Hot Latin Nights


I’VE OFTEN admired the Latin culture. They really know how to embrace life. So, I wasn’t surprised to see a rumba line through the window of the new La Taza de Café on Thornhill Drive the other night. With the building flooded in moonlight, the silhouettes of dancers called to me. I parked the car.
Live Latin jazz sent sparks through the room as my waiter, Diego Escobar, beckoned me to enter. The sangrias were flowing, and the smell of warm tapas filled my senses, though I’d just eaten. This was the place I’d written about just months earlier when I interviewed the owner, Daniel Brajkovich. La Taza was finally open, and the word was starting to spread.
“Amazing entertainment and I’m already craving the tapas again,” wrote one diner in an online restaurant review. Another entry said “Excellent food and service — cozy, quaint and delicious.” But the best endorsement came from neighbor Robbie Neely, whose group “Friends of Montclair Village” asked folks a while back what they wanted to see. “A number of pleas were made for more nightlife, good music, more variety of restaurants,” she said, adding, “This is it!”
I couldn’t agree more. We’ve been starving for music in our little village. We’ve been yearning for a place to gather and dance and celebrate life. If it means taking rumba lessons, then so be it. I’ll be the first in line.

ON THAT NOTE: Speaking of music, La Taza de Café is so authentic, even the musicians are Cuban. The Evelio Roque combo is from Havana, and Evelio now lives on Thornhill Drive, after marrying a teacher from Montclair. His Latin Jazz rhythm is punctuated by his talent on two reed instruments, the sax and clarinet. But Evelio ran into some bad luck recently when his clarinet was stolen while he was unloading his car for a gig. (Until he comes up with the money to replace it, he’s playing a more vintage instrument from his youth.) You can check out Evelio and his partner, Coto Pincheira, from 5-11 p.m. Thursday nights, and on Valentine’s night for the cafe’s special four-course dinner.

REMEMBERING THE ROCK: Readers are wondering why the rock on Skyline Drive is suddenly black. Who painted over the green and blue globe and the words that read “Vote for those who vote for the earth”? Was it a political statement? Or was it the boulder’s stealth artist — preparing the canvas for yet another masterpiece?

A LOT O’ CARS: Thanks to reader Dana Zimmer for mentioning yet another way to buy or sell a car these days. She says she’s had luck in Moraga with a used car lot along Moraga Way near the country club. Among the shiny SUVs and luxury sedans that line the road, she says she saw a “bimmer,” recently, with a sign that read “low mileage – driven mostly to the bank and back.”

SNAPPY ENDING: Just when you think Oakland has nothing but city slickers, you hear about a country hoedown. Last week’s party for outgoing Lake Merritt Breakfast Club president, Barbara Gerber, featured western singers and a lady rope trick artist, who used a bull whip to snap the stem off a rose. And don’t think the flower was just sitting in water. It was being held in Gerber’s chattering teeth. Ladies and gentlemen — that’s no bull!

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