The black-and-red patent leather stilettos were the first giveaway that something other than dinner and drinks was afoot at the Loring Pasta Bar last night. The sound of violins drifted through the high-ceilinged space and the woman standing in those memorable heels was skillfully making her way across the dance floor.
The Sunday night milangas at Loring aren’t a secret. The Mandragora Tango Orchestra has performed tangos most Sunday nights at the bohemian-style eatery for the last five years. They perform from 7-9 p.m and draw a crowd of regulars as well as the occasional Spanish major from the nearby University of Minnesota looking for a mini-lesson in Latin culture.
The Loring is a bit of a revelation in that it manages to evoke relaxed refinement—a signature vibe of Old World meets the contemporary. Candles and white napkins mix with red lampshades and giant windows that open onto the street to make the atmosphere a perfect fit for the music.
The orchestra features a rotation of talented musicians. Last night, the ensemble included the group’s founder, accordionist Bob Barnes, along with a bass player and two violinists who perform on an elevated platform under a painted arch. True to billing, the group delivers “nostalgic tango that stirs the soul and moves the feet.” A half dozen couples who know their way around the intricate footwork of the tango populated the dance floor to complete the scene.
To quote my companion, the experience was "otherworldy."