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HUSSONG'S - THE BAR THAT BUILT A TOWN

by Connie Ellig of the Ensenada Gazette


It has been said that until you've been to Hussong's, you haven't been to Mexico.  There's probably a lot truth to that statement - after all, Hussong's has survived all the vagaries of 104 years to retain its claim to fame as the oldest bar in the Californias.


It all began in 1880 when Johan Hussong and two of his brothers left Germany and headed for New York.  After ten years Johan tired of big city life and proceeded in a somewhat westerly and bit southerly direction to the sleepy little Mexican fishing village of Ensenada which boasted 5,000 inhabitants, mostly North Americans and Europeans.


Johan soon became John, and in 1892 he opened a little restaurant and stagecoach stop on Av. Ruiz that served a limited menu enhanced by nickel beer and bonded dime whiskey.  John Hussong’s Agencia y Diligencia welcomed the Sutherland Stage Company, and fed and watered customers and horses alike.  Horseshoeing was done out back where the parking lot exists now.


John returned to Germany for his promised bride, Louisa, whome he married and convinced to return to the wild west.  They lived in a comfortable home near the Ensenada arroyo and raised four sons – Ricardo, John, Percy and Walter – and one daughter, Estella.


With the exception of paint, neon and some discreet renovations to keep up with the times, Hussong’s has remained largely unchanged through the years.  The cantina has been designated a historical monument in the directory produced by the National Institute of Anthropology & History with the notation “one of the oldest and most popular buildings in Ensenada.”


Indeed, Hussong’s has served as a watering hole for legendary figures like Marilyn Monroe, Bing Crosby, Steve McQueen and Phil Harris, in addition to the thousands of visitors from around the world who saunter through the sawdust to sample the best margaritas in town (tequila, Controy and freshly squeezed lemon juice untainted by sugary mixes).


The name Hussong has attached itself to t-shirts, caps, bumper stickers, glassware, all manners of memorabilia and even a tequila which has been sold for the past eight years in the U.S.  According to third generation owner / manager Ricardo Hussong, the famous Hussong’s beer is scheduled to hit the Southern California market before the end of the year.  Brewed in Lake Elsinore according to the special Hussong recipe, the FDA-approved negra (dark) and clara (similar to a pilsner) beers will be priced below Mexican imports.  Soon you can have a taste of Hussong’s right in your own home!  Of course, you must provide your own strolling mariachis, caricature artists, domino players and sawdust.