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Thursday, October 13, 2011
Chelas and Chabelitas in Mexico's Beer Republic-Mexicali: Kilos and Beer, El Merendero, La Conga, El Sume
To say that Cachanillas(people from Mexicali) like to drink beer is to say that pirates like to sail the seven seas. The happy go lucky residents of Mexicali are the per capita beer drinking champions of Mexico. Perhaps it's the hot weather that prods the locals to such feats of mass consumption? Think Beldar and Pryatt Conehead dispensing with some mass quantity beer guzzling after a long flight from France!
When Cachanillas aren't drinking beer(referred to as chelas in Mexican slang), they're drinking chabelas, or chabelitas. Chabelas are micheladas(beer cocktails) with Clamato(Clamato was invented in Mexicali). During a recent weekend visit to Mexicali I too stayed cool with ice cold chelas(beers), mostly from local brands Cucapa and Mexicali, and lots of chabelas.
Kilos and Beer is a good place to start if you like live music. Like many places in Mexico that feature American music--expect the soundtrack of your youth. Here the band threw down some Aha! and INXS while the mostly 30-something crowd sang along and downed beers by the bucket:literally.
Chabela at Kilos and Beer
Kilos and Beer is a fun place to see cachanillas in full effect. There's solid bar food, too. And of course, there are chabelitas.
If you're up for some local nostalgia, there's El Merendero Manuet, a car hop that feels a little like the 50's, but Mexico style.
El Merendero has been a Mexicali tradition since 1949, located in the oldest neighborhood in the city. The cafeteria-like interior is rather sedate, so grab a chabela and head out to the parking lot for the action. It's Bob's Big Boy with beer and cowboy hats!
When it comes to chabelas, you can't leave Mexicali without stopping by Bar La Conga, located in the tourist zone. This is as old school Mexicali as it gets. It's a classic watering hole, where locals have gone to drink away the hours and escape the oppressive heat for the last half-century.
Ranchera bands wander in for a few tunes, and the jukebox keeps us entertained while they're roaming the redlight district grinding that accordion for some loose change.
Tecate is served on tap, which tastes so much better than in the bottle or can. It seems like it's not even that same beer we always have to squeeze some lime and drop in a dash of salt before it's even passable.
Even better? Partake in one of La Conga's legendary chabelitas with Tecate on draft. Here it's served in the classic chabelita glass with beer, Clamato juice, salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and a little spice.
During the day it's a place to converse and ponder the night; in the evening it becomes part of the turbulent throws of bars, roving bands, touts,speakers blasting 50 Cent, and strip clubs.
Regardless of the hour, it's chabela's all around.
Mexicali even has a little something for the beer aficionados who might scoff at chabelas and the Tecates, Dos Equis route.
El Sume Mexicali, Cervezas del Mundo, or beers of the world, has a substantial selection of international beers and Mexican craft beers.
It is a nice place to hang out, and as the evening approached the place began to fill up with beer geeks, local office workers, and businessmen. The natives indulge in beers from the US and Europe, but for you it's a chance to check out some of Mexico's small production beers.
Cucapa, Mexicali's own craft beer hero that has crossed border is available on tap. The full line of Cuacapa is served here--including 4 not found in the US--as well as other Mexican beers like Las Minas from Ensenada, and 3B.
El Sume even has the first beer float I've seen in Mexico. Nothing daring, just a Young's Double Chocolate Stout with vanilla ice cream: simply delicious.
Wherever you go for a cold beer,or a chabela in Mexicali, you will discover the laid back spirit of the Mexicali people. Another beer anyone? Do you even need to ask?
Where to go for beers and chabelas in Mexicali:
Bar La Conga
Av. de la Reforma,#603
El Merendero Manuet
Av. Pino Suarez S N-Colonia Nueva
Bl. Justo Sierra, #845
Kilos and Beer
Bl. Juarez, #1799