FRUGALITY DOESN'T GET you far in the food world these days. Three bucks won't buy a lick of an ice cream cone; heck, even a cup of coffee can run you more than a proper breakfast. So when a hospitable guy like Andres Branger decided to team up with a talented chef like Carlos Rodriguez, what we got were a lot of firsts: first-rate Nuevo Latino fare, puzzling friendly waitstaff (is this really Boston?), and the opportunity to order both food and drink (try the tropical fruit-infused sangria) without dipping into our 401(k). No surprise, then, that this charming Venezuelan taguarita, with its rough-hewn carpentry, candy-colored chairs and open kitchen, bursts at the seams just about every night of the week (it's closed on Mondays). Regular cravings include Rodriguez's hand-stretched arepas-- the mozarella-like Guayanesa cheese and tender, shredded pork versions need no introductions-- flaky empanadas, hearty saladas, sandwiches and traditional treats like sweet plantain-wrapped cheese, none of which will run you much more than a Happy Meal or a bagel and schmear. 477 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-369-7075.

The Improper Bostonian; BOSTON's BEST issue, July 11 - July 31, 2007