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La Bodega - Bar de Don Juanito - Review

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Thursday, March 4, 2010


With my boredom levels at a peak and my need to escape the shackles of my computer chair, I headed out on a photographic expedition through the city of Lima.  While walking aimlessly through the main different districts that make up this wonderful cosmopolitan city, I found myself wandering the old rustic and bohemian streets of Barranco.

As the sun slowly set over the Pacific thus bringing an end to my rather uneventful weekend the cries of an unfed and unappreciated stomach yearned for nourishment.  Rising to the call of duty I packed up the Nikon and headed out in search of something new and unique to satisfy the monster within.  Along my walk near the famous Puente de Suspiros I came across a common street vendor who was hard at work cooking up his next batch of sweet caramelized popcorn.  I figured a little snack on my quest for sustenance wouldn't hurt so I ponied up S/. 1.00 for the delicious bag of golden goodness.  Snack in hand I continued towards my goal where I finally reached the municipal square (plaza) located in the most popular and bohemian area of Barranco.  There in the plaza was Barranco's all to popular street fair, where several cooks sell some the countries most prized and recognized dishes to hungry tourists and Peruvians alike.  Seeing this I was tempted to settle in with the crowd but having already eaten here before I continued forward until I came across this quaint little bar with walls stocked full of various liquors, wines, and beers....pure aesthetic heaven....(tear).




Walking in I knew I had reached my destination.  The bar called La Bodega - Bar de Don Juanito, I learned is a famous bar in Lima and for several years has been the melting pot and local watering hole of both Limeños and Barranquinos.


 

Upon entering the rustic bar I am warmly greeted by Don Cesar, one of the sons of Don Juanito who instantly read my mind when he caught me eyeballing the bountiful display of meat and cheese.  Right away I asked about the two giant legs of pork that glistened in their glowing glass display.  Don Cesar quickly sliced a piece of the infamous Jamón de País (country ham) and handed it to me where I was introduced to its wonderful, light and salty taste which instantly brought back memories of Christmas honey ham.  The next was a smoked pork called Jamón del Norte (northern ham), this meat I was told has been Don Juanito's secret recipe for years.  The smoked flavor of the pork with its strong and robust scent was truly delightful and a real treat for any avid carnivore aficionado.  Unable to decide I ordered two sandwiches or Sánguches of both, each was served on warm french bread rolls (pan frances), with Andean Cheese (extra), and salsa criolla (red onion, rocotó, cilantro, and lime juice).  To accompany my monstrous sánguches I ordered a small ice cold Coca Cola served in its vintage glass bottle, which is something that is difficult to find back in the States.  Together they made the perfect combination!

As I sat there and indulged my inner cravings I watched the people pass through the old plaza of Barranco as the remaining golden rays of sunshine painted the sky of orange, pink, purple, and dark blue, all accompanied by a gentle afternoon breeze.  I was experiencing a tranquility seldom achieved in today's busy world, a true moment of relaxation had been bestowed upon me and for the first time in many weeks all my worries put aside and I was able to enjoy one of life's amazing little moments.  Getting back the bar, while sitting at a wooden table I was surrounded by large wall mounted shelves stocked to their fullest with the finest in adult beverages.  The decor of an aging and preserved historical establishment that has survived the test of time and continues to defy modern progression as it carries out it's tradition.  The bodega (shop) and bar which was established in 1937, started off as a common hardware store which was originally owned and operated by an Italian immigrant was later converted into a bodega and then acquired by Don Juanito (who originally worked there as a waiter) for the price of only S/. 9,000, which in today's market converts to roughly $3,000, give or take.  This historic establishment grew in popularity as it soon became the place for many famous and notable celebrities like La Chabuca Grande, Oscar de Leon, President Alan Garcia, Joaquín Sabina, and many more.  Today it continues to be a popular spot for gathering by Limeños.

What has always seperated Don Juanito from other bars in the city was it's friendly atmosphere.  The bar has long established itself as a place for friends to gather and enjoy a light meal or a round of drinks.  Here any newcomer can feel welcome as they enter the bar and is part of why so many have flocked from all over the city.  Don Juanito is not like other bars in Barranco where people go to get wasted on alcohol, instead it is sought after for it's friendly conversational environment (think what Starbucks has always tried to advertise themselves as).  It's also viewed as a great place to meet a diverse background of locales from all over the city as well as foreigners from all around the world.  During the day the establishment has a calm atmosphere, while at night Don Juanito can be found packed with hungry and thirsty patrons all crammed within the little bars walls.  It's a place where lively conversations and laughter are always available and waiting for those who choose to enter within.


As I bring this article to a close I just want to say that the short time I spent there, along side the wonderful and delicious food was more than enough to make me want to return to relive that initial memory.  I highly recommend La Bodega - Bar de Don Juanito.  The price is highly affordable in comparison with to it's neighboring counterparts, and the service is top notch, with a smile!  That is why I give it a posthumous 5 out of 5!

** Sadly, on January 1st of this year, just 35 minutes after midnight, Don Juanito (97) passed away when he suffered from cardiac arrest.  He is remembered by his sons, who currently run La Bodega - Bar.  

For those interested here is the directions:
Avenida Grau 274, Barranco
Located across from the Plaza de Barranco or Parque Central de Barranco

4 comments

  1. Kelly Says:
  2. What a great review - I think my mom and I will be heading there soon. Your pictures are gorgeous.

     
  3. Hey Kelly,

    Thanks for the comment, yeah it's a great place I highly recommend it a must visit location.

    Thanks again for the kind words!

     
  4. Cristina Says:
  5. I like the yellow walls

     
  6. Hi Cristina,

    You wouldn't happen to be my cousin would you? If not don't worry about.

    I love how people in Peru use all kinds of bright colors to paint their homes and buildings

     

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