Café No Sé
1 Avenida Sur # 11 “C”, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala 01001
Hours: 2pm(ish) – 1am daily
In the beginning of October 2016, I took my yearly surf trip with a couple of friends. This year, we hit Guatemala and El Salvador. While we mostly spent our days on the beautiful black sand beaches of these amazing Central America countries, we took a couple days off from surfing to go to the old colonial town of Antigua Guatemala. Hidden away on one of the quiet cobblestone streets of this little town in the Guatemalan mountains was Café No Sé (“Cafe I Don’t Know”), a tiny bar that specialized in mezcal (tequila’s smokier cousin) and live music.
Early in the evening, we ate dinner at a restaurant next door to Café No Sé. As we left, we peeked our heads into the little dive to see what it was all about (we had heard about the place before arriving in Antigua). The bartender told us to come back at 10pm for live blues music. That was all we needed to hear. Suckers for live music that we are, we arrived back at the bar around 10pm. Looking over the menu, we found such great items as John’s Hangover, which is 1 beer, 1 mezcal, 2 aspirins, and 2 cigarettes for Q45 (roughly $5USD!), a small selection of bar snacks (mostly pizzas and grilled cheese), and even a local craft beer, Ixbalanque. We decided to keep things simple, though. We each took a couple shots of mezcal, grabbed some bottles of Gallo (Guatemala’s predominant lager) and explored the bar before the music started. The establishment was mostly lit by candlelight. The candles looked like something out of Se7en: giant piles of wax that they must have been working on for years, letting each candle melt onto the last. Only partially visible in the dim lighting, and definitely adding to the Se7en vibe, strange art and Guatemalan artifacts lined the crumbling walls. Amongst all that was also a poster that read, “Donald Eres Un Pendejo” (“Donald [Trump] is an asshair”). There were 3 rooms, each with a bar – the entrance to one being a doorway that was only about 3 feet high.
The music started, and we were absolutely blown away. Mercedes Escobar, a local Guatemalan musician, sat on a stool in the corner of the front room, strumming her guitar and singing old blues songs from the 1920s, sipping on mezcal between songs. Her extraordinary performance made up for the service from the bartender in that room. An American expat, the girl behind the bar seemingly made up whatever prices she wanted every time we ordered, and asked for tips before transactions were even complete. She had no interest in answering our questions about drinks, and instead used her time on the clock to flirt with a patron sitting at the bar. The bitch was hands down the most unpleasant person I encountered on my whole 10-day trip. Aside from her attitude, though, the atmosphere was great, and from what I could tell, it was the only true dive in Antigua (we went to a lot of bars during our day and a half stay in town). I will certainly go again next time I find myself in Antigua, just making sure to avoid the American bartender.
With outstanding live music, a nice candlelit atmosphere, and such great menu items as John’s Hangover, Café No Sé is certainly worth checking out if you’re in Antigua. Just don’t order your drinks from the white American chick.