There’s perhaps no last supper more satisfying to beloved Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel “Miggy” Cabrera than a fresh batch of arepas from his favorite restaurant in Detroit.
As the Hall-of-Famer enters his final weeks of a 21-year career with Major League Baseball, he has partnered with longtime supporters El Rey de las Arepas — the casual southwest Detroit restaurant beloved by Venezuelans throughout baseball — for a pop-up experience taking place on several occasions in the coming weeks just yards outside of Comerica Park at 44 W. Columbia Street. The short-term dining destination will open for Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings home games through October 1.
Dubbed “El Rey” in recognition of the family-owned establishment founded in 2014 by Jose Gutierrez and son, Ray, the space displays a timeline of Cabrera’s illustrious career and gives fans a sampling of miniaturized portions of the spot’s iconic arepas stuffed with beef or chicken, sweet corn cachapas, fried plantains, and passionfruit drink — all for $15. A portion of sales will be donated to the Miguel Cabrera Foundation, which provides funding to improve sports facilities and educational opportunities for youth.
“Miguel’s impact has meant so much to our city, and we look forward to introducing Tigers fans to one of the places he’s come to love during his time in Detroit,” said Ryan Gustafson, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment in a media release issued late Monday.
Gutierrez founded the restaurant when he realized the homemade arepas that he would take to teammates of an amateur men’s soccer league he belonged to were a big hit. He told Tostada Magazine in 2018 that by the time he opened the restaurant he already had a unique fanbase: MLB players from Venezuela. About a third of the league’s players are foreign-born, mostly from the Dominican Republic, followed by Venezuela.
Among his fans is Cabrera. Ray Gutierrez tells Eater that his father would show up to Tigers games donning gear from his home country in an attempt to grab the players’ attention. The showmanship worked. The Gutierrezes and baseball legend have since become close friends, with Cabrera spreading the good word of El Rey to fellow Venezolanos across the league. Now, homesick players throughout baseball hit up the family directly for special orders whenever they have a game in the Motor City.
“[When] we decided to open the restaurant it was kind of a struggle because there were no Venezuelan people [in Detroit], nobody knew what an arepa was,” Ray Gutierrez told Eater at the new pop-up Tuesday. “But we keep grinding, keep hustling, always promoting ourselves, always putting Venezuela in the front. Miguel Cabrera helped us a lot with the with the baseball players, with promotion, with word-of-mouth. Little by little everything kept growing and growing and growing and now we’re here in Comerica Park.”