Emiliano Zapata could be considered a true champion of the people, revered in Mexico for his legacy as a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution. I can think of few more fitting honors for a man of his stature and contributions than becoming the namesake for a bar, that time-honored community meeting place of an inherently egalitarian nature, and so when this new bar popped up right next to a popular pizza place a while back, I felt compelled to investigate.
The Vibes: I stumbled into Zapata for the first time on an idle afternoon about a year ago, when enthusiastic commotion indicated the presence of a good time in the area. Walking inside, white-and-red striped soccer jer–um, football shirts dominated the interior, and my limited knowledge of the sport identified them as the colors of Chivas, Jalisco’s most popular side and reigning Mexican champs.
I was born in the United States, where “The Beautiful Game” and video game tournaments have about the same profile, but if I was going to assimilate myself into my new home I would certainly have to show respect to the local customs. I parked myself in one of the few empty chairs and became part of the atmosphere, cheering on cue and picking up a few new Spanish words to not use in polite company.
The healthy selection of beer on site included a range of craft selections usually only spotted at the local Costco along with a few brews from the area like the lineup from the El Terrible Brewing Co…clearly, this was a spot worth keeping on file.
The Vices: Now, a sports bar is an excellent establishment to have around, but some of you may know it’s not exactly the only one in town. However, it is, to my knowledge, the only one with live salsa and Latin jazz music on the weekends, and it is for this purpose that I made my return some months later.
The atmosphere was completely different this time around. Lively horns and drums filled the room with kinetic energy, and couples stepped, spun, and smiled to the beat. Groups of friends surrounding drink-filled tables kept their phones in their pockets for minutes at a time, punctuating rounds of laughter with the satisfying “clink” of gleeful glass.
This is also what a good time looks like.
After a dance or two with a borrowed partner, I decided that if I was going to keep sucking down clay pots of cantarito at a 2 for 1 pace, I should probably anchor myself with a good, hearty meal in this self-proclaimed “snackery.” Glancing at the menu, the choice in this scenario was clear.
The burrito is not a traditionally Mexican dish. I know this. I understand this. My tremendous respect for the rich culture of this fine nation notwithstanding, I don’t give four flying letters. It was delicious, it contained half a chicken, and I’m not aplogizing for it, so there.
The Verdict: Zapata, stationed on the ever-popular Lazaro Cardenas in the colonia of the city that also bears the name of the revolutionary hero, comes alive for special events and celebrations of life. Of course, there’s pretty much always some excuse to appreciate our delightful existence on this most unlikely blue marble, and so Zapata is more often than not a fine place to find yourself. Maybe I’ll catch you there.