CHASING THE MAP

El Sombrero Viejo – When You Take Your Drinking Seriously

There’s a name that kept coming up as I became more familiar with the island. El Sombrero Viejo. It’s a popular liquor store and bar where both locals and expats alike buy their spirits and come to have a drink or two at the bar.

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It’s really easy to find, right behind the Post Office in Isabel. You can’t miss it.

My original intent was to pay a quick visit to the temperature controlled wine room at the back of the bar. I’d been told by many locals that this was the place that had the best selection of wine, much better than what’s typically offered at the supermarkets and smaller stores.

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I just about died when I looked around the wine room and spotted my favorite Mediterranean white wine, René Barbier. Eight years ago my husband and I had shared a few bottles of this at a now defunct restaurant in Esperanza. At a little under $8 a bottle, I quickly swiped up two bottles, and made a mental note to come back for more when I ran out.

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Seated at the bar was a local woman who bounces around the island living at different homes as a caretaker. That’s a pretty regular gig down here, and it doesn’t seem difficult to find a new place to watch as the current job expires. The only other people there was a couple from Houston, Texas on vacation for a week on the island. They were big divers and had just gone on their 6th dive of the trip.

I didn’t really have anyplace else to go, so I decided to grab a seat between them and enjoy a cold beer. (At this point, I probably should have put my cold wine back in the cold refrigerator, but I didn’t. Lesson learned after a few hours hanging out there.) The weather here is still really hot, and it doesn’t take cold things long to get warm.

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I find that it’s really easy to strike up conversations with people here. Yes, I was at a bar and alcohol certainly loosens the tongue, but the locals and tourists alike are generally pretty friendly and want to know “your story.”

Eddy, the bartender, is a Vieques native with a great personality and is really fun to talk to. You can tell that he’s in his element, and loves chatting it up with people. He told me that he loves his job an will often come in early just because he likes to be there. How many of us can say that about our jobs? Eddy is living the life. He also makes sure that your beer or drink is never empty for long.

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Don’t get confused if you hear this bar referred to as Kuhns. It’s the family name of Robert Kuhn, who previously owned the bar. His daughter has now taken helm of the ship, and has pictures of dad around the bar as well as his old hats. He seemed like quite the character.

The tables inside were empty, but the small porch outside had a few visitors enjoying their rum drinks and watching the traffic go by. A chicken decided to take a shortcut and pass through the bar on his way to the other side of the road.

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Beer here is cheap. I didn’t catch the price of mixed drinks, but I can only assume that they aren’t too pricey. Wine and hard alcohol bottles also were fairly priced, and I can see why it’s such a popular place for people to come and get their supplies.

There’s also Sue across the street, set up under a canopy with her grill and burger fixings. Just pay her a visit, and when your food is done, she’ll deliver it to you as you don’t move an inch from your barstool. THAT IS AWESOME. On this day I’d already paid a visit to Cafe Mamasonga’s for lunch, but on my next visit there I’ll definitely be hitting Sue up for one of her delicious looking burgers!

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I definitely liked the vibe of this local “dive bar.” It has both character and history and you can either drink quietly by yourself or you can join in on the conversation and get to know people. I prefer the latter. And the beer is cold. Really, really cold. And that, my friends, is a good thing to know.

2 thoughts on “El Sombrero Viejo – When You Take Your Drinking Seriously

  1. Melissa

    We LOVE this place! It’s walking distance from our house, for super reasonable, and the wine selection is the best. Perfect place to stock up for dinner or the beach

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