Tamalitos verdes and cachapas at Andes Cafe

It's understandable if you're only hitting Andes Cafe for lunch or dinner to enjoy chef David Guerrero's ceviches—after all, that's what the Ecuadorian chef is best known for, plus the servings of fresh fish at the little East End cafe are so generous that you may find yourself reluctant to go anywhere else for the dish. But if you don't make time to visit at breakfast, consider this my annual reminder that you're missing out on one of the great morning meals in Houston.

Andes Cafe is open for breakfast starting at 9 a.m. every day, including Sundays when brunch is served with a variety of different mimosas. Mornings find the cafe in a decidedly different mood from the night before, with cool glasses of freshly-squeezed juices and hot mugs of cafe con leche replacing the bottles wine and beer on each table. And though some people drop into Andes Cafe solely to grab a coffee or a South American smoothie made with lúcuma and maracuya, I suggest grabbing a table and settling in.

As with the rest of the menu at Andes Cafe, the breakfast menu takes its cues from a variety of Central and South American countries. Here you'll find humitas and bolon de verde from Guerrero's home country of Ecuador as well as calentado con huevos from Colombia, cachapas from Venezuela, huevos con tomate from Chile, tamalitos verdes from Peru, and more. For a protein-packed breakfast that also happens to suit vegetarian and vegan needs, the Peruvian oatmeal made with steel-cut oats and quinoa cooked down in soy milk is a revelation—you'll wonder why you haven't been topping your own oatmeal with fresh blackberries, pumpkin seeds, and chancaca (raw cane sugar flavored with orange peel and honey) all along.

On my most recent visit, I managed to branch out from the oatmeal and tried two new dishes: tamalitos verdes and cachapas. The "verdes" in the tamales comes from the cilantro—and sometimes spinach, depending on who's making them—that's used in the corn masa, which is also accented here with a little cheese for additional flavor and oomph. It's served with a heap of pickled onions on top and a brisk salsa criolla on the side to perk things up.

And while the tamalitos were delicious, it was the cachapas that really caught my attention. It doesn't look like much at first—a quesadilla of sorts with some curious white stuff on the side that looks like clotted cream—but I was hooked on the first bite, which offered a blend of salty-sweetness and intriguing textures: a caramelized crunch outside offset by the gooey queso de mano inside the griddled pancakes made with fresh sweet corn. That white stuff on the side only amped up the experience: a sort of cream cheese that added a welcome tanginess to the whole affair.

If you're reading all this and thinking, fine, this sounds good, but where are the bacon and eggs? don't worry—Andes Cafe has those too, just in slightly different iterations: the calentado con huevos comes with two sunny side-up eggs and something even better than bacon...pork belly, blended together in a sort of rice casserole with black beans and sausage. You may never order a Rooty Tooty Fresh & Fruity again.

Andes Cafe, 2311 Canal St., Ste. 104, 832-659-0063, andescafe.com

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