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Bodegón El Obrero in La Boca

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Without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable meals we had in Buenos Aires was at El Obrero, a classic bodegón in La Boca.

Boca Fun Song

We went to El Obrero with friends on a warm Friday night, and had a blast from the moment we stepped inside. The place was a madhouse. Every table was full, with kids running between chairs, waiters zipping swiftly past, large Argentine families shouting at each other across long tables stacked with food. We took our seats and opened up the menu. The prices were out of this world, and we felt no compunction about ordering way too much. Calamari, mozzarella sticks, salmon, lomo. Everything was cooked perfectly, and we took our time with the meal, absorbing the atmosphere of the restaurant.

The waiter was friendly and attentive, a guitar player wandered around serenading tables, and there was a general buzz of merriment. We followed the example of the Argentines surrounding us, becoming gradually louder and more exuberant over the course of the evening, drinking wine and stuffing ourselves to the breaking point on the generous portions.

Found in a seedy section of La Boca, El Obrero isn’t the place to go for a fancy, buttoned-down evening with a new girl. But if incredible food and the boisterous atmosphere of a charming porteño bodega sound good, don’t pass it up. El Obrero is one of our very top picks in the city.

El Obrero
Agustín R. Caffarena 64
Location on our Google Map
Tel: 4362-9912
Yummy Dulce de Leche

Classic Restaurant La Boca
Soccer Boca Restaurant
Obrero
Cheese Fest
Salmon Buenos Aires
Bife Lomo
Beef Fight
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May 1, 2011 at 5:36 pm Comments (2)

Watching Soccer in Buenos Aires, Part 1: Boca Juniors

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Maradona’s Golden Days

River Plate, Veléz, Racing, Boca Juniors, Argentinos Juniors, Independiente, San Lorenzo, Tigre, Huracán, All Boys… if you want to check out a soccer match in Buenos Aires, there are more than enough opportunities. Foreigners typically flock to the Bombonera to watch Boca Juniors, or the Monumental: home of River Plate. These are by far the two biggest teams in terms of success and support and clashes between them, known as superclásicos, are the stuff of legend.

I’m a huge soccer fan, so it was a given that I’d drag Jürgen along to at least one match. And in fact, we went to two. First to Boca Juniors, then San Lorenzo. Both were interesting experiences, though I wish I would been armed with the knowledge I now possess. Here’s Part One of our Buenos Aires Fútbol Odyssey. Check out Part Two, here.

Boca Juniors Tickets
March 20th: Boca Juniors 0 – 2 Olimpo

The Tickets
Boca Juniors are hugely popular, and normal tickets have become impossible to purchase. I waited in a line for two hours with a few hundred other people, before we were told that no tickets would be sold to the general public. The outrage among the group of mostly Argentinian fans was understandable — why did they make us wait so long, just to tell us that? Later, I would learn from reading online forums, that this has been the pattern since at least the beginning of the year.

The thing is … there are tickets available, and plenty of them. Boca has learned that any tickets which don’t go to their club members can be sold for much, much more money through hotels and tour operators. So, normal Argentines at the stadium booths are out of luck: all the tickets have been sold to package operators who jack up the price obscenely.

The upside of this scheme is, if you’re willing to shell out, it’s easy to get a ticket. The tour operators are a dime a dozen and, even the day of the game, you can find tickets. The downside is, the prices are exorbitant.

Not willing to miss out on the “Boca Experience”, we gritted our teeth and chose one of the tour operators. The offer was “Free Beer and Pizza” before the game, plus transport to and from the stadium. The tickets were in the Popular Section, and at 360 pesos, were nine times face value. The price seemed to be standard across all the tour operators we found, and at least we would be getting our money’s worth… right?!

Boca Juniors Player

Pregame
Along with about 20 other foreigners, we were bused to the stadium three hours before game time. Our guides grouped us together like schoolchildren, cut past the line of “normal” fans, and dumped us in a garage for the pizza and beer. There were two pizzas for the entire group. Not everyone even got a slice, and it was the cheapest, most disgusting pizza I’d ever tried to ingest. Fake plastic cheese, and the beer was a joke, too.

