Formerly just a roadside steak stand, this restaurant outside of Bogotá has become a gluttonous Wonka like maze of Colombian curios where you feast on Argentine beef and chorizo and drink handles of aguardiente mixed and then boogie on the tables until dawn. Soap stars, models, and politicians all flock here even though it is 40 minutes outside the center in the tiny town of Chia. Some see Andrés as one of the emerging symbols of everything Colombia is and could become.
From the outside the restaurant looks like some sort of junk pile with Christmas lights. Upon entering it’s like being transported to another world. After getting stamped in, you are let loose inside a maze of rooms. Nooks and crannies are everywhere and there are dozens of places to sit and hang out with a drink or climb on the table. Every inch of wall space is decorated with found items, kitschy bric-a-brac, lights, hanging mobiles, and antiques. Everything though, comes from Colombia.
The menu is massive and completely untraditional, as you would expect it would be. The menu pages are found in a metal box that you have to wind like a scroll to move up or down. It’s like Kerouac’s original manuscript for On The Road, but with more beef. Beef is the signature item on the menu and it comes in many glorious forms: Bife de Chorizo (Porterhouse), Churrasco Argentino (Argentine filet steak), Morcilla (Blood Sausage), and several others. Prices average about 18,000 pesos, but you’re looking at 160 grams of beef along with an arepa and cheese. I sat by the grill for my meal and had a close eye on the kitchen. Nothing waits around. The meat doesn’t come to the grill cook until he is ready for it. For as much meat as they send out, they have worked out a system to where every piece comes out spectacular. The beef is juicy and full of flavor. I could have easily split my Bife de Chorizo and still have been full (though I didn’t and ate every bit). You get the sense that ingredients are fresh too. Appetizers – patacones, yucca, empanadas, arepas – come family style and are enough for a table to share.
Drinks are pricey but one of the cocktails (30,000 pesos) will last you all night. You can order from dozens of aguardientes, Colombia’s anis flavored sugarcane liquor. Cocktails, including mojitos and pisco sours, are served in huge gourds with a couple of straws. All drinks come with bowls of uchuvas (a tangy yellow, cherry sized fruit). Beers are available, though pricey too (9,000-10,000 pesos). Full bottles of liquor (Pisco, Tequila, Whiskey, Aguardiente, Vodka, etc) are available as well and frequently bought by groups.
The entertainment of the restaurant is another aspect worth mentioning. It’s like you are paying for the show with your meal. Unless you are the first person there, the dance floor will already be packed with people. The music blares while you eat, so this is no place to come for a quiet dinner by any means. After paying for your meal you get a goodie bag with candy, flashlight, and mini magnifying glass. Throughout the night roving bands of actors and performers pop up throughout the restaurant. Sometimes they beat a drum. Sometimes they sing Happy Birthday. Sometimes they throw Colombia sashes or flags over diners. It’s wild. In fact if you needed just one word to sum up Andrés that would be it. Wild.
How to Get to/from Andrés Carne de Res
Considering Andrés is in Chia, 40 kilometers north of Bogota, and that you will probably be drinking heavily so driving might not be the best idea, transportation to/from the restaurant/club can become an issue, especially for the budget traveler. To get to Andrés you can catch the Transmilenio out to the Portal del Norte and then a feeder bus on the street to Chia. In Chia catch a cab to Andrés as it is not exactly a short walk, though the cab ride will be cheap. Getting back is another story as the Transmilenio stops running at night. So, if you don’t have a ride there are usually taxi’s waiting outside, that should costs around 50,000 pesos to get back to Bogota, maybe a little more if you are staying downtown or in Candelaria. You can also order a cab by dialing 311,111,111 and even negotiate a roundtrip price (expect about 80,000 pesos). Pricey, yes. Worth it, even more yes.
Andrés Carne de Res
Calle 3 No 11a – 56
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.