If all of Buenos Aires’s 54 Notable Bars were summoned for a group photo, Esquina Homero Manzi would be the one smiling widely with pearly whites. It would also be bald, and have a furry creature masquerading as facial hair.
That’s because, firstly, Esquina Homero Manzi is a polished commercial operation. In 2000, everything minus the façade was torn down and built up again, but bigger, shinier, and branded. The cups, saucers, napkins, bar taps, and even the sugar cubes, are wrapped in the Homero Manzi logo. The spit-shined chupera, a keg-like canister used for cooling beer, has also been reproduced and smacked with the café’s trademark. (You fill it with ice, siphon a warm bottle of beer through and it comes out cold on the other side!)
And, secondly, the cafe is lined with works depicting its eponym, Homero Manzi, a tango lyricist and film director who frequented the café in his heyday. His bald head and goatee are caricaturized by artist Hermenegildo Sábat, an illustrator for the newspaper Clarín. Manzi grew up in the neighborhood of Boedo, where the café is located, and it was here, the legend goes, that he wrote the words to his famous tango ‘Sur’.
According to newspaper reports in La Nación and Clarín, the café was once a greyer place, perhaps more closely resembling the rest of its notable brethren. It was also smaller, occupying only the corner of Boedo and San Juan. After closing in 1999 because of financial troubles, the café received a glittery makeover and expansion.
According to Martín, the manager on duty, part of the café’s newfound bigness made room for nightly tango shows.
“The café functions normally until 8pm. But in the evening, the window curtains go down and the café turns into a tango theater, featuring a quintet, three pairs of dancers, and two singers,” he said. The prices for dinner and show range from $185 to $420 for VIP seats in the private balcony. They also offer nightly tango lessons from 6-9pm.
Otherwise, the food offerings are ample. There are two menus: one for before 8pm and one for after. There’s fish, salads, pastas, parrilla, and specific menus for show-goers. The souvenirs on page three are not for eating, of course, but might be good for gifting. (My kid went to Argentina and all I got was this accordion mounted on a block of wood!)
And in addition to a full cocktail menu, the café has its own drink, appropriately made with sherry, licor amarillo, and champagne. If by some chance you have too many of them and forget who or where you are, make sure to check out your reflection in the shimmering branded bar taps. Because if you look anywhere else, you might wonder why Homero Manzi’s face is being attacked by a small rodent.