If a city is lucky, it has a famous restaurant that is a major destination not only for the locals but for those visiting the city as well. In Bogota, this restaurant is Andres Carne des Res, the same restaurant the young man suggested in the immigration line. In 1984, to help pay for their college education, Andres and his wife opened a small forty seat restaurant, specializing in Argentine beef. From small beginnings, this restaurant today employs 400 people, seats 1,000 customers, serves 250,000 meals per year, selling ten tons of beef with sales of three million dollars annually. What makes this restaurant even more unusual is that it is located in a small town and his customers are willing to drive forty minutes from Bogota to get there. From the beginning, Andres wanted to create a restaurant that not only served good food but would also provide his customers with a great time, a place to celebrate life. He does this incredible business and is only open Thursday through Sunday. Unfortunately, when we were available he was closed. However, in recent years he has opened a smaller version in the Andino shopping mall, located in the Zona Rosa close to our hotel. The hotel was able to make a reservation for us and we set off on foot and found the place with the help of a young woman who actually took the time to walk us there. The restaurant is located on four floors, each devoted to a theme, and connected by industrial stairways. An eclectic mix of knick knacks and Columbia memorabilia, historic, kitsch, and religious, cover the walls and lighting, used in interesting ways, adds to the funky atmosphere.
Heaven is on the top floor, suggested for families with children and the other floors consist of Earth, Purgatory and Hell. Our reservation was made for “Hell” and following the hostess, dressed in a gauzy outfit defying description, we made our way along cat walks and metal stairs and soon found ourselves sitting at a table close to the dance floor. This is where Bogotanos of all ages come to have a rumba, not the dance, but their word for a party that includes plenty of food, drink and dance. The band was playing a salsa and a beautiful sexy woman, who was part of the band, was dancing by herself, soon joined by couples. The band continued with an unstoppable beat and the people, dancing with a tremendous sense of rhythm, moved gracefully through complicated steps and turns. The band alternated between salsas, cumbias, merengues, and vallenatos, leaving us to spend the rest of our time in Columbia trying to discern the difference.