Anyway, we weren’t there for pizza. We were ushered into the stadium 90 minutes before kickoff and then just sat there waiting. Apparently, it was “too dangerous” to have us enter with the regular fans. What nonsense. By the time the game actually started, everyone was already tired and annoyed. I’m so sick of this attitude that tourists have to be afraid of regular porteños. It’s a falsehood promoted by charlatans, who can wring even more money out of foreigners by “protecting” them. “You’ll have to be bused in and out with special guards! You won’t be safe! Book with us, or you’ll be mugged in an alley! These people are animals!” Give me a break.

Crazy Boca Juniors Fans

The Stadium & Atmosphere
Regardless, the Bombonera is incredible. Even though Boca played atrociously and limped off the field after a well-deserved defeat, the atmosphere in the stadium was constantly upbeat. Singing, chanting, crazy fans (hinchadas) climbing up scaffolding, flags, confetti, etc.

So, during the game, I was really happy. But before we were able to leave the stadium, we had to wait until the opposing team’s fans had cleared out. Then our group had to wait until the normal fans in the popular section had also cleared out. Because we were helpless, silly children that needed protection from regular people. God forbid we leave the stadium with them. Sigh, it meant another hour of sitting around.

How To Watch Boca Juniors

Overall…
… the game was fun, but it was a terrible evening. We got back home with the full knowledge that we had been ripped off; that we had paid tons of money, and weren’t even able to experience the true joy of attending a match … sitting around a pub before the game begins, meeting local fans or being a part of the action. If I had it to do over, I would skip Boca entirely.

And if I absolutely had to go to the Bombonera again, I would buy tickets from a scalper. That’s a terrible thing to suggest, so I’m not suggesting you do this. But, shit. I would. I would pick the cleanest, nicest looking scalper, and buy a ticket from him.

The Bombonera on our Buenos Aires Map
Soccer.com

Magic Fall
Fan Sandwich
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April 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm Comments (5)

Il Matterello – Italian Dining in La Boca

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Incredible Pasta Recipes

Calle Martín Rodriguez in La Boca is the rough-and-tumble kind of street you’d normally want to avoid after sunset. But there’s one very good reason to set those concerns aside for one night: Il Matterello.

Italian Family

When you take your table, it’s hard to believe you’re in the middle of a working-class neighborhood. Il Matterello is all elegance, but manages to retain a casual atmosphere. The staff is friendly, and goes out of their way to make you feel like family. Before leading us to our seats, the greeter asked where we were from, and took us over to a huge map of Italy to point out Matterello (it’s near Venice). The restaurant has become an institution in La Boca, well-respected by critics and popular with the locals.

The food was outstanding. I had spinach raviolis stuffed with herbs and Juergen had the tagliatelle verdi, following a beautiful salad. All the plates were excellent; the pasta is prepared fresh in Il Matterello’s open kitchen, and the sauces were rich and delicious. With a long list of sauces to choose from, you can mix and match them with whatever pasta you want… I just asked the waiter for his recommendation. We saved room at the end for homemade tiramisu.

Il Matterello is just a couple blocks away from the Boca Juniors stadium. The dining area is small, so reservations are recommended on most nights. If you’re in La Boca and looking for a great meal away from the tourist-oriented taverns of El Caminito, you won’t be disappointed with Il Matterello.

Location on our Buenos Aires Map

Italian Breads
Fresh Pasta
Buenos Aires Restaurant
Pasta Buenos Aires
Fresh Cheese
Italian Salad
Pasta Verde
Ravioli
Ravioloy Focus
Tiramisu
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March 21, 2011 at 8:35 pm Comment (1)

Pizzería Banchero in La Boca

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Another great pizza place in Buenos Aires: El Cuartito

“Hey, what do you feel like eating?” Every time I’ve been asked that, every single time during the course of my entire life, the answer has been “pizza”. Even when it was 8am. Even when I was 18 months old. It’s the only honest response: there are other things I should eat, things which might even taste better. But pizza is what I want to eat. Always.

Serving Pizza

So you’re asking me what I want to eat? Well, I know we just had pizza last night, but there’s another famous pizzeria right across the road, there. We really should try it out. Everyone says we should try it out. Don’t look at me like that; it’s totally coincidence that we happened to end up in front of Pizzería Banchero at lunch time. I totally didn’t plan that.

