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How to taste the real Buenos Aires

Artist and Poet María Paz Levinson. Photo copyright Rebecca T

The thing I love about Buenos Aires are its hidden gems. They aren’t hidden exactly, but they are not screaming at you from each corner. It requires a lot of walking and an inquisitive nature to find what exactly is behind that grungy old door half way down that potentially dodgy looking street that looks like it could be a half in Lima and half in 1984. Of course, it is easy to find the nice places in the areas that look like they are part of an antique Paris, but while these can offer comfort, they usually lack the character of the real BsAs.

One morning after first moving here, I was bemoaning the fact that there are no cafes near my house to my early morning commuter buddy, I was made to eat my words (thankfully in the form of medialunas) as I happened to look across the intersection from my door to see a perfectly acceptable small cafe open for business. Let’s remember that I’ve been living in my current apartment for nigh on two months and this is the first time this cafe’s bright blue doors have made themselves known to me. And it was duly noted. Next time I have a desperate early morning need for coffee, I know I only have to roll out of bed and walk about 20 metres.

The schizophrenic nature of the buildings in this city impresses upon you the need to not judge this place by its cover. Last Sunday I was taken to an unimpressive corner building to eat some of the best fresh home made pasta around. From the outside, it could have been any type of restaurant from the 80s. Inside, the 1980s theme continued with the concrete walls adorned with a mishmash of artifacts from over the years. Old tango vinyl, pictures of what can only be assumed to be the owner´s favourite fútbol team, photographs of tango dancers and the obligatory argentinian flag, swaying in the wind produced by the air conditioner which frantically worked to take the chill out of the air.

Two women sat at the entrance of the restaurant, busy rolling the soft dough into various long worm looking shapes, crafting the delicacy that was soon to be enjoyed by the onslaught of lunchtime customers. And it was good pasta. Not just good but extremely good. The mafioso type family run business is a local institution (so my local guide tells me), which, before he died, had included the father of the family walking around handing out change from large wads of rolled up bills. As this was prior to the non smoking law that came in recently in Buenos Aires, it didn’t take much imagination to envision the head of the family chewing on a cigar as he schmoozed with his customers and friends, probably planning all sorts of mafia mischief.

Another not so hidden, but out of the way gem is Lo de Roberto. This bar is the smallest bar I have squeezed into with other people since my uni days when we used to frequent the aptly named Inch Bar (which for the record, only just qualifies as having enough room to swing a cat). Strains of tango guitar greeted us as we opened the door and it took just two steps from the door to reach the only bar stools left in the entire place. Those gathered to listen were nursing their drinks and dreamily listening to the laments of tango, respectfully waiting until the musician´s break before resuming their conversations. A small tango bar located beside Plaza Almargo and opened by 1984. Retaining a youthful feel by the artistic students that frequent it, it is well known as being a place to enjoy a wine and a very intimate performance of tango. 

One favourite memory from this city was another hidden gem which we enjoyed from the depths of a Centro cultural whose single glass door entry way is off of the tourist infested Florida. In the bowels of the building with just a sprinkling of other people, we enjoyed poetry and music from two local artists and poets. These intimate gigs are in abundance in this city, but its a matter of finding them. This is when you will feel that you get to experience the real BsAs.


El Momento Era Subir
De María Paz Levinson

Las noches de nieve eran divertidas
Subir la cuesta con los esquíes en la mano
Para tirarnos y llegar rápido hasta la ruta de abajo
Lo hacíamos en la noche hasta cansarnos

Y así llegábamos al fondo del invierno

Cada tanto autos en ambas direcciones
Cruzando la noche muy despacio con vidrios de hielo
La nieve se veía anaranjada
Las casas se iban apagando
Llenábamos las petacas con un licor fuerte
Era de guindas y estaba en un mueble oscuro
El botellón como una gota de sangre gigante

Y así llegábamos al fondo del invierno




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