Best Neighborhood Bar/Central

La Reina Cafeteria

They say Calle Ocho is coming back. If they spent a Saturday night at La Reina, they'd see Calle Ocho has stayed pretty much where it's been for the past 40 years, right here in funky Little Havana, the first stop on many immigrants' road to the American dream. They drift in as the night progresses: the Honduran brothers looking to down a few beers (signs all over warn in Spanish: NO BEER SERVED WITHOUT FOOD, an accommodation to a past police crackdown on bars masquerading as cafeterias -- sort of like this one), dance with a waitress, and maybe find a chica to make them forget the ones they left behind in San Pedro Sula. The ancient Cuban man in a jacket and fedora who'll spend the night guaracheando like he's back in Pinar del Río, Latin classics blaring from the jukebox. The mysterious white-haired man, who sips beer and coffee while musing to himself in a Slavic language, as though attempting to maintain proficiency in the midst of so many Latin tongues. A young couple with babies, two or three women with young children. Nothing so far to get the Honduran brothers' hopes up. But the night is young. Long past midnight everyone's dancing under the fluorescent lights. Even though the customers will straggle out when 2:00 a.m. rolls around, many will be back first thing in the morning, lounging around a sidewalk table and watching the American dream unfold before them in all its mixed-up, faded glory.

 
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