There is no question that Stamford has some of the most delicious, innovative, and growing number of fantastic restaurants; yet the rest of Fairfield County has places that can’t be missed. In Norwalk, about a 20 minute drive away from the center of downtown Stamford, is one of our favorite places that has been serving some of the best Venezuelan food in the state: Valencia Luncheria. You might be wondering how we found this amazing restaurant, being that we live in Stamford. Well, my son went to high school in Norwalk, and ever since he heard about Valencia from friends, he has started to become a regular, making it a go-to spot for years. While Valencia focuses on authentic Venezuelan food, the real heart of the menu lies in the house made empanadas and arepas. Empanadas are a specialty of many different countries within Latin America, and range in shape, dough, and filling depending on the people and country making the dish. Valencia’s empanadas are golden brown, flaky yet crispy, and stuffed with over 10 different options, ranging from chorizo and pepper (my personal favorite), cubano (filled with pork, pickles, and mustard resembling a classic Cuban sandwich), and even sweet options. There is no shortage of interesting flavors, with some must-try’s being the guava and cheese (a traditional combination of sweet and tangy guava with the creamy and melting mozzarella), as well as the picadillo (a ground beef spiced with vegetables) and the plantain and nutella (no explanation needed). As the empanadas are something you simply cannot leave without trying, the arepas are equally unmatched. While there is controversy in Central and South America debating where the arepa was invented, it is a dish that is enjoyed throughout the region like the empanada. On the other hand, Venezuela produces some of the best arepas around, with Valencia living up to the reputation. An arepa is a circular piece of dough made from masa (corn flour), cooked on a griddle or flat heat source to produce a final product that is sliced open to reveal a hollow interior. The arepa is stuffed with a bounty of different fillings, and Valencia makes the best arepas around. While the menu boasts dozens of combinations, our favorites include the pernil (roasted Venezuelan style pork), the domino (traditional black beans and queso), and the chicken tamarillo (a stew made with coconut). The rest of Valencia’s menu is stocked with Venezuelan comfort dishes and truly phenomenal options, and you cannot leave without trying the ceviche, the perilla mixta (a grilled meat plate with chorizo, shrimp, steak, and chicken), or the escabeche (a vinegar and citrus marinated chicken, cooked with savory, briny additions like olives and capers). Also, you cannot forget the green sauce (that the restaurant places on every table, and is a cult-favorite herb-based sauce that we put on everything). Valencia Luncheria (as the name implies), really fills quickly during lunchtime, but the wait is always worth the meal awaiting you inside. They are also open for breakfast and dinner, and while you wait you can have a drink at the large bar area, and try a housemade margarita or the delicious sangria as well (while looking at the signed poster of Guy Fieri, who visited Valencia with his show Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dives). If you are craving the best Venezuelan food you could imagine, or are simply a meal that will check every box you look for in a restaurant, Valencia is the place to try.