The Global Barfly’s Companion #17 by Susana Gonzales
Location: San Jerónimo 98, X5000AGB Córdoba, Argentina
Córdoba, a 432 years old Argentine city, can be defined as a college town among other things.
And Nueva Córdoba is a notorious neighborhood with apartment buildings crowded with college students who walk a few blocks to and from National University campus, or Ciudad Universitaria, as it is known locally. Yrigoyen, Chacabuco, Rondeau are some important streets in Nueva Córdoba. Rondeau is an especially narrow street. Trendy bars that open late in the evening are on Rondeau, the street of bars for college students, junior professionals businessmen or simply, for young people.
But Córdoba´s DNA rests somewhere else too.
A few blocks down from Nueva Córdoba is downtown. As in colonial towns in Latin America, important buildings stand around the main square; here, it’s San Martín square: the cathedral, the former cabildo (colonial municipal administrative and government unit, now a museum and cultural center), banks, coffee shops.
And Sorocabana. Right on the corner of Buenos Aires and San Jerónimo streets, across the local bank and the square.
A huge sign on its sidewalk roof reads “café and confitería”, a coffee place. Sorocaba is much more than that; it is a bar too. In fact, people in their 80s would simply say Sorocabana is a bar.
In Spanish, at least in our local variety, a bar can also be defined as a mixture of a coffee place and a bar. That is what Sorocabana stands for. A place where anyone can sit down at a table for a cup of coffee, on tall chairs for a drink, or even on the sidewalk, under umbrellas to share a Quilmes, beer, or whisky with friends.
The array of the counter and the décor has changed over the years. Now, wooden panels on the counter and walls create a modern, clean and warm atmosphere. Croissants on a large tray sit by the taps for draft Quilmes beer, and pastries rest on a lazy Susan below an assortment of glasses for all kinds of beverages. At the back, on the shelves, bottles, tall and small, announce the blend of a café and a bar. The work area behind the counter has plenty of light that extends its intensity all over the central tables and becomes softer near the side counter, by a midsize mirror, still allowing customers to enjoy a cozy feel.
Dark tables and chairs still dominate the area by the glass walls that stand as borders separating customers focused on their conversations from the bustle of the city. Plenty of small pictures from old times framed in dark wood hanging on white pillars provide hints of a narrative. They build the history of this bar just as tables do with large papers under glass that tell short and meaningful events in the lives of regular customers that new patrons tend to read. It´s the ID of Sorocabana.
Regulars praise croissants as the best in town (and they truly are) and they can choose from bay biscuits, alfajores or other pastries and desserts to have with coffee, tea or the like. Breakfast options in all possible varieties range from coffee with croassants or criollos, jam and butter and O.J to a light version with toasts and cream cheese.
Often coffee places are tied to pictures of people reading and Sorocabana is a coffee place too. There is selection of local and national newspapers available to anyone who wants to skim through a paper, read it from beginning to end, and sip a small coffee or have a snack with a glass of beer.
It´s not unusual to see those who spend a long time gazing ay the paper, usually senior citizens, later engage in chats and jokes about soccer, politics, economy or the weather.
Have you ever heard of a coffee place that never closes? Probably, but here, in Córdoba this is, to my knowledge, the only place with such availability. Its patrons include bank employees, businessmen, families, poets, writers, musicians, singers, ordinary people…even a lady having a glass of beer while reading a book at four in the afternoon on a warm winter day. Who knows what she was thinking about while staring towards the square from her comfortable seat on the sidewalk?
Drinks, champagne, fine wines, liquors and batidos –sort of cocktails- are options alongside coffee and beer.
The list of drinks include different types of beer (Quilmes being the most popular), champagnes, Chandon, whiskeys, Old Smuggler, fine wines and other alcoholic drinks: vermouth, campari, fernet, the most popular beverage among local residents, piña colada, vodka, rum and even those that characterize famous choices from older days: caña Leggi, Espiridina and Ferroquina. They all cater for the wide range of possible customers that come and go to Sorocaban in the morning during bank hours, in the afternoon when families stop by or in the evening when people get out of theaters or looking for somewhere to hang out in the wee hours of the day.
Prices are not a problem as they are competitive and service is good; waiters are polite and have a friendly behavior. They are ready to ask any questions, make suggestions and ready to help. They kindly explain or suggest the type of picadas, snacks, in small or large bowls with peanuts, chips, jam and cheese, sausages depending on one´s choice of drink.
Córdoba is a cultural hub with a significant number of international students and tourists nowadays. Stopping by at Sorocabana for a cup of coffee, hot sandwiches, milkshakes, a glass of beer or whiskey is an experience that provides an insight in Córdoba´s identity no matter what time of the day it is.
Susana Gonzalez is a writer living in Córdoba, Argentina.