Andrés Carne de Res
An evening of excess at the legendary crazypants clubstaurant
November 9, 2019Filed under: colombia
November 9, 2019Filed under: colombia
When we asked our Colombian-American friends for recommendations there was one unanimous suggestion of what we should do in Colombia - go to Andrés Carne de Res.
Curious to learn more, we searched for more information. According to Eater, Andrés is a place with:
"a supervised children’s zone; at least three dance floors (turns out it’s five); an employee cafeteria bigger than a mid-sized Texas barbecue restaurant; a roughly 25-foot rock-climbing wall that could get dangerous after a few drinks; a coal-fired kitchen with about as much square footage as a Boeing 747; a DJ booth with 17,000 compact discs (they occasionally use Spotify); roving bands of performers equipped with confetti; a separate outdoor kitchen for late-night hangover soup; a doggy day care center; a stand where one can hire designated drivers; a menu that includes every major dish of Colombia; a bowl of free strawberries near the entrance; and a collection of no fewer than six hammocks near the parking lot."
When we read that description back in July, we had no other ideas of what to do in Bogotá, but we knew we were going to Andrés.
Unfortunately when we arrived in Bogotá we realized that the original (and craziest) Andrés is in the suburb of Chia, which is kind of difficult to get to using traditional means (read: not on a party bus). After two weeks in Bogotá we still had not visited Andrés and were starting to think we should pivot to visiting the Bogotá location for an approximation of the original insanity with a less arduous commute. But after our smooth trip on the local bus to the Salt Cathedral, we regained our courage and conviction and decided we would go to the original location. We made a reservation for 7pm on Friday night.
You might think this is the end of the preamble to our Andrés adventure, but no, even the confirmation email for our reservation was extra. At first we thought it was just a terrible Google translation, but realized it’s super on-brand.
Being a “clubstaurant,” Andrés imposes a $7 cover fee Thursday - Saturday starting at 7pm, so we decided we would try to arrive early for our reservation to avoid the cover fee (we are unemployed after all). Around 4:30pm, we rode our local Transmilenio to the end of the line, where we caught a tiny, packed local bus headed for Chia.
Since we didn’t know much about the bus route, we watched Google Maps like hawks the whole way to figure out when/if we should get off. Eventually we got to a bus terminal where all remaining passengers disembarked, so we followed suit.
We walked the rest of the way through Chia, which really was nothing notable. After a few commercial blocks, we saw some bright lights appear in the distance. Were they Christmas lights? We figured we were headed the right way. We continued towards the lights, turned a corner, and learned that we had indeed gone the right direction. It was everything we had hoped it would be: a crazy-looking permanent fairground with a tacky commingling of Christmas lights and neon lights, and generally looking like a decorations warehouse had exploded onto and into a block of buildings.
While we gawked, we couldn’t figure out where we were supposed to enter.
Eventually after walking the length of the block and circling around, we found the front, which features many more Christmas lights along with a sister restaurant (Andrés Express) across the street. And many large plaster cows, including one resembling Marilyn Monroe? Also many light up windmills. It was even more overwhelming than the back.
When we entered, we were sure to each grab a free strawberry from the truly gigantic bowl of strawberries (at least 2 feet in diameter). We were ushered in through the turnstile and the attack on our senses continued. And yes, we successfully arrived early enough to avoid the cover fee.
Once seated, our server gave us plenty of time to peruse the legendary menu, which is at least 60 pages long, with about 20 pages of drinks alone. Drinks are measured in cubic centimeters (think 42cc per jigger), with many drinks on the menu containing 125cc of one liquor. Super large format drinks are common, as are elaborate glasses. You can also definitely just get a bottle of whatever liquor you want. Given that we were thinking we would have to figure out the trip home, we went conservative with our drink orders. Brian ordered a Negroni with a modest amount of booze. Tiffany had a half portion of mojito, which came in a bowl typically reserved for soups and featured a quarter plant of mint (no fewer than 15 leaves). But amazingly, the restaurant isn’t just legendary for the over-the-top decorations and menu - the cocktails were excellent.
We also ordered champiñones con ajillo (mushrooms with garlic) to eat as an appetizer while we continued to plot our dinner strategy. They were ridiculously good and the bread that came with it was some of the best we have been served in a restaurant.
We had read that the best way to experience Andrés is to go with a large group - obviously for peer pressure, but also to try many different foods. Unfortunately, our attempts to bring friends from Spanish class failed and it was just the two of us with our ambitious stomachs. We decided we should get the tres para dos (three for two) of grilled meats, a soup called cuchuco (soups abroad have been some of our favorite foods), and chicharrones. However, when we attempted to order these things our server was gave us a concerned look and said that we were ordering “mucha comida.” She helped us to go with a half portion of the cuchuco; that’s great service, backing you away from terrible decisions.
The server, however, couldn’t prevent Tiffany from accidentally using the men’s room. In her defense, the signage was confusing and there’s generally an overwhelming amount of visual stimulation throughout the restaurant. Yes, there was a urinal in addition to a toilet, but in the context of Andres, that didn’t seem that weird to her. She only realized this when Brian returned from his separate trip to the bathroom and reported the same exact decorations in his “ellos” bathroom, and standardization seemed quite unlikely at Andrés.
The staff at Andrés all seem to be under the age of 30 and having as good a time as the guests. Colombian restaurants aren’t known for attentive service, but many members of the staff stopped by our table and asked how everything was.
Back to the food. The chicharrones were good and similar to the ones we had throughout Colombia. The tres para dos featured two cuts of beef and a chicken breast. They were all perfectly seasoned and grilled. The meats came with three saucers full of different sauces, including chimichurri, a cilantro based sauce, and a salsa-ish sauce. They were great with the meats.
But the star was the cuchuco. Our server talked us down from a full portion to a half portion, so we expected a cup rather than a bowl of soup. Nope. It was like an entree portion of soup with an entree portion of pork on the side. Who knows what a full portion would be? Regardless of the size, it was a delicious traditional Colombian wheat-based soup which also included potatoes, beans, and the pork, along with avocado and rice on the side to dress the soup. It was amazing and very filling. Colombia’s soup game is definitely ahead of most of the world, and particularly the US.
Dinner progressed fairly slowly and we enjoyed all of the people watching. There were several of what seemed to be celebrations in our general vicinity. Also sometimes randomly people would walk through dressed in 70s lounge singer costumes (we think they were staff). Larger parties often would order larger platters of meat, which were served on metal platforms that stuck into the tables. It probably can go unsaid, but the place smells amazing.
Although we stayed for nearly 4 hours, we weren’t there long enough for the dance floor to get crazy. The music playlist was a strange combination of 70s and 80s British and American classic rock, and some of what we assume to be Colombian classics. And yet, no one aside from children was brave enough to hit the dance floor. In our defense, there are cameras pointed to the dance floor and screens broadcasting it to diners throughout the restaurant. Our negroni and half bowl mojito were not enough to give us the courage to get the party started.
Eventually we decided we should probably make our way home. The check came with a handful of candies and some stationary for us to leave a letter about our experience to Andrés. We made an exploratory loop throughout the restaurant including a more successful trip to another set of bathrooms before heading out to get an Uber home.
Even exiting the restaurant is full of excitement. Around the strawberry bowl there are to go cups which apparently you can use in case you haven’t quite polished off your cocktails or your small/large bottle of booze. They also have their own, supposedly expensive, taxi service. We also saw several drunk dudes tried to ride the fake cows. One succeeded but was promptly reprimanded by security. There is a lot of security.
It took a while, but we finally got an Uber and headed back to Bogotá fully overwhelmed but satisfied by our visit to Andrés.