Los Andes in Minneapolis

The following review is one of five posted as the ninth installment of our Lyndale Avenue Checklist project, along with reviews of Lago Tacos, Volstead’s Emporium, Iconos Gastro Cantina, and Galactic Pizza. To get the entire Lyndale Avenue Checklist and hundreds of other stories a year, back the Heavy Table on Patreon.

The main dining area of Los Andes in Minneapolis is dominated by a mural on a brick wall that stretches from the front of the room to the back. Like the Andean Condor depicted at its center, the mural is impossible to ignore. With the Andes mountain range as a backdrop, this painting, along with other striking artworks adorning the other walls, celebrates the culture, folklore, and mythology of the region. 

All of this should give you some indication of the level of dedication Los Andes has to honoring its roots. There are as many nods to Andean culture here as there are items on the expansive menu—which seems to traverse every country the Andes mountains touch.

The space feels open and a bit sparse with its stock restaurant-issue furnishings and high ceilings. And the echoey brick walls, tile floors, and formica tabletops suck a little of the coziness and warmth out of the room. But there’s still plenty of personality here. 

Telltale disco lights and an impressive looking sound board gave us the impression the place might turn into a dance party at some point later in the night. It would certainly be easy enough to slide tables to the side and create a large dance floor here. As if to verify our suspicion, we even caught our server doing a little hip-shaking in the back of the room. Perhaps it was his natural reflex to the endless stream of latin rhythms playing over the sound system. Or maybe he was warming up for a big night. – M.C. Cronin

Every blessed once in a while, we go to a restaurant, start tasting the food, and have an instant and powerful revelation that there is someone in the kitchen who really and truly cares deeply about the food. Someone with a palate who is tasting everything, looking over the plates, and fussily insisting on doing things the right way, speed and expense be damned. Los Andes is one of those places – there wasn’t a dish out of place, and a few of the tastes we experienced were as good as anything we’ve had anywhere, anytime.

We would cheerfully challenge any of our readers to find a better ceviche in Minnesota than the Ceviche Peruana ($19) at Los Andes. With a ferociously lovely citric kick, fish that held its shape beautifully while being delicate to eat, and just the right cut and proportion of onions, this is a ceviche we could eat a shovel-full of and still crave the next day. This dish is a tour de force.

We’ve had a lot of Bandeja Paisa meals in our days of trekking up and down Central Avenue, University Avenue, and East Lake Street, and they’re usually … fine. The pork cracklin’ is generally tough and unpleasant, the steak forgettable, the beans and rice adequate, the fried plantain bland, the sausage tough but tasty. The Los Andes version ($22)? Whole ‘nother story. The pork cracklin’ was shockingly good – evenly rendered, not overseasoned, beautifully crunchy. The steak, evidently citrus-marinated, was pounded flat and beautifully tender, with just a kiss of lemon in each bite. The sausage was delightfully bright and delicate in flavor, the maduro (fried plantain) was tender and sweet, and the fried egg floated on a substantial but elegant arepa. Two people could dine and be thoroughly fed by this palace of protein.

And our group collectively wasn’t sure if it had ever tried a better Pisco Sour ($12) than the one at Los Andes, and one of us has had them in Peru. The citrus kick was delicate but resolute, the egg whites were perfectly foamy and in proportion to the liquid part of the cocktail, and the whole thing looked like an Andean dream. 

Our appetizers didn’t hit the heights of our mains and drink, but that’s not really a knock – they were all good or better. The Mote Pillo ($8), hominy with scrambled eggs and scallions, was blandly comforting and a perfect vehicle for the many sauces (ají de tomate de árbol, chimichurri, insanely hot pepper salad) floating around the table.

The Empanadas Mixto ($9) included one each of a cheese, beef, and chicken plantain empanada, and they were mild, mellow, savory, perfectly crispy, and delicious when sauced up and savored.

And the plantains with melted cheese (Maduros con Queso, $6.50) were cooked to sweet, tender perfection, and just completely enrobed in absurd amounts of lactose-rich, creamy, sweet-tasting mild cheese. 

We also dug our Tree Tomato Smoothie ($6.60), which was creamy and clean tasting with just a kiss of grassy plus peach-like flavor at the end of each sip. 

Every once in a while, we hit the jackpot in our staggering random walks down local avenues, and Los Andes was a big one. — James Norton

Los Andes, 607 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, 612.825.1700