As I approached the restaurant I realized I was in for an unusual experience. Outside there’s a barnyard full of animal statues painted a multitude of bizarre colors. Several larger-than-life statutes of ceramic cows. And an immense hand statue.
And inside it just gets crazier.
What can I say about Andres D.C.? Volumes could be written about this Colombian craziness wrapped up in one five story restaurant. Each level is categorized, so as you go higher up you get closer to reaching your goal. Everyone starts below Hell and moves up from there, through Earth, then Purgatory, until arriving at the last level (Heaven).
Statues are everywhere; bizarre ones like huge gold lions that gracefully pose on a stage, metal birds that fly down from the ceiling and merry-go-round horses that dangle above the bar. An immense pocket watch hangs from a random beam and the oversized TV screens have flattened bottle caps tacked around the edges. There’s an abundance of wood and metal as if a train crashed into a carpenters shed.
Elevators come to every level, bringing diners up from down below. And these are not your typical elevators; the doors are painted an astonishing vibrant red, spotted with white hearts and with Andres D.C. written all over them.
What to Expect
During the calmer moments, sultry French music, British pop or Spanish flamenco plays in the background. But live music pops up at any unpredictable time or place. Most of the times I’ve been there, a musical group periodically makes their way around the cramped restaurant – yes, a 5 level, huge restaurant can be cramped if you pack enough people into it – making noise and getting people up and dancing.
Although the real craziness starts after 9 pm, at any hour it’s a surreal place.
The restaurant is designed to make you stare, gape or laugh and, especially, to think. Like the brightly suited man who drifts from table to table fighting with diners in a thick (and fake) Italian accent.
Our very spunky waitress for the evening, Mabel, was wearing a long red apron with chains dangling from it. Little cups hollowed out from a local gourd and painted bright red, blue, and yellow hung from a string of her apron. In fact, an amazing number of young waiters visited the table every few minutes to ask how the meal was, anxious to please. They’re just another part of the show; caring and interested, they’re like your best friend made into a waiter.
Bright red neon heart-shaped signs hang above the tables and announce the name of each one. Names like Watson, Prinicpito, or Conde grace the signs, although my favorite is the group of tables that have the names of the Three Musketeers.
Instead of a complimentary bread basket, you’ll be served a fruit bowl with uchuvas, coconut, green mango cubes, oranges and red grapes.
The menu is not for the faint of heart or those that want to make a quick decision, since it’s about 64 pages long. Frankly, many of the items are way overpriced, but nobody complains that much. The menu includes a glossary for English speakers, explaining terms like cuchuco de trigo, puchero, changua, longaniza, and hogao rojo.
People come to Andres D.C. for the meat. Sure, the appetizers like empanadas and arepas are good, and so is the ajiaco. But the meat is the star of the show here. Like big platters of beef, with small Colombian criollo potatoes. Or lomo al trapo, meat wrapped in a cloth, cooked with tons of salt and oregano, and then carefully unwrapped at the table and cut. Waiters nimbly run down the stairs with platters of steaming meat, temptation on a tray.
Just so you know, huge white bibs are available for those that need it.
There’s a bar on almost every level, the counters decorated with flattened beer caps and hanging rows of chipped down-on-the-farm-type mugs. From there the bartenders whip out drinks like Cucaracho and cerveza michelada, which is Corona beer served with tabasco, Worchester sauce and lime, resulting in a savory- salty-sweet-spicy beer.
For dessert I ordered the chocolate volcano, and it came, quite appropriately, on top of a volcano. The chocolate cake had just enough creamy vanilla ice cream on top and just the right amount of rich, fudge-like sauce chocolate sauce inside. I scraped the bowl to get the last bit chocolate cake out. It was worth the effort.
People celebrating a special event get the special treatment.
Warning: You have to be prepared for this.
A band visits the table, itinerant musicians that create their individual rumba (party) at random tables. The guest of honor will get a special ribbon draped across his body as if they were Miss or Mr. Colombia. They also get a plastic silver crown to show they’re the king of the day.
The band is definitely part of the show. The lead singer dresses in a green and yellow checked suit, white shoes, a red bowtie, Panama hat, and aviator glasses and is backed up by his band that plays random instruments like the clarinet, maracas or a skin-covered drum. If you weren’t already smiling at his suit, you will be at his dancing and singing.
Even the bizarrely placed street signs shake in time to the music.
After my first visit to Andres D.C., I stepped out onto the congested streets of Bogota and gazed blankly around, almost in shock. The craziness had lifted the pressures of everyday life like a mini vacation. But I felt empty, like I was leaving a good friend’s house.
Andres D.C. is all the Colombian energy and zest for life bundled up into one place. A place to laugh, eat too much, not worry about the check at the end of the night, call it an experience and remember it for the rest of your life.
Here’s a mini glossary to help you with your visit:
cuchuco de trigo – soup made with wheat and pork
puchero – traditional meat stew
changua – consommé made with milk
longaniza – spicy sausage.
hogao rojo – red sauce made with tomatoes and scallions