Banchero is a classic spot in La Boca, established in 1932 by Juan Banchero, the son of a Genoese baker who had emigrated here at the turn of the century, along with thousands of his countrymen. The restaurant quickly became a hit, and a couple branches have even opened elsewhere in the city. It’s immediately apparent why Banchero is so loved among porteños — the prices are great, the atmosphere is casual and comfortable, and the pizzas are astounding. We ordered a fugazza, made with a crunchy, airy crust and topped with onions and mountains of cheese. Delicious. Plus, the service was great; our impeccably-dressed Paraguayan waiter was as friendly as could be, taking time to explain the pizzas to us and make recommendations.

If you’re in La Boca, and have survived the tourist hordes of El Caminito, treat yourself to a great pizza in a time-honored joint that locals love: Pizzería Banchero. And don’t worry about all that cheese. Diets are for later, and firm bellies are over-rated, anyway. That’s what I keep telling myself, as we continue to tick Buenos Aires’ “must-eat” pizzerías off our list.

Pizzería Banchero
Suárez 396 y Brown
Tel: 4301-1406
Location on our BA Map
The Art of Making Pizza

Pizzzaria Banchero
Pizza La Boca
Pizza Waiter
Fanta Buenos Aires
Beer Snack
Fugazza Pizza
Fugazza
Cheesy Pizza
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March 3, 2011 at 11:14 pm Comments (0)

The Proa – La Boca’s Modern Art Museum

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Buenos Aires Street Art

For such a congested tourism hub, La Boca has a few wonderful places to escape the throngs. The surprisingly fun Wax Museum is one, and the excellent modern art museum Fundación Proa is another.

PROA

The Proa’s facade is that of a stately 19th-century Italian mansion, but the interior has been completely gutted and converted into a museum space, all clean walls and sharp angles. The contrast is startling, but works perfectly for the kind of art showcased by the foundation.

The Proa opened in 1996, and has three floors of temporary exhibitions. There is no permanent collection. The show we happened to see was called Of Bridges and Borders, featuring a number of works from international artists created specifically for the Proa, which focus on the real and imagined borders which separate us. Many of the pieces were fantastic, and we had a great time wandering around the spacious rooms.

On the top floor is a cafe with outdoor seating and a view over La Boca’s river promenade. We sat down with cold cans of Quilmes, and watched the masses below follow each other through the Caminito. The Proa, in comparison, was almost completely empty. Curious, how such a wonderful museum in a touristy zone like the Boca could be so completely overlooked.

Fundación PROA
Av. Pedro de Mendoza 1929
Tel: 11 4104 1000
Location on our BA Map
Short Term Rental in San Telmo

Modern Art Buenos Aires
Art Dude
Photo Exhibit Buenos Aires
Window to the World
Modern Architecture
Modern Kitchen
Buenos Aires Comics
Buenos Aires Hipster
Buenos Aires Shadeds
Buenos Aires Terrace
Modern Photography Buenos Aires
Spy Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires Panorama
Puerto Viejo
Brown Shoulder
Buenos Aires Plants
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February 16, 2011 at 7:56 pm Comments (2)

Welcome to La Boca

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Boca Juniors Souvenirs

With its brightly painted houses and open air art, the southern immigrant neighborhood of La Boca is both enchanting and irritating. How much you enjoy yourself depends on when you go, and how allergic you are to kitsch.

Caminito

La Boca was settled by Italian immigrants, mainly from Genoa, and became a tourist draw in the 20th century when local artist Benito Quinquela Martin decided to bring life into his stagnating neighborhood by creating El Caminito: a tiny street which exhibits the best of La Boca: tango, brightly colored buildings and quirky art. Today, El Caminito is one of the most heavily visited places in Buenos Aires.

Good Times Buenos Aires

We went on a Sunday afternoon, which proved to be a mistake. Thousands of tourists were stepping out from hundreds of buses shielding their eyes against the bright sun, crushing our feet, stumbling into our pictures, smacking us with their fanny packs, and crushing our souls. Their flashing cameras and mindless mirth brings out the worst in La Boca’s locals. Every couple meters someone tried to hustle us into a store, sell us some piece of junk, or wrangle us into a picture.

Museo de Cera

To escape the crowds, we ducked into the Wax Museum. We didn’t expect much, but were pleasantly surprised. Very small and cheap, and the exhibits did a decent job of introducing Argentine history and culture. Besides, one can never see enough wax anaconda dummies.

Republica de la Boca

In 1882, residents of the neighborhood seceded from Argentina and declared the República de la Boca; it was a short-lived rebellion, but the spirit of independence remains. La Boca associates itself heavily with Boca Juniors, the working man’s football team, whose blue & gold color scheme dominates the streets.

