deGeneration X: Talking Sh%t at the Best Party in BogotaImage: Courtesy of Andres Carne de Reis Travel Features Colombia
My wife Caro is sweeter than The Princess Bride, but she’s also a native Colombian with razor-sharp verbal daggers. I most recently saw this while waiting in the security line at the inaugural Desert Trip Festival (a.k.a. Oldchella). A blonde-haired baby boomer couple with a younger generation’s fashion and entitlement issues started to push their way to the front. The wanna-be Vicki Gunvalson made it to the front, but I stopped her man, who claimed they thought they were in an empty line that only they saw. Rather than go back, he merged into the line behind us, which is when my wife unsheathed her blade.
“Tell your wife, just because she could pull that off 20 years ago, it doesn’t mean she can still do that now.”
Nervous laughs filled the dusk air as the man hoped his Botox-paralyzed face would hide his beat-down expression. Still, this wasn’t even her best dig. Her all-time best took place a few years earlier at Bogota’s most famous party: Andres Carne de Res.
Most millennials who visit Bogota know about Andres, an infamous restaurant and club just outside the city. Since 2010, the towering Andres DC sits inside the city with floors dedicated to heaven, hell, earth and purgatory, but Andres Carne de Res in Chia (about one hour north) is the original and the best. Andres Jaramillo started with a grill and a few tables on the side of the road before opening an actual restaurant in 1982. In the decades since, the humble restaurant grew into a sprawling dining and party complex with an indoor/outdoor discotheque, hand-painted artisan fixtures and wildly dressed staff who pull diners onto the dance floor. As many as 3,000 people can descend upon Andres during a weekend night, and if anyone is celebrating a special occasion, he or she will likely wear a crown or sash provided by the restaurant. Andres is so popular that Little Colombia in Queens, New York, has an unaffiliated knock-off named Andres Carne de Tres.
“They are stealing our name and reputation, we don’t have any affiliation whatsoever with them,” responded the Andres’ press office via email when asked to comment on the NYC rip-off.
The 64-page menu at the original location includes Argentine steaks, Peruvian ceviche, Colombian arepas and an endless list of cocktails and bottles, and the food crafted in the five kitchens does not disappoint. The Chia location is currently ranked No. 49 on the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, which described Andres as follows: “Alice-in-Wonderland meets Moulin Rouge, Andres Carne de Res is a mind-boggling trip of bright lights, theatrical service and colorful ceramic cows. A party place like no other… a must for any hedonist.”
My wife had been to Andres dozens of times, but this would be my first visit, and we went as a large group in a chauffeured van. A Colombian fashion designer named Adriana Capasso joined us, as did the security detail from a major European embassy in Bogota. We had met the European badasses the week previous on Colombia’s Caribbean coast when they saved us from corrupt local police trying to shake us down (read more about this here).
We arrived on a Saturday night, and I marveled as we snaked passed tables and different rooms in what seemed to be equal parts drunk human circus and acid-tripper’s knick-knack museum. Heart-shaped lights hung throughout the restaurant, and each bowl, glass and plate appeared to be handcrafted by a Colombian artisan. Everything about the place (as you can see here in this video) seemed magical.
“You’ve had aguardiente before?” asked one of the Europeans.
I had. The anise-flavored, sugar-cane spirit is the national drink of Colombia, and in a country with sky-high alcohol taxes, aguardiente is often the drink of choice for those wanting a highly intoxicated party. I hate the stuff.
“Yes, but I doubt I’ll have more than a shot,” I responded.
“I’ll order some Old Parr scotch,” Caro stated, “and try the mojito! It’s expensive but huge.”
The drink orders came back almost immediately as we continued to pour over the lengthy menu. Each mojito cost the equivalent of $22 in U.S. currency, but they were served in huge hand-painted bowls and worth every penny.
“You have to order the lomo al trapo,” stressed Caro. “The meat is cooked in a salt shell, and it comes out super tender.”
“You’re the local, order for everyone!” I said, already halfway through my monster mojito.
Lomo al trapo, the most famous steak at the meat-centric restaurant, is a Colombian preparation that all barbeque pitmasters should know. To make this dish, the cook starts by pouring a thick layer of salt onto a large fabric cloth. A piece of beef tenderloin is placed onto the cloth and then rolled up to encase the meat, and the cook uses a piece of string to keep everything in place. The encased beef is then placed directly into the fire, and as the fabric burns, a salt shell forms around the beef. Once the meat reaches the desired temp, the cook cracks the salt shell to find an insanely tender and savory piece of meat.
When all the food arrived at our table, everyone attacked the lomo al trapo.
Andres Carne de Res is popular as one of the biggest ongoing parties in the Bogota area, and it was easy to see the original appeal. Decades before Williamsburg popularized the trust-fund hipster, Bogota (as with many South American capitals) had especially strong social classifications, and Andres Jaramillo offered culturally progressive guests a blue-collar energy and art-centric environment. Moreover, the rise of the cocaine trade and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—the latter nearly killing my wife with a terrorist bomb that took the lives of many women and children—put a dark cloud over the country, yet Andres was a constant where people could party and forgot their problems, at least for a night.
Colombia’s been relatively stable for the past decade, and amazing new parties have emerged in Bogota proper. Still, Andres remains a beloved institution that provides an unbridled party and, for locals, a healthy dose of nostalgia.
As the leftover food sat on the table, I shifted from mojitos to straight scotch, but it was impossible to escape the aguardiente. A group from a different table moved about the restaurant, and when they approached ours, a guy holding an aguardiente bottle motioned for me to drink.
“He wants to give you a shot of aguardiente,” said Caro. “Just tilt your head back and open your mouth.”
How could I refuse. As I tilted my head back, the new friend poured the spirit directly from the bottle into my mouth, which made me gag. It was around this time that a pretty Colombian girl starting to chat up one of our European friends. I might have thought there was potential, but my future wife knew better.
“This always happens at the end of the night,” Caro explained. “Girls start talking to guys, especially tourists, hoping to get a ride back into the city.”
Caro then told the girl in Spanish that we didn’t have room in our van (which wasn’t true) and that she needed to find a ride elsewhere. The girl ignored the comment, ordered a drink that went on our bill and got in the van with us when he left Andres an hour later.
As we all piled in, we continued to share a bottle of scotch that we snuck out of the restaurant. The uninvited girl was suddenly a lot less flirty, and it was clear our European friend did not have luck on his side. That’s when Caro delivered her all-time sharpest dagger.
Speaking to the girl in Spanish, Caro said, “You know, if you decide to get another nose job, make sure they don’t lift up your nose up like that again. That’s how all the prostitutes do it.”
The girl did not say another word, whereas I couldn’t stop laughing when she translated the comment for me back home. That is, I couldn’t stop laughing until the hangover arrived the next morning.