I have the officially come the closest I ever will to entering the world of Harry Potter. Who would have thought that the secret lay in South America?
Two nights ago, the students in our group came together to learn how to make genuine Argentine empanadas and alfajores. An empanada is basically a mini-calzone, filled with a variety of savory foods ranging from ground meat the eggs and cheese. An alfajor is a cookie closely related to the oreo. Except instead of chocolate, the discs are typically made out of a very buttery shortbread. Instead of white frosting, the filling is a sweet treat called “Dulce de leche,” which is like a spreadable caramel, made from milk. Those three foods: empanadas, alfajores, and dulce de leche, probably make up about 30% of the average porteño’s diet. Add medialunas (croissants), and you’re up to 50%. Needless to say, our lessons and dinner was absolutely delicious.
It was in the midst of our feast that my friend Elaine mentioned to me that she was going out with some other members of her group, all international students. Their plan was to meet a place called “Frank’s Bar.” Now, don’t let the name fool you. Apparently, as Elaine told me, this was one of the the places in Argentina. Heck, you had to know a password just to get in. Despite Elaine’s persuasion, I was not convinced. I was tired, and could hear my bed calling to me, especially after quite a few empanadas. After debating with myself for well over 10 minutes, I decided that Elaine’s question of: “when will have this chance again?” was too valid to dodge. I agreed to meet her and her friend Jerú at 10:30 for an adventure.
By 11:15 that night, the three of us were stepping off a bus into a web of quiet streets in a section of Buenos Aires called Palermo. We walked a couple blocks until I spotted a small black sign above an even smaller doorway. In white italics it simply read: “Frank’s Bar.” Getting into line behind three other people, I could just see into the darkened hallway inside the door. A large, black took up the majority of my view, standing with his massive arms crossed over muscular 6′ 5″ frame. Next to him, a middle-aged man stood behind a podium, pen in hand, checking names off a list.
By this point I had given the night up for a loss. I had the password (Sam Woods), but there was absolutely no way my name was on that list. Thankfully, Jerú had somehow gotten her name onto it, and with a little Spanish sweet-talk, she got Elaine and I a wrist-band and passage behind the desk.
We followed the bouncer down a dimly-lit hallway, which ended with….a telephone booth? There it was, a classic blue and white glass rectangle, letting off a slight glow that bled into the darkness. The bouncer gestured for us to enter. He squeezed in alongside and proceeded to punch a 4-digit code into the keypad. His right arm stretched out and pushed against the back wall of the booth. It silently swung inward, letting in not only a wash of music, but also the view of a room that would rival a 20’s-era speak easy. It had two floors dotted with elegant lights, wooden tables, and red velvet tables and chairs.
After shaking off the initial awe, Elaine, Jerú, and I made our way to a reserved table to join a few other members of their group. As time passed, more and more people joined us, hailing from countries such as Sweden, Canada, Holland, Bolivia, and the US. I spent the night visiting, laughing, and meeting new people. I even got the opportunity to practice my Spanish on the walk home with two Latino gentlemen named Felipe and Diego.
The night and atmosphere was amazing, but what really won my heart was the telephone booth. With an entrance like that, Frank’s Bar could have served Moxie at plastic chairs and I would have been impressed.