RIGA - Latvian bars and restaurants have a special talent for coming up with horribly unimaginative and banal names. The recently opened I Love You bar is a strange case in point. But putting aside a name that makes you want to gag, this small basement bar hidden away on Aldara Street is charming by day and by night.
Drawing a small and good-natured crowd, you feel more like you're at home hosting a dinner party for your closest friends than in a public venue. Perhaps this is the reason that ever since the bar opened four months ago, I have been reluctant to divulge this wonderful secret.
Yes, I suppose it's selfish, but it's a rarity to find a good place for a drink in Riga's Old Town without being crammed between two guys breathing Zelta in your face, while awkwardly trying to drink your beer within a three-centimeter radius. I know I'll be kicking myself for this when I show up at my favorite bar next week, and the place is overrun with every Latvian, Russian and expat in the city. But here it goes.
I Love You's voice is captivating. The eclectic mix of music has a song for every mood, occasion and character; there's classic rock from The Who, a spirit-lifting track from the Cure, a swing of Sinatra, a beat of techno, a touch of Paris with Serge Gainsbourg, and a Norah Jones song romantic enough to draw the first "I love you" from your sweetheart's lips.
When you walk into the bar (that is if you can find it) you feel like you've entered a cozy mountain lodge. The brick interior is supported by thick wooden beams and warmly lit by dim lamps. The walls are covered with photographs of Sigur Ross, live in concert. Although I've never heard the band, its silent music floats from every picture in the room and adds to the ambiance of the place.
It's the perfect bar for the hopeless romantic. I imagine that it would only take three smiles from a waitress with "I love you" printed on her T-shirt, before his eager heart starts to believe it. After two or three mojitos, he might even work up enough nerve to "I love you" her back. This may be the only bar in Riga where the waitress would respond with a smile in place of a slap.
For those who've already found true love, there's a romantic nook downstairs with a table conveniently for two. So the obnoxiously smitten couple of the group can sip their ice-cream cocktail in private while you enjoy beer and chicken skewers on the other side of the brick wall with the rest of your friends. The sinking couches and low tables comfortably cater to either a close group of four or a party of 20.
In addition to being a bar, the place is a daytime cafe serving espresso, soups, salads and hot or cold sandwiches. But regardless of what you order, who accompanies you, or the nature of your character, you are guaranteed to leave this little place feeling loved. o
I Love You Bar
9 Aldara St., Riga
10 a.m.- Midnight
Fri-Sat: 10 a.m. - Last client