Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Little Love From L.A.

Posted By on Sun, Feb 14, 2010 at 10:44 PM

Hotel Congress, Salvador Duran and our pals in Calexico get some love from the L.A. Times:

I ventured downstairs, and there he was, standing on a wooden crate in the lobby, forcefully strumming his guitar and belting out lyrics in a booming, operatic baritone that resonated through the bustling room.

When I asked the desk clerk about the charismatic singer, she told me that his name was Salvador Duran and that he played on Thursday nights. I began to plan my visits to the Congress accordingly, always checking in on a Thursday.

The Congress, built in 1919 and restored in circa 1930s fashion, is a multipurpose destination in and of itself, equally popular with tourists and Tucsonans.

The club rumbles beneath half the hotel rooms, as do the nearby trains throughout the evening. It all makes for a cacophony of sounds — there is little opportunity to nod off to sleep early — but peace and quiet are not really what they're selling at the Hotel Congress. (Some quiet rooms are available upon request.) It's more of a complete entertainment — and even culinary — experience.

A perfect night at the Congress might unfold thusly: happy hour in the lobby, with Duran providing an early evening serenade, followed by dinner in the hotel's Cup Café or Maynards Market & Kitchen across the street (I've had some of my best meals in town at both places), then a long night of live music in the Club and finally a late breakfast or brunch the next morning. It's possible to spend 24 hours without leaving the hotel.

Besides the Club Congress and lobby bar, the hotel's Tap Room is a local institution with a nationwide cult following ( ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons calls it his favorite bar) that has remained open since 1919. The inconspicuous bar, accessible from both the hotel's lobby and patio, is adorned with sketches and paintings donated by renowned cowboy artist Pete Martinez.

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