Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Toasting the Ghost of Pancho Villa!

No stop in Ensenada, Mexico is complete without a visit to Hussong’s Cantina.  It matters little whether you arrive in the city by car, bus or boat; it seems all roads will eventually lead you to this historic establishment.   Opened first in 1892, many a celebrity has walked through the doorway. Although maybe none more well known in Baja than the infamous Pancho Villa.  It is said that Hussong's was a frequent hangout for the outlaw when he was in the parts.  It was common that he and his banditos would appear seemingly out of nowhere to stop in for a night of drinking and all around merriment.  His drink of choice of course was none other than a glass of tequila with a cerveza chaser. 
Today the bar remains much the same as when it opened.  Save the much needed modern day accommodated restrooms out the rear of the bar.  (When I first visited Hussong’s 30 years ago, the male facilities were little more than a trough.)   The doors are left wide open during the day but the interior is blocked by a wooden partition.  A doorman checks ID’s as the age limit requirement of 18 is tightly enforced.  Once inside the door the décor is circa 1892.   The wooden frame building consists of one rectangular great room.  A long wooden bar runs the length of the tavern on one side, while the rest of the area is filled with tables and chairs.  Almost every inch of space on the walls is adorned with pictures or caricatures of past patrons.  Two long mirrors decorate the wall behind the serving area.  It’s easy to imagine the reflective glass being shattered by a stray beer bottle being thrown during a past melee.
Gone are the days of the Mexican bad man clientele, having been replaced by reveling tourists and cruise ship passengers on a port of call.   To accommodate the vacationing crowd countless peddlers work the room, selling everything from flowers to cheap trinkets and jewelry.   No Mexican cantina is complete without a mariachi band, and Hussong’s does not disappoint.  For a small tip, their trio will strike up your favorite South of the Border tune.  

Keeping to its heritage, Hussong’s serves only Mexican beers.  Hard liquor and mixed drinks are also available.  For being such a tourist Mecca, drinks are very reasonable.   A bottle of beer costs $2.50 U.S. and margaritas are just slightly higher.  There isn’t a kitchen, and absolutely no food is available for purchase.  In what I see as an oversight in today’s environment of microbrews, the establishment does not have its own brand of cerveza.  Instead the cantina clings to its origins, protecting its history either out of pride or respect to the ghosts of customers past.    

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