What to do what to do? How should I celebrate the rest of my birthday? I was invited out with some friends I met back in Manizales who live in Bogotá for a night of partying. But then I was also invited by Adam to go to Andres Carnes de Res
. I chose the second choice without hesitation.
Hi, my name is Jason and welcome to my 21st birthday party! Don’t worry, I don’t usually look that ridiculous.
Colombia’s wild dinnertime ride EXPANSIVE RESTAURANT NEAR BOGOTÁ IS A RIOT FOR THE SENSES By Tracey Eaton Dallas Morning News
CHIA, Colombia – More than a quarter-million people make pilgrimage every year to one of the wackiest eateries in the Americas. Imagine a giant, 1,000-seat party bus filled with people dancing, eating and drinking until the wee hours. Now add thousands of art objects and knickknacks, everything from cheese graters to mannequins in lingerie, and you have Andrés Carne de Res (Andrew Meat of Beef). It sounds clunky in English, of course, but in Spanish it flows — and rhymes. Business hums along, too, as the restaurant on the outskirts of Bogotá dishes out 10 tons of beef per year. Everyone from political elites and Nobel laureates to CEOs and ordinary Josés flocks to the restaurant not just for the grub, but also for the anything-goes atmosphere. Restaurant workers, some decked out as angels, others as deranged punk rockers, parade through the place entertaining customers, adding to an already chaotic scene. Throw in portraits of Jesus as a 1960s hippie, a man with a bullhorn herding restless children, squat candles smoldering in dark corners, noisemakers, chubby dolls, sparklers, Indian masks, flying skeletons and rustic iron wheels performing no obvious function, and it’s sensory overload. That’s the feeling Andrés Jaramillo was hoping to create when he founded his restaurant 22 years ago. “I spent my childhood and adolescence riding buses,” the 47-year-old artist/entrepreneur says. “That’s how I got to know and experience life. I want my restaurant to be like that, like a bus that’s full of people, a place that’s always alive.” The restaurant is alive, all right. Maybe too alive, some critics say. Loncho Sánchez, a columnist writing in the Bogotá daily El Espectador, says Andrés Carne de Res gives him claustrophobia. “And with all the bends and cubbyholes that the place has, I can’t help thinking what would happen if there were, I don’t know, a fire, an earthquake, or something more familiar, a simple shootout between drug traffickers.” Sánchez, angry that a friend of his was nearly killed driving home drunk at 3 a.m. from the establishment, also complains that Andrés tries to be everything to everyone, offering sandboxes for toddlers, face painting for children and teenagers and romantic interludes for seniors wanting an escape. “It is really worth going to a place that’s for everyone?” he asked. Well, yes — and that’s the point, says Jaramillo, annoyed after reading the column. “We get people who are rich and not so rich,” he says. “The restaurant isn’t interested in whether someone is famous. We treat everyone equally, with all due respect.” Past customers include Gabriel García Márquez, winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for literature, and Latin American politicians, movie stars and sports figures.
“Most of our waiters are university students, and they don’t recognize many famous people,” Jaramillo says. “That’s probably a good thing.” The business got its name from another Andrés who was one of the original partners. And it opened at a time when restaurants with rhyming names were in vogue. “There was one called Teresa, Carne y Cerveza and another called Agusto Carne a Su Gusto,” Jaramillo says, referring to names translating as Teresa, Meat and Beer, and Agusto Meat the Way You Like It. The restaurant had just 40 seats when he and his wife, Stella, started it to help pay their college tuition. Today, it’s a sprawling enterprise with 400 employees and sales of $3 million per year. It’s open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. On at least some other days, Jaramillo rents it out. “We’ve had some beautiful weddings, and I like to tell people I’ve married 30 couples — and only two have split up. That’s not bad.” A staff of 25 produces the dizzying jumble of ornaments that decorates the restaurant’s walls and ceilings. The place has about five times the bric-a-brac of a Mexican Señor Frog’s, and the artwork is constantly changed or recycled. “The restaurant is never finished,” says Jaramillo, who reads poetry and listens to music to come up with ideas for new decorations. “Things are added every day.” On one Saturday in 2004, a record 2,800 people visited the bustling bistro. “On Sundays, it’s a family place. On Saturday, it’s craziness, a disco,” Jaramillo says. “We’ll have 1,000 people at their tables and another 1,000 looking for a place to sit.” All the while, some customers dance on their tables and costumed restaurant workers stream past tables holding onto a metal bar — as if they were actually riding a bus. “The idea is to celebrate life,” Jaramillo says. “It has nothing to do with the violence we Colombians see. But we should celebrate life. “Life is a gift.”
