Three elements define Calexico, Larry Hodes’ newly reimagined spot at Joburg’s 44 Stanley in Milpark. “Music first, booze second, and then food,” co-owner Hodes says. “Not that food is last or anything — but we’re all about real music.”
Real music, according to Hodes, is none of that “doof-doof techno nonsense” or anything pop-centric you’re likely to hear on the radio. And the droves of people who come to sip drinks and snack on Calexico’s now famous sticky-sweet ribs agree with him.
Calexico was born out of the gutted ashes of Hodes’ previously popular spot, the Stanley Beer Yard. Hodes and his co-owner, Mike Vacy-Lyle, felt the space needed reinvigoration, and transformed it into a lighter and brighter imagining that gives off 1970s Californian vibes with Mexican touches as a nod to the small US border town of the same name. “It’s also the name of one of my and Mike’s favourite bands,” Hodes says.
Calexico offers a contemporary space in which the era of “real music” can be revived. The neon sign behind the bar says it all: “Real music will never die.” And it’s very much alive every Thursday and Friday, with vinyl DJ sets from the likes of Joburg legends The Klassikist and Charles Leonard, and regular live-music sessions with some of the country’s favourite rock bands.
Plus, if you get there before 4pm, you can be your own vinyl DJ. A record player and a box of vinyls are tucked behind the fireplace, just waiting for you to turn them into a jukebox. And if you feel you need even more choice for your shuffle and spin, there’s a carefully curated selection of records on sale, courtesy of 44 Stanley’s other music venue, Mr Vinyl. On the first Sunday of every month, Calexico also hosts a vinyl fair, with more than 14 resellers’ collections to pilfer from.
As for the other two values Hodes lists, they are very much accounted for. There’s still a good supply of local craft beer, along with a bevy of cocktails served at the new outdoor bar. The menu sports some nachos, as well as the usual classic American-inspired grilled meat with an option of a side of macaroni cheese. But there are also a few items on the fresher, healthier side too, such as jalapeño and mushroom skewers, and the indulgently garlicky artichoke dip of dreams.
What more do you need on a chilled weekend afternoon or rowdy night out?
- From the October edition of Wanted magazine.