One day last May, somewhere in that no man’s land between Santa Ana and Santa Lucia parks on Calle 60, Paul and I were exhausted from walking in the heat. There was nothing open except the lobby bar of Hotel Los Aluxes. We took refuge there. One other time, I needed to use the bathroom, and there were no other options than the facilities of this hotel. We ended up exploring, taking panoramic photos of the Centro from the upper levels, and enjoying margaritas in the very same lobby bar down below. Then last week, we again unexpectedly ducked in to shelter ourselves from a sudden cloud burst.
Are we the only gringos to have found such sanctuary in this otherwise nondescript hotel, a concrete box trimmed in marble and glass?
Los Aluxes reminds me of the bland, clunky mid-range hotels that were being built at the Jersey Shore when I was growing up there. Neither glitzy nor shabby, the hotel is staffed with a team of doormen and valets who welcome you in no matter how bedraggled you’ve become after roaming the Centro like a fool at midday. They have banquet rooms and a nice pool area, but it’s the American-style wood-paneled lobby bar, in a sunken room to the right as you walk in, that beckons. Its air conditioner is set to medium frosty. The lights are pleasingly dim and chairs are comfortable. Nobody else is drinking there. MTV Latino is playing silently on the large television pushed to the side. A uniformed person will summon another uniformed person, who will in turn search for ingredients. Drinks don’t come quickly, but that’s OK. More than OK, actually, because we’re in no hurry to leave.
The young man, who I assume is a bellhop when he’s not a bartender, fumbles around a bit, but his margaritas end up tasting just right. He offers botanitas, which we guess are small botanas and we demure, not wishing the kitchen to go through any trouble. The food arrives anyway, and we find the kitchen didn’t go through any trouble at all after all. Botanitas in this case are just your average bar snacks: seasoned nuts, and some cheese puffs. That suits us just fine.
The comforts of Los Aluxes are a guilty pleasure that we were forced into only because that hipsterish, Centro-appropriate Café Chocolate next door, which has all that antique charm that a proper expat is supposed to be enamored of, isn’t necessarily open when we’re walking by. Also, the cafe disappoints us over and over. That’s the place we thought would be our “tradition.” I even had “my chair,” which apparently is often someone else’s chair, too. Never mind, once I found it covered with bird crap more than once, I happily gave up “my” chair. Café Chocolate may have more local character and homespun charm, works from local artists, and romantic courtyards, but Los Aluxes is open when you want them to be. And no one will catch you hidden in the hotel lobby, being a very improper expat.