Andres Carnes de Res is a pretty big deal and takes some planning. Adam and his girlfriend hired us a private van since the restaurant is actually about an hour from Bogota in another small city called Chia.
After some coffee at Juan Valdez,
I rounded up Carlos, Monica, Julian, and Lili around 8 and we took a taxi to the mall to meet Adam and his girlfriend. A big white van was parked waiting for us. We drove around for a while picking up more passengers. By around 9 we had collected all of Adam’s friends (a guy from England, the US, and 3 mor
e girls from Colombia).
The bunch of us got along quickly and became fast friends. I think the thought of going to Andres helped this bonding as we all knew we were in for an incredible night. You see, I had wanted to go ever since my first visit to Bogota nearly 3 years earlier in 2007. Yeah, it’s that famous.
The place was chaotic at around 9 when we arrived with little room to move and servers squeezing through tiny openings carrying big trays of steaming hot food. All of the tables were all taken or reserved.
The bunch of us forced our way into a table as the people just finished. It didn’t matter that the table was reserved. We remedies this by ordering drinks ASAP so they could not make us give up the table to its rightful owners. Cheers to that!
I should also mention that it’s not like we were cheating the place…our two bottles of rum cost over $400,000 pesos (normally about $70,000 in a supermarket).
Ok, now we have a table and drinks. But no food! The menu was viewed by winding the silver handle that turned the scroll. I became a bit agitated as each person took 10 minutes to view the menu and decide what to order.
It all made sense when I got my hands on that thing. I think that if it was made into a traditional menu it would go over 15 pages.
What’s that? Food already?
And just like that my T-bone steak, stuffed tomato, and the best arepa I have ever eaten was mostly gone.
Where did it go?
In my stomach. Thats right, in my belly.
But at least we still had our drinks.
We needed a break from drinking so we posed for pictures each time Daddy Yankee said Pose from his song! Kidding, but its a great song so you should listen to it.
Pose (Adam and his girlfriend)
(Stu & his GF)
After all of that posing it became time. A few servers came out with a band in order to play and sing happy birthday to me and another friend (his birthday was Feb. 12th).
They tied hankerchiefs to our necks and put some sombreros on our heads.
Then the fake cake was lit and we eventually blew it out.
3 celebrations in one day was pretty cool. We grabbed out bottles of rum and snuck our way inside to be greeted by Jesus.
It was a real birthday party, with facepainting and all!
Dancing too. We even sang along to the songs we knew.
A memorable moment of the night happened when 3 girls came up to me and asked if I would dance with their friend. Of course, I said!
But not all smiles. Looks like somebody got their heart broken.
At around 3 dragged ourselves outside to our waiting van.
What a night!
I loved Andres Carne de Res when I was there. However, seeing your pictures of steaks there reminded me of another steak place in Chia that I went to which was amazing. Any idea where I’m talking about? I can’t really remember the name. Also, I searched and couldn’t find anything on Chamois or their guayas. Please tell me you haven’t missed out on those!
Man you’re getting me excited about this other steak restaurant in Chia. Andres was the only place I have visited in that area so I am anxiously awaiting the name of this new place. What were you doing in Colombia?
By the way, I heard they just opened a second Andres Carnes de Res in Bogota.
I have quite a few friends in Bogota that I went down to visit in 2007. It was a blast. I stayed in northern Bogota primarily. Chia was as far out as I got.
As for the steak place, this is the most I can help you:
http://img18.imageshack.us/i/n58077053621166324383.jpg/ <– picture of the interior
I will see if I can figure out where it is from Google Maps. I find satellite image analysis to be fun, so it won't be a chore.
Where do you stay in Bogota? I saw you mentioned hostels, but my friends really didn't seem keen on the idea. How much do they cost?
Yeah that restaurant looks really nice. I am glad you had such a great time in Bogota! Any plans to return?
I have been to Bogota at least 7 different times in the past three years. I mostly stay in hostels which are $7-$10 per night sharing a room with between 4-12 other people. Private rooms in hostels tend to cost around $20. It’s worth staying in hostels when traveling solo in order to meet people to go out with at night. My last time in Bogota I stayed with a Colombian friend for a few weeks in his apartment in Rosales, a really nice neighborhood in Bogota.