BaSAres

The main tourists sights in Boca center on the Vuelta de Rocha, where the Riachuelo river curves briefly inland. It’s an interesting geographical phenomenon, but the lack of movement in the water and the heavy industry all around lead to an often unpleasant smell. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, a walk along the river promenade can either be charming or nauseating.

Panaderia Boca

Once you get away from the Vuelta, La Boca shows its less friendly side. In the barrio’s east, painted houses more authentic than those of the Caminito abound, but crime is frequent. Poverty is widespread and, if you must pass through at night, you’ll want to get a taxi. Four different concerned locals warned Juergen to keep his camera hidden, during the hours we spent there.

La Boca is an interesting place, home to utter destitution and crass touristic exploitation, but also possessing a unique, working-class spirit which makes it one of the must-see areas of BA.

La Boca on our Buenos Aires Map
Hotels Around La Bombonera Stadium

Boca Angel
La Boca
Boca Aires
La Boca Archtitecture
Boca Art
Boca Flores
Boca House
Boca Fashion
Boca Market
Teatro Ribera
Viva La Boca
Tango Boca
Founder of Buenos Aires
Boca Soccer
Fussball Buenos Aires
Ronaldino
Maradona
La Boca Buenos Aires
Welcome To Buenos Aires
Tourist Trap Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires 2011
Buenos Airs Photographer
Boca Che
Buenos Aires Whore
Casa Rosada La Boca
color Houses Buenos Aires
La Boca
Buenos Aires Blanco Rojo
Boca Children
Filete Painter
Filete Coca Cola
Boca Buenos Aires
Costumbres Buenos Aires
Boca Perros
Wax Face
Fine Art Buenos Aires
Boca Map
Parilla Buenos Aires
Parilla La Boca
Pizzaria La Boca
Boca Torre
Eye of Buenos Aires
Puerto Viejo
Buenos Aires Workers
Fisthermen Buenos Aires
Boca Bridge
Boca Junior
Porto Viejo
Boca Kiosco
Boca Mafia
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February 16, 2011 at 12:32 am Comments (13)

Tango, Desaparecidos, Maradona

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“What do you know about Buenos Aires?” That’s the question posed to Barcelonan detective Pepe Carvalho at the beginning of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s excellent crime novel Quinteto de Buenos Aires. Carvahlo’s response mirrors what mine would have been: “Tango, desaparecidos, Maradona”. I suppose I might have added Evita. Not much else.

Buenos Aires Tango

Neither Jürgen nor I had ever been to Argentina before. Or South America, for that matter. I can’t say exactly why we chose Buenos Aires for our next three month stay; for some indefinable reason, the city has always tempted us. The words “Buenos Aires” conjure images of smoky tango clubs, chaotic street life, and beautiful, rotting decadence. The very idea of the city is alluring. Maybe it was the promise of steaks and pizza, or the reputation which Argentines enjoy of physical beauty. Whatever the reason, we arrived in February of 2011 to find a huge metropolis teeming with culture and history laid out before us, just waiting to be explored.

It’s a bit daunting: our last two stays were in the smaller cities of Oviedo, Spain and Savannah, Georgia. Our experience in Buenos Aires would be massively different. There was no chance we’d ever get to know this megalopolis as intimately as we did Savannah, or as thoroughly as Oviedo. The idea of comprehensively experiencing Buenos Aires in three months is ridiculous. Instead of our normal maturation from “bewildered newcomers” to “almost locals”, we’d never progress further than “slightly less bewildered newcomers”.

But our education began quickly. Within our first couple days in Buenos Aires, I became addicted to both mate and Carlos Gardel. By the end of the first week, I was using the word “Che” with the newspaper vendor, pronouncing my “ll”s like “zsa” and comfortable with the various cuts of beef at the parrilla down the street. Basically a local already.

Whether you’ve lived here for years or never been, we hope you enjoy our pictures and the accounts of our experiences in Buenos Aires. As already mentioned, we don’t yet know much about the city, so if you have any great recommendations, we’d love to hear them… shoot us an email, or contact us via Facebook or Twitter. Our 91 days in Buenos Aires is underway!

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February 7, 2011 at 10:00 pm Comments (10)
Bodegn El Obrero in La Boca
For 91 Days