Bogotá, like any important capital, has no shortage of impressive eateries featuring haute cuisine, molecular gastronomy, exclusive “cavas” or wine cellars, and white tablecloth establishments suitable for power lunches or deal-making dinners.
Andrés Carne De Res is not one of those places.
Neither is its urban younger outpost, Andrés DC, located in Bogotá’s upscale and touristy “Zona T” in the capital’s northeast. The original Andres Carne De Res is in the far northern suburb of Chia, requiring a sometimes lengthy trip, making it a destination. The urban version of the famous attraction however, Andres DC, is in the very upscale “El Retiro” Shopping Center. While Andres DC is not cheap; there is a sign hanging from the ceiling in the restaurant mocking itself saying “Bueno, Bonito, Carito” (Good, Pretty, Expensive), it is not a white-tablecloth type of place, either—rather a casual, fun destination.
Imagine perhaps if directors Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro got drunk off of Colombian Aguardiente and decided to open a restaurant where money was apparently no object. The result probably would not be too far off of Andres DC. A patron half expects Beetlejuice himself to step out and offer a menu. In Andrés DC, every day is Halloween, happy birthday, and New Year’s Eve all wrapped up into one.
This popular eatery is a sprawling four stories high and open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. It is rambunctious and rowdy, and every staff member from the dishwasher to the general manager is an entertainer. The best way to describe Andres DC may be as a restaurant disguised as a circus…but then again, maybe a circus disguised as a restaurant. Upon seating, the host or hostess queries you to determine if your visit is to celebrate some special occasion; a primary reason people visit. If so, they will prepare special attention for your table.
During the author’s last visit, there were couples celebrating a birthday, a large family that took up three tables with a contingent of teens and pre-teens (Andres is family friendly, but very appropriate for a date or an informal business celebration), ladies catching up on gossip while shopping in El Retiro and the adjacent Andino mall, and of course, tourists.
Most restaurant business experts admonish operators to keep menus limited and simple. Once again, Andres DC breaks the rules: the menu is a whopping 66 pages! That being said, they do not slack on quality control. The bilingual menu features appetizers from the modestly priced empanada de carne (just under $2 US) to the tostón con todo – a giant disk of pounded plantain topped with over a pound of cheese, ground beef, pork rinds, mushrooms, and other side dishes (yes, the appetizer comes with side dishes) for about $30 US.
Most steak cuts run about $25 per entrée, including sides, but then there is the “Posta de Punta de Anca” a sirloin over two pounds and serving eight diners. Topped with bacon, it comes with salad and mashed potatoes in a clay bowl. Serving eight at about $60 US, it is the most expensive item on the grill menu, but actually inexpensive for feeding a party that size.
Seafood offerings are extensive, especially for a non-seafood specialty restaurant in Colombia’s Andes. Caribbean, Peruvian, Ecuadorean, and Ceviche preparations are offered as options. A pair of jumbo shrimp with patacones (large plantain tostones) is less than $10, while the cazuela de mariscos, a shrimp, lobster and cheese casserole served with patacones and white rice, runs just over $30. Most seafood dishes are actually under $20, and include favorites such as coconut grouper, red snapper, cobia in papillote (paper bag technique)—confusingly they translate cobia as kingfish, but in the US at least, cobia is cobia and kingfish is the king mackerel, known as the carite in Spanish. Trout, salmon, and the ubiquitous bagre, a South American catfish are also on the menu.
Andres DC features over a dozen pages of beverages, with everything from fruit juices served in bowls and coffees to liquor and cocktails. The food is well prepared, though the reason to go to Andrés is for the dining experience. Bands of roving troubadours go from table to table serenading diners with musical instruments and song. At any moment all the waitresses might line up and perform a choreographed dance without warning, and a parade of clowns could show in a march set to a (completely inappropriate) Mozart sonnet.
The décor is something like steam-punk meets Ringling Brothers, and even though the restaurant is towering and gigantic—a truly huge venue, it fills up quickly and consistently, so reservations are advised. The restaurant is so big that after the first floor entry, there are elevators with operators who take you up to your assigned floor. It is loud, rambunctious, and rowdy, so dress the way you like.
In the very likely event that a reservation at Andres DC is not available, or the restaurant is already full to walk-in traffic, there are two options. One could trek to the Chia location, which then offers a return taxi to Bogotá for about $12 US, or one could visit La Plaza de Andres, the quick service “food court” associated with the restaurant, accessible from within the El Retiro mall. “Food court” doesn’t really do it justice. Operated by Andres DC, it is more like a gourmet bazaar with dessert and bread bakeries, drinks, more live entertainment, ice cream shops, butchers, candy stores, grills, multiple concepts for both gourmet purchase, or on site quick service dining. It is an attraction in its own right and a welcome escape from the homogenized global offerings found apparently in the same food courts on every continent. Plaza de Andrés is worthy of its own visit.
Parking is available in the El Retiro mall, or Andrés offers a secure, private taxi service for patrons from Andrés DC to anywhere in Bogotá for $10. Andrés strongly recommends making reservations at least two weeks in advance. They also have ample accommodations for parties (children, family and adult), seminars and events hosting between 12 and 30 people. The restaurants may be contacted by phone by dialing in Colombia (or country code 57) Bogotá area code 1: 861-2233 or 863-7880. From the USA one would dial: 011-571 861-2233, for example.