Orinoco diners have feasted on Arepas and other Andean and Caribbean-influenced family recipes since 2006, when Andres Branger opened his South End restaurant as a homage to his roots and upbringing at his family’s cattle ranch in the llanos plains region of Venezuela. For Andres, creating Orinoco was the fulfillment of a dream to create a cozy, casual, affordable place that everyone could call home. Opening kitchens in Brookline Village in 2008 and Harvard Square in 2012 were approached with the same passion -- and friends and diners in all three neighborhoods immediately feel the love and lore behind Orinoco.
Even as a 10-year-old, growing up on a working ranch meant breakfast at 5:00 a.m., typically consisting of Perico (scrambled eggs with sofrito), arepas, chicharron (pork rind), grilled steak, chicken, and assorted fruits including mango, guayaba (guava), and lechoza (papaya). “Eat, eat’” his father would sternly advise Andres and his three brothers, “We don’t know when the work will end and when we’ll get to eat again.” This early memory lives on in Orinoco's generous plates.
Andres came to Boston in 1979 to attend Boston University where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1984. He obtained his MBA in 1986. He fell in love with the greater Boston area and decided to make it his adopted home, becoming a United States citizen in 1995. After working in financial marketing for many years, it became clear that he needed to merge his Venezuelan roots with his Boston life. The vision that became Orinoco goes back to his college years and trips that he’d taken back home to introduce his American friends to Venezuela. Everyone always came back talking wistfully about the delicious arepas and the wonderful and numerous taguaritas they had spent time at.
In 2003, Andres decided to jump into the restaurant business head first with the support of his dear friend, Martha – also a native Venezuelan. He laughs recalling his mother’s initial reaction, “What sensible person leaves a job at a fine bank to open a restaurant?”
Mom finally came around (they always do) and Andres is fond of saying that “it took a village to open Orinoco.” With the love and help of friends and villagers, from refining the concept to hand stripping tin ceiling tiles to donated chairs and plates, Orinoco was born.
Andres favorite dishes at Orinoco include: Pernil arepa for lunch, the Adobo Pollo, panela-glazed salmon, or the ensalada remolacha for dinner; and the cachapa at brunch.