I have no idea why it took me so long to eat at Valencia Luncheria. A number of years ago, a co-worker who lived in Norwalk raved to me about this little "hole in the wall" Venezuelan restaurant that I just had to try. She ate there frequently and was certain I'd love it. I wrote the name and address on a piece of paper and stuck it on my bulletin board.
"It's not in South Norwalk," my colleague explained. "It is in regular Norwalk." I wasn't really familiar with "regular" Norwalk, but figured I'd check it out on one of my frequent trips to South Norwalk. Well, several years later, that piece of paper is still on my bulletin board and I never ventured much beyond the trendy restaurants in SoNo.
Then, one weekend, our plans fell through, but our sitter was still booked. This would be the night of Valencia Luncheria! I called and spoke to the owner, who explained that they do not accept reservations, it is BYOB, and it is very tiny (only 20 seats) and therefore fills up fast. That evening, the sitter had barely taken off her coat and I was pushing my husband out the door so we could beat the 7:30pm rush.
The restaurant is located on Main Street in downtown Norwalk, in a very "regular" neighborhood. There is nothing fancy or trendy about it, but even on the rainy night we went out, there were still plenty of people out and about (on the very next block is Lime Restaurant, a vegetarian enclave also on my bulletin board "to try" list). True to the word of the owner, the space is definitely small, but very lively with its orange walls and modern stainless steel tables.
We arrived at 7:15 and there were still about three tables open. We opted for one against the side wall, lined with a banquet. The regular menu is extensive, and includes starters and small plates (soups, salads, appetizers), "Platos Tipicos de Venezuela" (typical Venezuelan dishes), and an additional list of entrees and side dishes. In addition, there is a full page of specials each day, including a number of soups, salads, appetizers, and entrees, each one looking even better than the one before it.
Everything we ate was delicious. The house salad was very simple---it was even made with iceberg lettuce (gasp!), but the combination of the tomato, bacon, avocado and queso blanco was surprisingly good. My husband ordered the Crispy Calamari Salad---which combined greens and fried calamari and was large enough to be an entree. For an entree, my husband opted for "The Works" which was like a sampler platter. This started with a choice from six different soups (he chose the standard black bean), and then included an arepa (a type of corn bread), one empanada (a stuffed pastry, for which he got to choose the filling from a VERY long list of combinations), rice, beans, plantains, tostones (like a fried plantain chip) and ceviche. It was a feast, so luckily, he shared tastes of everything with me. I decided to make my dinner from two appetizers on special that evening. The Soft Shrimp Tacos were wonderful, and I also thoroughly enjoyed another dish prepared from Venezuelan roasted pork.
Although we were both stuffed, the gentleman at the next table (we seemed to be chatting with everyone since the place is so small) insisted we get the chocolate bread pudding for dessert. We managed to find some room and we were happy we did. As a person who does not, as a general rule, love any sort of pudding (rice, bread, custard--you can keep them all!), I was very impressed. It was really fantastic.
The truly fantastic part about this delicious meal was that it was incredibly reasonably priced. The BYOB helped considerably....but we felt the food was a great value on its own. I'm happy to announced that "Regular Norwalk" is now one of my eating destinations! I'll report back once I try out Valencia Luncheria's neighbor, Lime Restaurant.
172 Main Street
Open for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner:
Mon & Tues 6:00am-3:00pm