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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Warm Latin flavor makes Bossa comfortable
Current Correspondent
Photo Credit Bill Petros/The Current

It was a typical Saturday night at Bossa Bistro and Lounge. The candlelights flickered. Droves of people of all nationalities walked through the gigantic carpetlike drape covering the front door. Couples cuddled on the couches, sipping their tasty Brazilian specialty drinks — mainly mojitos and caipirinhas. Downstairs, Alfredo Mojica and his Cubano Groove salsa band were jamming while a small group of dancers did their thing. And upstairs, Nayas, my favorite local Latin rock band, was playing cover songs from my alltime favorite indierock/ reggae/global musician, Manu Chao. You’re probably wondering about the location of this cool, bohemian spot. You might be surprised if I told you it was right in the heart of the city, in a location that has gone largely astray from its Latin, African and other minority roots to become a yuppieville of sorts, full of pricey condos and swank martini bars. Bossa is an abnormality in the recently gentrified Adams Morgan, seeking to bring back some of the Latin flavor and music lost over the years, according to general manager Wagner Depinho. Because of the area’s changes, I was surprised to “discover” Bossa while walking through the famed 18th Street strip of bars and nightclubs on a cold January night in 2004, a few months into the lounge’s existence. At 2463 18th St., Bossa is sandwiched between two other live-music venues with wooden patios out in front — Ghana Café and Madam’s Organ. While the exteriors are similar, what brought me into Bossa was the lively music you can see and hear through the lounge’s large, glass-windowed front. Once I entered, it felt like I was walking into someone’s comfortable living room, with warm, dimly lit candles the size of a desk lamp, and couches and small tables comfortably spread out on the floor. A large wooden bar is filled with Brazilian and American beers and liquors, and the main music stage is just to the right of the entrance. There is an art gallery of portrait photographs lined up on the exposed brick wall. It’s a very inviting atmosphere, with plush maroon Arabian-style couches and a friendly staff. On this particular Saturday night, all the couches were packed (it was just before midnight), but I was drawn upstairs by the sound of Nayas playing one of my favorite Manu Chao songs, “Mr. Bobby,” an ode to Bob Marley. Not surprisingly, there were other Manu fans jamming upstairs, singing along to the song, bobbing their heads and waving their hands. Even though it was a year before I would first see Manu Chao perform live, Nayas’ performance
seemed familiar, as if it was Manu there with his band. While the music may be the initial draw for the foot traffic on 18th Street, the food and drinks likely convince many to stay. As with its variety in terms of music, Bossa has a wide-ranging menu, filled with yummy South American and Persian comfort foods all made with organic ingredients and offered at surprisingly affordable prices. The drinks are also delicious. The name Bossa is a reference to bossa nova, the relaxing jazz music from Brazil. For that reason, the lounge pays special attention to its signature Brazilian drinks, caipirinha and mojitos. It’s now been a little over two years since I first stepped foot into this delightful lounge. During that time, I’ve seen Nayas numerous times, as well other fabulous bands of all types — bossa nova, salsa and American and Latin jazz — and even stand-up comedy. When I had my 25th birthday party at Bossa, it was amazing how at home the staff made me feel. I was also there for New Year’s 2006, when the lounge offered an amazing spread of Brazilian-style steak, hummus and veggies before the clock struck 12 and free champagne at the stroke of midnight. These are the moments I live for — and the reasons I call Bossa one of my favorite places in D.C.