On my first day back in Lima I revisit my favorite restaurant, the Canta Rana, an old house in the Barranco neighborhood, the most bohemian part of the city.
The owner, Vicente, from Argentina, started this place with $600 and has always maintained its cozy atmosphere, decorating the walls with posters of the soccer star Maradona, Che Guevara, local musicians, countless local soccer jerseys and photos of friends and family. The secret to its success has been hanging on to the same cooks and waiters since day one. As I sit down, I recognize some of the same faces. Today, even though a line of tourists stand outside waiting for tables, it is clear that Vicente has kept his faithful local clients too. Romulo, one of the waiters, remembers me. “The only thing that has changed is that we are now open for dinner too,” he says. The kitchen is working full-steam. The plates of ceviche, tiradito, jaleas or tacu tacus land on the wooden tables.
Romulo asks for my number – this is new – for my chance to order. I am meeting up with a group of old friends, so I am preparing myself for hours of great talk, “Cuzqueña” beer and all the wonders of Peruvian food. Toño Martinez is a photographer and works for the mining companies doing industrial photography. “The mines are booming, there’s a lot of work,” he says, “It’s the construction and the domestic consumption that’s driving growth, though.”
Sengo, my old boss and today editor of the free paper Publimetro is more critical. “The cost of housing has gone up a lot and the restaurants too,” he says. “But wages haven’t risen in ten years.” We talk about Barranco, with some complaining that it is changing, losing the magic of an aged and authentic place that gave it its charm. Others say it is okay, that new locales are opening up and that that is a good thing. The talk around the table is what hanging out in Barranco is all about, so I relax and enjoy the moment.
Want to hang out in Barranco?