Sala Merced: Capuccino and Tarantino

Sala Merced: Capuccino and Tarantino
By Molly Culver

(Oct. 24, 2003) Luis Ramos loves film. While he claims he’s no aficionado, he has integrated his passion for cinema with an entrepreneurial undertaking, as founder and owner of the popular new café-movie house Sala Merced, just around the corner from the Bellas Artes museum. Sala Merced is but one of the many new spots invigorating this bohemian barrio, though an enthusiastic client proudly proclaimed to me that Ramos was the “pioneer.”

Opened just eight months ago, this café “ciné-arte” has been attracting a steady flow of students, writers and artists. It is a tranquil place to have a cup of tea (they offer 23 varieties), coffee, or a sandwich. As I sipped my “Sencha Fantasia,” a green tea recommended by the friendly waiter, I chatted with Ramos about his theater’s unique, funky location. Like the neighborhood itself, 391 Merced has undergone a renaissance of sorts.

The 100-year-old building, with its grand, tall ceilings and doorways, was originally a house for two or three families. Afterwards, it became a warehouse, and finally, a theater. Ramos has renovated and refurbished the place, painting over walls and laying down tiles, while letting certain aspects of the building’s former life come through. For example, two beautifully painted wooden doors make a fitting entrance into the old theater.

That afternoon I stopped by, the café tables were filled. At one, two young students; at another, a couple; at a third, two men from Colombia. Ramos says that Sala Merced has been attracting many extranjeros (foreigners). Rightfully so. The neighborhood around the Bellas Artes museum is the antithesis of commercial areas like Providencia and Las Condes. The quiet, cultural ambience of the Sala Merced makes it a wonderful place to experience Santiago at its finest.

Sala Merced: M-F 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sat. & Sun 11 a.m. to 1 or 2 a.m.