While guidebooks and fluff websites expound Bogotá’s growth, cosmopolitan atmosphere and the city’s now ample variety of international restaurants, bistros, bars and cafes, it is time to remember and applaud the glory of the unpretentious Bogotá eatery.
Acting on a tip from a friend reminding me of the Asadero 5001, I was drawn to revisit this lunchroom for the first time after an absence of nearly 9 months. My first experience of the meat, potatoes and arepa platter was way back in 2007 having just returned to Bogotá on the overnight bus from El Banco having spent Semana Santa in Mompos. I was woozy from the altitude, suffering from a lack of sleep from the journey and with a head full of ideas about purchasing a house in the town. Who could have known that by 2015 I would have restored three houses in Mompos and have another one on the go?
But, back to the Asadero 5001.
Located kitty corner over from the Marly Hospital, the asadero is unassuming in its sunken location on the Carrera 13, its banner nondescript from those along the same stretch, a building formed from the same 1950’s brickwork so beloved of Bogotá that could make it anywhere and nowhere in the city, but yet, due to the almost continual line out front, the Asadero 5001 draws almost continual looks from passers-by. And for good reason.
You cannot possibly refer to this place as a restaurant, cutlery is tossed down before you, a water resistant napkin provided if you are lucky, fancy a glass for your soda, a clear plastic cup will be bounced over. Our unpretentious eatery of note consists of three tables and a lengthy formica bar where patrons are eased in, knocking elbows to eat from oval plastic platters so worn that the green and blue floral designs are barely visible.
No menus are required as the patrons here know what they are ordering before they sit down. My choice is the slab of beef which I’ll douse in the piquante sauce and chimichurri. To receive this you need only say: “carne”. The other favourite appears to be the “Pedro Chavez”, which is more or less the same but you receive a small portion of beans, rice and some chicharron as accompaniments.
I love this place for the unpretentious dining, that there’s not a hipster in sight, no cries of “huevon” or “marica” or any personalities from Nicolas Gaviria‘s finishing school. No, here there is not a soul present who could tell you the meaning of: “venti skinny mocha latte.” Neither will you find ironic food such as a tofu burger with a dusting of bacon on top. There is not a cupcake anywhere to be seen. You are shoulder to shoulder, and often closer, with a hard-working bunch who want what they pay for, filling and flavoursome meat and potatoes. An elbow in the back when someone passes by is de rigueur as there’s no corridor space.
As I lie here digesting my solid meal of but an hour ago, I find myself reflecting, perhaps I should have brought AA Gill here just for the experience.