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Written by Puff Staff

Tuesday, 08 April 2003

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Our roving reporter, Rob Shibata again proves his innate ability to find a good time, and make long lasting friends.

If you visit Mexico City and want a little taste of Cuba, then there is a restaurant and bar that you’ll want to try:  La Bodeguita del Medio.  The literal translation is “the little warehouse downtown”, but Latinos take it as “a shopping place downtown”.  I visited the restaurant with some business friends after a full dinner in downtown Mexico City.  My hosts knew that I was looking for a La Casa del Habanos store to buy some isoms.  Since we had eaten late (normal for Mexico) all the stores had closed.  Still wanting a cigar, one of my hosts suggested a little place where his son and friends hang out, La Bodeguita del Medio.

The restaurant is located in a quiet neighborhood in central Mexico City housed in what may have once been a house.  Once inside the front door, you can see the entire restaurant, which consists of a long room with high ceilings and fans.  On one wall, a bar runs the length of the room.  Assorted sizes of tables line the area directly in front of the bar.  A large Cuban flag behind the bar announces the restaurant’s origins to all who enter.  Beyond the bar and tables a walk-in closet sized humidor with a glass wall faces out into the restaurant.

Opposite the bar area, three dining rooms sit on a mezzanine level opening towards the restaurant.  Each room has several simple wooden tables with ceiling fans.  The walls of each room are, literally, covered with the autographs and photos of patrons past.  Even the ceiling boasted the signatures of those with nerve enough to climb a fifteen foot ladder.  Entertainment was provided by not one, but two trios of Cuban singers.  The trios moved amongst the guests, stopping at each table to sing three or four songs requested by the diners. 

Since the bar area was full, my friends went about selecting a table in one of the rooms.  I headed straight for the humidor.  I had heard many warnings about buying Cuban cigars in Mexico from anywhere other than an official Habanos store. 

Once in the humidor, I inspected the cigars and boxes carefully looking for any tell tales signs of counterfeits.  Date and factory codes matched, seals and bands looked ok.  The cigars had that sweet aroma of Havana tobacco.  Almost everything was from 2002, which I had not tried up to that point.  As I was checking my fourth or fifth box, a nicely dressed man entered the humidor and spoke to me in Spanish.  Shrugging my shoulders, he quickly returned with another person who asked if he could help me in broken English.

 

I asked for some price conversions and if there was any discount for box purchases.  The cigars ranged from $9 to $23 USD and there were no discounts.  I asked where they got their cigars.  “Habanos SA” the young man replied with a straight face. 

Against my better judgment, I selected 5 Cohiba robustos for us to smoke while sipping our mojitos.  (I haven’t had the best luck with Cohibas in the past.)  The Cohibas were perfectly shaped with a beautiful, smooth wrapper.  They felt a little soft and were only 4 months old from MAR 02 production.  The pre-light draw was pretty good easing my fears somewhat.  The pre-light aroma and taste had that earthy, Cuban tobacco flavor. 

As I lit up, power and full bodied taste were apparent from the first few draws.  The robusto was young with heavy coffee and earthy flavors which came close to being harsh, but never did.  By the one third mark, I wasn’t sure I could finish the cigar.  I told my Mexican compadres how strong I thought the cigars were.  They all laughed at me and said how good the cigars tasted, then ordered another round of mojitos.  I couldn’t imagine if I had smoked this cigar on an empty stomach. 

I did eventually, and very slowly, finish the robusto as we talked late into the night.  We all smoked our cigars past the band.  They asked me to select a smoke that would be a “small commitment” to finish off the evening.  What could I select that would taste like anything after those Cohiba howitzers.  I found a box of Cuaba divinos, a tasty, lesser known little perfecto and one of my personal favorites.  Perhaps interested more in the shape and size than the merits of the cigar, my hosts lit them up a seemed pleased. 

We enjoyed the music of both trios of serenading Cuban singers.  The music was infectious and rhythmic with smooth with the 2 part Latin harmonies.  My hosts showed no hesitation and joined in with the musicians, singing at the top of their lungs.  As I looked around the restaurant, no one even looked up to see my friends belting out a rendition of “La Guantanamera”.  Interestingly, the Mexicans find the sound of Cuban music quite distinctive from Mexican or other Latin music.  I couldn’t recognize the differences but did appreciate the music itself.  We finished our evening with many small conversations, too many mojitos to count and our robust Havana cigars. 

There are several features that make La Bodeguita del Medio unique and entertaining for the casual diner or tourist.  First there is the food.  You get your choice of authentic Cuban cuisine as well as some Cuban/Mexican infusion cooking.  Secondly, the bar offers a full array of Rum drinks with authentic isom rum.  And if you are into cigars, they have a well stocked walk in humidor with a nice selection of authentic Havanas.  You won’t have to worry about counterfeits here. 

If you are in Mexico City, like Havana cigars and Cuban music, then the La Bodeguita del Medio is a must.




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