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There are people that like to talk about tango, and then there's Lionel Meyer.
Meyer, a 43-year-old computer scientist, discusses the subject with delicate insight, like a father talking about his son or Ron Jeremy holding forth on his penis.
When asked how long he's been dancing, Meyer responds that the linear time measurement is five years, but that tango "is not about how long you've been doing it, but how many miles you've walked."
Houston, TX 77019
Region: River Oaks
He continues, describing the dance as a "meditation for two" and a "very cerebral experience."
"You find an inordinate amount of PhDs within the tango community," says Meyer, sitting on a couch inside Bacchus WineBar & Coffee Shop (2502B Dunlavy). "It requires all of your faculties. You have to see from the corner of your eyes. You have to read your partner, and eventually, your partner has to read you."
Around him, a gaggle of couples slide and step and spin, participating in the venue's popular Wednesday night "milonga," a term used to mean "social dance."
There are some wicked-cool gods in Greek mythology, but if you were to pick one to name your bar after, "Bacchus," the one Nickolas Politis chose when he opened this space in 2010, might be tops.
"Zeus" feels like it'd be a cool name for a power-lounge (king of the gods, and all), but he's always seemed a bit arrogant. If he had a Facebook page, we're pretty sure his profile picture would prominently feature his abs. That's not this. Apollo is the god of music, and that's excellent, but he's also the god of plagues. "Artemis"? You mean the goddess of childbirth? Nah, no thanks. How about "Demeter"? She's the goddess of agriculture, yo. Is there a worse thing to be goddess of than carrots and beets? She's basically just a goddamn farmer. Definitely not that.
But "Bacchus"? The Internet says he's "the god of wine, parties and festivals, madness, drunkenness and pleasure at forever young." He's basically the Keith Richards of Greek mythology. As far as gods go, that's pretty perfect.
And the bar isn't far behind.
It's an open, engaging space filled with soft light, a warm color palette and a generally pleasant ambience. It is attractive and well-groomed without being pompous and stuffy. An example: The bar top is solid marble, and that's striking, but the patio, which, from afar, appears to be flagstone, has only been painted to appear that way, and that's funny.
Even the selection of wines and beers, while impressive, feels mostly endearing and accessible.
"They have Kronenbourg ," says Craig Adkins, 34, referring to one of the types of beers Bacchus offers. "This is the only place I've seen it, other than when I was in France."
"They're very nice and very accommodating here," interjects Thao Le, 30, sitting across from Adkins. "We were here once sitting outside, and it was freezing. They brought us a heat lamp and an extension cord, and we didn't even ask for it."
Bacchus is building a proper following, be it locals who happened to wander by initially (as was the case with Adkins), or those who've heard about it through friends and colleagues.
Tonight, as on most nights, there is talking and laughing and drinking, although maybe not enough to be described as Bacchus's "drunkenness and pleasure at forever young."
But it's sure as shit closer to that than agriculture.
Three asides: First, most will notice that the building that houses the bar is two stories high, while the actual bar is only one. That's because Politis, who also owns the marble shop next to Bacchus, lives in the space above it. Second, while we were talking to one of the tango session's teachers (a friendly-faced man named Luis Zuleta), he mentioned that the tango community "is a small but dedicated one." This has to be fact. Two years ago, we were at Avant Garden covering an experimental music event for this same column. After it was over, a tango class (now defunct) began. We took a couple of pictures, one of which actually featured the back of Lionel Meyer's head. How 'bout that? Third, if you'd like to learn to tango, visit www.instantango.com. It is a valuable resource for Houston tango fans.