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Lunch, Anyone? Andre’s Café

Fresh food, served fast

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Almost everything about Andre’s Café is unassuming, from the simple maroon awnings outside to the inexpensive white tables pushed together next to the refrigerator case stocked with soda and water to the big white menu board that hangs above a pair of cash registers.

What makes this popular family-run café special is what happens behind the counter and in the kitchen. The friendly and attentive customer service and the delicious and unpretentious food explain the repeat customers who come every day for lunch.

As soon as we entered, we were greeted by the aroma of deep-fried onion rings. We were eager to order as we watched sandwiches and burgers being pulled off of the grill.

The menu on the big board included plenty of lunch staples, including both cold and hot subs, wraps, burgers, wings, and salads—all at incredibly reasonable prices. But Andre’s stands out from other such places because of the twist that it gives many of these stalwarts. The menu has a decidedly Mediterranean bent. So you’ll find sides like spinach pie ($4.85) and entrées like the chicken shawarma or beef shawarma platter ($9.95 and $10.95, respectively), served with hummus, tabouleh, garden salad, turnip pickles, tahini sauce, and pita bread, and wraps like the Greek Chicken, featuring chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, feta cheese, and Greek dressing ($7). Quality is not sacrificed for cost at Andre’s: everything here is made from scratch daily.

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The Daniel Hwang Burger, served with bacon, provolone cheese, barbecue sauce, and a side of crispy onion rings.

Having heard of Andre’s legendary burgers, we knew we had to experience the handmade half-pound monsters. We settled on the Daniel Hwang Burger ($7.10), which arrived loaded with crispy bacon and onion rings, melted provolone, smothered with barbecue sauce, and topped with crisp lettuce. This is definitely a two-handed burger, and napkins are a necessity, as the smoky barbecue sauce soaked through the bottom of the bun. The beef was flavorful and cooked just as we’d ordered. We splurged on a side order of sweet potato fries (3.75), which weren’t too crunchy, but retained their natural sweet flavor.

Having been hypnotized by the onion rings since we walked in the door, we had to give them a try as well. It was the best decision we made. The onions ($3.50) were cooked in a light batter that was crispy without being greasy, and the onions were caramelized perfectly so that they retained their snap. As one member of our party put it, “If I was to eat any two things in a meal before I died, they would be lobster and those onion rings.”

We also sampled the falafel plate ($8.75). Served with a fresh garden salad topped with pickled turnip, tabouleh, hummus, and tahini sauce, the falafel had a secret ingredient that imparted a unique seasoning. The dish was nicely balanced by the crisp greens and turnip. The humus and tahini were relatively mild, allowing the falafel to take center stage.

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Andre’s falafel plate is served with a fresh garden salad and topped with pickled turnip, tabouleh, hummus, and tahini sauce.

For those with a sweet tooth, Andre’s Café offers “Guilt-Free” frozen yogurt ($3.65) in both chocolate and vanilla, with a plethora of fruit and candy toppings ($.60 each).

The line to get into the café can be sizable during peak lunch hours, but don’t be put off. Andre’s offers speedy service, and as we discovered, many of the people in line are simply there for takeout. With its quick service, fresh ingredients, and thoughtful preparation, it’s easy to see why this has become a favorite lunch spot for students, faculty, and employees of BU’s Medical Campus. We certainly plan to return.

Andre’s Café, 811 Harrison Ave., in Boston’s South End, is open Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant takes all major credit cards ($5 minimum). By public transportation, take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Hynes Convention Center, transfer to the number one bus toward Dudley Station via Mass. Ave., and get off at Harrison Avenue.

This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston lunch spots of interest to the BU community. If you have a suggestion for places we should feature, leave them in the comments section below. Check out our list of lunchtime tips on Foursquare.

Frank Brogie can be reached at brogief@bu.edu.

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