Best of 2000: Best Bar For Mariachis

El Tenampa
1911 1st Street, Tijuana
next to Hotel Imperial

Where do mariachis go after they've played all day? To this bar, not far from their gathering point at Plaza Argüello (also known as Plaza Santa Cecilia). Let's be clear. This place is scuzzville. Not a pretty sight. In the big-hall gloom you make out eight pool tables, a far-off urinal that you don't want to get too close to, a few drunks holding up what must be the longest bar since, well, the Long Bar, and dozens of hatted gents standing around talking, playing pool, or tuning up their instruments. These are mostly strollers, not the smart, uniformed groups you see in the Zona Rio. They patronize El Tenampa because, first, they can store their instruments here while they play pool (or overnight). Second, a caguama (literally, sea turtle; figuratively, large bottle) of Tecate beer costs 15 pesos ($1.50). If you turn up and ask for a song, you'll have an embarrassment of riches and good prices. But don't push it. They come here to relax, which means to get away from ungrateful gringos. Other nefarious characters make it into the gloom too, so be careful. This is not Revolución.

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