The piquant lunchtime bites conjure memories of Peru.
FIRST, A DISCLAIMER: I have a soft spot for Andes Café, simply because its name (pathetic, I know) gives rise to some majorly sappy romantic nostalgia. Why? Like many wanderlusty couples, my then-boyfriend Wyatt and I traveled to South America, Peru specifically, to visit the Incan ruins. In an attempt to make our trip extra-memorable and secure a community property partner, Wyatt also decided to propose at Macchu Picchu at roughly 6:47 a.m. He didn’t kneel (it was really muddy), which threw me, but I recovered sufficiently to respond, “yes.” A very confused Japanese woman took our picture and later, we ate guinea pig.
Regardless, I challenge you to accuse me of bias after trying some of Andes Café’s sandwiches, too often overlooked in favor of their more popular signature plates. Those offerings, my favorite of which is the bisteck a caballo, are indeed terrific, but during lunchtime hours (noon-3 p.m. at the Cafe), avert your gaze from that part of the menu. Try the pepito, a soft French roll stuffed with tender chunks of beef or chicken (I prefer the former) then dressed with lettuce, tomato, corn sauce, fried potato sticks and guasacaca, a creamy avocado relish whose wonderful piquancy comes from the inclusion of much garlic, cilantro, parsley and onions. Not so shockingly, I also gravitate toward the Peruvian sanduche de pavita, especially on warmer afternoons, as its layers of oven-roasted turkey, green jalapeño sauce and salsa criolla (cilantro, red onion, lime and aji peppers) is just spicy enough to make me break a sweat to beat the heat.
That same refreshing salsa criolla also plays a prominent role in Andes’ Cafe’s hearty churrasco, in which unctuous slices of skirt steak and ham absorb additional pleasant fat from melted mozzarella cheese. Just when you think the lettuce and tomato will counter the richness, the addition of a fried egg tips the balance—in a good way. And if he’s good, I might even share a bite with my husband.