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A new Chilean place not to miss


A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Or would it? To test the veracity of this statement, there exists a bar on Irarrazaval, just off Plaza Nunoa, that has no name, no sign out front stating what is inside. Nothing. As if to confirm its non-identity, the locale is commonly known in Spanish as El Bar Sin Nombre ("The Bar With No Name"). The lack of a name, however, does not at all reflect a lack of personality.

It's housed in what was once an old, rather narrow, two-story, mustard-colored, Tudor-style house. The metallic front door, a bit hard on the wrist, opens to a very laid-back ambiance and very, very loud music.

There is a bar just to the left as you enter. Down the center of the first floor is a tall, wooden picnic table which seats a good twenty people. Nearby, there is a row of modern metal and wooden stools with rotating back supports that ask to be leaned on. There are also several four-person high tables with barstools.

Lining the right-hand wall, there is a wooden bench out of which, every-once-in-a-while, protrude some small tables (like the desks we all had to sit at in high school) on which you can rest a plate of food, a drink, or an arm. The lighting is quite unique: a series of lamp shades shaped like hanging cones made of brown paper lend a soft glow to the darkish interior.

The wooden tables upstairs - eight or so - are similar to 19th century school desks and can seat four. The decoration of these is similar to the first floor and the lighting system is repeated.

The waitresses are tall, long-haired, skinny, bare-bellied, tattooed all over and use blue lipstick which matches their eye shadow and the little stars stuck to their cheeks. They also speak English. You will not see better looking ones even at the USA online casinos. The music consists mainly of Depeche Mode, Garbage, and other similar bands. On the night I visited, the clientele were primarily young men (gee, I wonder why), but as the night progressed, more women showed up.

Now, what you´ve been waiting for: domestic beers cost $2.50 and foreign beers $3. Pisco sours and caipirinhas are available, along with soft drinks and juices, and flavored coffee laced with Kahlua, Amaretto and other liqueurs. The only sore point is that the cup of flavored coffee is quite small for the $2 it costs. You must order food with your beverages since, as the waitress will tell you, the bar is registered as a restaurant. We ordered one tabla Ñ sliced apples, ham, cheese, pumpernikel bread, sautéed mushrooms and a white garlic sauce on a wooden dish ($7.50), which tasted yummy and fresh. There are also other dishes available, ranging from $1.25 to over $10.

Should you find this a bit weird (or too noisy), try Café de la Isla ("Island Cafe"), right across the street. This place serves Cuban cuisine and other vegetarian, fare. Local beers here cost $3 and foreign beers go for about $3.50. Their vitamin juices run at $3 and they have a fairly good café helado (ice cream coffee) for $4.

The decor is much brighter at Café de la Isla, more tropical vs. the industrial feel of the place that doesn´t have a name. In an inspired attempt to live up to its name, the Café's lamps are made of seashells and the walls are painted in soft blues, browns and white to imitate a beachfront scene. From the outside, it looks like a small restaurant, but there is a back-room and a patio with several tables in the backyard. All the waiters are very friendly (and with bald pates, for some reason) and the music is mostly as Cuban as the cuisine - Silvio Rodr’guez .

Café de la Isla offers salads (in the $5-$8 range), tofu dishes (a little over $5) and typical Cuban food (around $7). If you choose to try the Cuban delicacies, you should also order one of the two brands of Cuban beer sold at the restaurant. But if you are interested in just munching, you could order a plate of cheeses which includes brie, camembert, gruyere and others for $12. For dessert, there are ice creams and yogurt cakes as well as different types of coffees. I must add that the vegetables used in their foods are purchased from organic producers.

One word of warning: the night we went to the Cafe de la Isla, the waiters had confused the old menus with the new ones and of course, the prices had changed. Be sure that your menus say that local beers cost $3 or you might have the wrong menu with the wrong prices. Besides that, it is very much worth going there.

Both of these nifty joints are right by Plaza Nunoa. El Bar Sin Nombre is at Irarrazaval 3442, next to "Automoviles Piamonte", and Cafe de la Isla is right across the street at Irarrazaval 3465. Try one, try the other, or try both. You can't go wrong.