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Bar Dandy del Sur, Timeless Tijuana Wonderland

The story of Tijuana‘s beloved bar.

April 27, 2012  By Genaro Valladolid. Reprinted with permission from

The famous neon sign, a door the wonderland known as "Dandy del Sur". Brenda Colón/San Diego Red

How would you like to go to a bar that has had virtually non-stop service for 20 years and still manages to have a mostly young and hip crowd? Would you like to go to place where you can make new friends and run into old ones? How about a bar that caters to straight and gay, young and old, rich and poor, hipsters and businessmen? A bar that has been a hangout for rock superstars, movie stars and Hollywood directors? Too good to be true? This bar is real. Its name is Dandy Del Sur, and it is located in Tijuana’s hip and burgeoning bar and nightclub district on Calle Sexta (6th Street) between Revolución and Madero Avenues.

El Dandy, as locals call it, opened in 1957 and has been at its present location for over 20 years, according to its manager Laura García. A resilient survivor, El Dandy has gone through a few incarnations.

At first it was an after-hours hangout for waiters and servers from the bars on Revolución Ave., which brought in thirsty teenagers from Southern California from the 60s through 9/11.

When tourism dried up in Tijuana, local students, artists and musicians started holding impromptu meets at El Dandy, such as literary discussions, concerts, and other cultural performances that soon started a buzz, kindled in part by Pedro Beas (AKA Hiperboreal) of Tijuana’s Grammy-nominated Nortec Collective. Now, El Dandy is in the epicenter of Tijuana’s cultural revival and an explosion of bars and clubs on Calle Sexta, the new nightlife district that Tijuanenses can truly call their own.

Fresh off a tour in central Mexico, Beas is happy to return to his former artistic hub at El Dandy and its shady cantina ambiance, yellowish and neon-sign lighting, oddly modern jukebox and the waitresses’ rough and tumble service. In 1999, El Dandy became the unofficial meeting space and conference room for Nortec’s members and their brethren, back when it was mostly populated by older working-class men. Six years later, Beas was still bringing people into El Dandy, including 40 cast and crew members from Babel (2006) to celebrate director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s birthday. Nortec even has a song titled “Dandy Del Sur” (Tijuana Sessions, Vol. 3).“It is a homage to a place that makes me feel at home,” said Beas, “and I believe it will be the archetypical Tijuana dive bar.”

What soon set El Dandy apart from other Tijuana dive bars, and turned it into a hotspot, was the rumor (wink, wink) that it never closed. Any time of day was a good time for a cold cerveza or cocktail there. The place’s vintage personality – forewarned by its old-school neon sign outside – also sets it apart from other, newer bars on Calle Sexta. Inside, pictures of old movie stars hang above an aging wooden bar and along the wall, next to local sayings and curiously misspelled happy hour specials, such as one for “Jaguer Master.” One of the few nods to the modern is the digital jukebox known for its eclecticism and for taking both U.S. and Mexican currency. Classic José José love songs are followed by Tool and Manu Chao. The bar also has some outdated box TVs to catch the occasional game on, but they are window dressing.

What really brings people to El Dandy?

Ray and Travis, both American (everybody fits in here), have been coming to Tijuana since the 80s and have always enjoyed El Dandy, even during the recent years marred by violence. They appreciate the welcoming atmosphere and minimal bar fights, unlike other bars around the area. When asked if they had ever tried to bring other San Diegans to El Dandy, they admitted to not wanting to ruin a good thing, preferring to keep it to themselves.

For locals, it is the comfort of going to a bar that will treat them well; it doesn’t matter who you are, what you wear, or what you look like. It is also a popular hangout whenever a Rock en Español star hits Tijuana or a movie is being shot locally. Some of the world-class stars that have been spotted at El Dandy are Manu Chao, Gustavo Cerati, actor Gael García Bernal, director Alejandro González Iñárritu and, of course, the whole crew of Tijuana’s Nortec Collective, which have filmed a video there.

El Dandy Del Sur predated most of the bars on Calle Sexta and will probably outlast them all. It has personality, a vintage atmosphere, a cool crowd, cold beer all night long… and a non-sequitur jukebox. What more can you ask for?

If you want to visit El Dandy del Sur, use this map.

Dandy del Sur is located at Ricardo Flores Magón 2030, Downtown Tijuana.

If you would like to call them, dial 01152 664 688 0052

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