By Kat Bein
By Shea Serrano
By S. Pajot
By Terrence McCoy
By Falyn Freyman
By Shea Serrano
By Jacob Katel
By Michael E. Miller
"Oh my God!" gawked a gringa tourist. "I've never used a red toilet seat before!" At least no one here would sell her toilet paper by the square as they do in fancy hotel restrooms on the island. She would have been more amused if she could have read the Spanish-language signs in each stall: "I'm glad you're here and I fully appreciate your friendship, but please don't throw the toilet paper in the toilet or any other evidence that would mar your gender or your reputation."
In the end, those rustic details only add to the charm and authenticity of the bar, making it sophisticated and inviting at the same time. Spicy music and cool mojitos will certainly bring in crowds for special evenings out, but Pepe shares Paco's Cheers-like philosophy in at least one thing: People want to go where the owner knows their name. That's why he tries to be there every night, and when he can't, he's got Cousin Yamile kissing the cheek of every patron who walks through the door.
"A place like this really requires the presence of the owner. It's like a home. If you're not there, people don't feel as comfortable," said Machín.
One Cuban music promoter, who requested not to be named, shook his head and rolled his eyes with a mixture of amusement and disgust when he was asked about Café Nostalgia's sense of home.
"Pepe and Yamile tell me I should stop by at least once a month and I do, but I always tell them I didn't leave Cuba to be surrounded by more local gossip. It's just like Cuba," he concluded, just before returning to discussing the latest rumors of the local Latin music scene.
It's going to be hard for Paco's fans to be as comfortable as they were lounging around the scrappy old tavern. But with a few wardrobe adjustments and repertoire changes, they still have a locally inspired concert venue for performing and catching up with colleagues. Okay, muchachos, tuck in your shirts and quit slouching!