order online; delivery with UberEats and Grubhub

Mask policy: required for employees

Address, phone: 1570 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell; 678-373-1853

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; closed Sundays

Website: cylantros.net

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