I have a confession to make: I can't stop eating at Andes Cafe. Even as I write this, I'm planning my next meal there. It's tomorrow morning, for breakfast, even though I just had breakfast at the East End cafe this morning and dinner there earlier this week.
2311 Canal St., Ste. 104
But the allure of Andes Cafe is simply too strong. Many diners familiar with its chef, David Guerrero, may simply imagine Andes Cafe to be a Peruvian restaurant with great ceviches. If you've never been before, you can be forgiven for thinking this—after all, Guerrero is known for his signature ceviches, lauded at previous restaurants like Samba Grille and Alma—but you'd be wrong. Andes Cafe specializes in much more than simply ceviches, and more than just Peruvian food.
Instead, the casual little cafe has cobbled together a menu of South and Central American favorites from a dozen different countries—all of them surprisingly inexpensive. Here you'll find Ecuadorian tamales filled with chicken, raisins, and olives, wrapped in banana leaves; Venezuelan tequeños, fried batons of queso palmita served with a zesty guacamole-like salsa; choripan from Argentina and lomiton from Chile; and, of course, ceviches—though most, like Guerrero, are Ecuadorean. And this is only the lunch and dinner menu.
At breakfast, which has become my favorite time to visit, you can take full advantage of the massive coffee and juice menu at Andes Cafe: perhaps a cortadito to give your morning some much-needed jet fuel or a cinnamon-laced cafe con leche to start things off a little easier. Not a caffeine fan? Try La Patagonia (fresh-squeezed orange juice blended with strawberries and honey) or my favorite, Los Galapagos (a blend of prickly pear, pineapple, orange juice, and honey).
As for the breakfast meal itself, I have a hard time choosing between the Cuban-influenced calentado con huevos that comes with two fried eggs served with a mixture of rice, black beans, and pork belly (ask for a side of hot sauce if you're brave); the vaguely French huevos con tomate that serves up baked eggs, garlic, tomatoes, and onions in a cast-iron skillet alongside a fresh-baked baguette and salted butter; or the unique Peruvian quinoa oatmeal. If you're looking for a healthy breakfast that doesn't taste healthy, the latter is your breakfast of champions.
In this dish, quinoa—high in protein, low on the glycemic index—and steel-cut oats have been cooked down in organic soy milk, then topped with chancaca (raw, unrefined sugar that's been crystallized with honey), cinnamon, and blackberries to sweeten up the porridge. A good handful of pretty green pumpkin seeds (also high in protein, as well as iron and other minerals) are thrown in for added crunch. My waiter this morning, Gus, admitted that the quinoa oatmeal was his favorite dish on the menu, and I see why. It's simple but delicious, and sticks to your stomach well into lunchtime.
Breakfast is served from 7 to 11 a.m. every day, with an extended brunch taking place on Sundays. On Thursday evenings, Andes Cafe really puts on a show, hosting a tango night and putting parrillada on the menu for that one night only. The parrillada mixta comes with an array of Argetinean meats and housemade sausages, so much so you'll need to bring a few friends along to finish it all.
If it's solo dining you're after, though, Andes Cafe is a brilliant addition to the East End for this very reason: you can grab a cup of cafe and a quick bowl of oatmeal on your own in the morning, sitting at the coffee bar that overlooks the kitchen; you can have an intimate lunch over sandwiches de migas and glasses of royal purple-hued chicha morada; or you can enjoy a romantic meal at night and save even more money (Andes Cafe is already inexpensive as it is) by bringing your own bottle of wine to share. You can make Andes Cafe exactly what you want it to be.