The tiny, gritty Cabaret La Perla dates from 1946, and has some of the city's best female impersonators, who sing everything from Madonna to surf punk. Friday and Saturday shows are at 11:30 pm and 1:30 am, but come before 10 pm to get a table.
It housed conquistadors during the 16th century; today the Centro is a Spanish cultural center with daily art exhibits, plays, films, and other events, including occasional live indie, electronic, and rock bands on the terrace of the bar-restaurant.
Open, remarkably, since 1952, this welcoming bar on the downtown gay strip República de Cuba can get lively with drag shows, singing waiters, and cumbia dancing, but look to the quiet corners of the bar. There, you'll see mustachioed vaqueros (cowboys) of a certain age, often with sombreros and wedding rings, slow dancing or cuddling, and you understand why the bar's name is so apt. There's free admission, and two-for-one cocktails on Wednesday and Thursday (though the place is plenty affordable as is).
One of the city's most elegant watering holes has attracted top personalities since it opened in 1870. Don't forget to have your waiter point out the bullet hole in the ceiling allegedly left by Mexican revolutionary hero Pancho Villa.
The famed cervecería opened this flagship cantina in 1928, three years after Corona beer was launched. Still a popular hangout for local artists and journalists, it is one of the friendliest joints in town, and now boasts three other locations in the city. Try a torta (sandwich) of pulpo (octopus) or pierna (roast pork leg) or with your giant mug of beer. In typically fatalistic Mexican fashion, the photos on the wall show the clientele reacting to the 1986 World Cup at the moment defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory by the national team.
At this longstanding, high-energy, Friday-night "danceteria," DJs spin 1980s pop classics, disco, and techno, and the flamboyant patrons, a fairly even mixture of gays and straights, compete in theatrical dance-offs. Prepare to sweat.
The sound quality may not be the best, but nobody seems to be complaining at this headbangers' haven, which features the best local and international heavy rock bands. Colonia Jamaica is 15 minutes southeast of the Centro Histórico; it's easily accessible via subway or taxi.
Pasagüero presents a mixed bag of live indie music, art exhibits, and other cultural events. The concerts start at 10 pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. For a complete listing of upcoming events, visit the website.
A night here takes you back in time to the 1930s, when it opened, with a backdrop straight out of the golden era of Mexican cinema. The grand, open dance floor swings to the rhythms of danzón and salsa. When renowned Latin musicians come to town, this is often where they perform; the website has a calendar of events and activities, including Monday dance classes. Its slogan is, "whoever doesn't know Salón Los Angeles, doesn't know Mexico."
Set in the vault of an art deco bank in the heart of Centro, the capital's coolest jazz joint hosts local and international acts. The intimate setting and enthusiastic audiences seem to bring out the best in performers. It's open Wednesday through Saturday, and offers a small menu of international dishes.
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