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Just a glance at Andes Café’s menu and it is clear the restaurant is ambitious. Customers are presented with a carefully curated ensemble of dishes from different South American countries and each and every one sounds delicious. But considering the breadth of preparation styles, ingredients, and cooking techniques involved in producing such a diverse selection of dishes, not everything, you assume, could be good. After a few visits, you’ll start to question that assumption.

Deciding when to go to Andes Café is almost as challenging as deciding what to order. My impulse through habit is to visit new restaurants at lunch, but already rave reviews of the café’s breakfast offerings made me reconsider. Well, there’s no Texas law against visiting the same restaurant more than two times in 48 hours (if there were, I would be incarcerated right now serving back-to-back sentences for multiple counts, thanks to my addiction to Shanghai River and Ninfa’s), so I have become acquainted with Andes Café in the morning, noon, and night.

The day begins at Andes Café with ridiculously reasonably priced, neatly presented breakfast plates like the Bolon de Verde (deep-fried, golf ball sized dumplings stuffed with green plantains, pork, and cheese) or the Calentado con Huevos (two sunny-side up eggs with an arepa and a mound of rice, pork belly, sausage, back beans). Because savory generally isn’t my bag, baby, when it comes to breakfast, I made an exception at Andes Café, though if I had wanted to stick to routine I could have easily gone for the Capachas, sweet corn pancakes stuff with queso de mano or the Quinoa Oatmeal with blackberries and pumpkin seeds.

As the day progresses, residents of the Warehouse district as well as roaming Yelpers stop by the try signature plates. Sandwiches, like the Lomiton (supple slices of pork tenderloin layered with tangy sauerkraut, avocado, tomatoes, and mayonnaise on challah) or the Pepito (a French roll stuffed with grilled chicken, lettuce tomatoes, melted cheese, avocado relish, and fried potatoes) make for tremendously satisfying lunches, especially when ordered with a side of smashed green or fried plantains.

If you have the afternoon off, consider, however taking advantage of the restaurant’s BYOB policy and bring a bottle of Malbec to pair with a small plate of tamales or Salchipapas, a nest of French fries topped with sliced hot dogs, ketchup, house mayonnaise, mustard, and sauces. (Actually, that latter dish tastes best after you’ve finished the Malbec 🙂 I’m also impressed by the Café’s more, um, dignified entrees such as the Hornado, an Ecuadorean dish comprising roast pork shank dressed with gravy and served with potato cheese cakes.

The “problem” with a string of successful orders from Andes Café is that you’re liable to stick to what you know is good and fall into the inevitable repeat order rut. Resist temptation by telling yourself that Andes Café is prepared to help you eat your way through an entire continent—best keep moving on to the next beautiful dish.

Andes Cafe
2311 Canal St #104
Houston, TX 77011

Joanna O'Leary

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