Legend has it that revolutionary leader Francisco "Pancho" Villa, ostensibly seeking to becalm a rowdy crowd, fired a bullet into the ceiling of the cantina called La Opera in 1914. Today, the "bullet hole" is still there, as is the booth he supposedly sat in while shooting, in one of the more expensive and interesting historic cantinas in downtown Mexico City.
La Opera has been open at its current location three blocks east of Alameda Central since 1895. Stepping in the door is like taking a step into the past, what with all the dark, lovingly carved oak woodwork, the gilded Baroque ceiling, the huge mirrors, and the rich burgundy tones in the ancient wallpaper. The opulent mirror-backed bar itself was carved in New Orleans in 1932.
According to the waiters, traditionally dressed in black and white, the paella is a favorite dish among the men and women who dine here. Unless you arrive at a slack time (early afternoon or early evening), competition can be fierce for the ten booths (look for the one on the north side with the "bullet hole" above it). There are also two dozen tables and seats at the bar itself. Large parties should make reservations, especially for comida in the afternoon and dinner in the evenings.
Hours are relatively short: 1 p.m. â€“ midnight Monday â€“ Saturday and 1 â€“ 6 p.m.on Sunday. Of note to movie buffs: Part of "Original Sin" (2001), featuring Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas, was filmed here.
5 de Mayo No. 10, Centro HistÃ³rico
Credit cards accepted
coffee is $1.50 (20 pesos). tea is $1.35 (18 pesos). a bottle of negra modelo is $2.26 (30 pesos). a shrimp cocktail costs $7.17 (95 pesos). spaghetti is $6.05 (80 pesos). a steak is about $11.32 (150 pesos). chicken tacos are $6.40 (85 pesos), as are "enchiladas verdes" and "enchiladas suizas." the bill includes a charge for the bread and pickled vegetables put on the table.
Reservation: Not necessary
Phone: (52) (55) 5512-8959
E-mail: la_opera(at) hotmail.com