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La Morada

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Folklore Songs from Argentina

Serving up cheap eats with quick and friendly service, La Morada is extremely popular with the lunchtime business crowd. Found near the Plaza de Mayo, the restaurant specializes in classic Argentine fare, such as empanadas, locro and tartas.

La Morada

The decoration of the small restaurant is kitsch taken to the nth degree. Glass cases hold hundreds of miniature collectible figures. Posters of old comics and 70s surf records adorn the walls, and a projection TV shows old Hanna-Barbera cartoons. It’s amusing to see suited businessmen, intensely watching a Loopy DeLoop cartoon, while chowing down on empanadas.

Our waiter was friendly, and happy to attend to all our questions. At one point, a poor girl of about 7 years of age entered, trying to sell stickers to customers. Instead of shooing her away, the waiter offered her an empanada, which, to our amazement, she refused. So he handed her a couple pesos instead. Those she snatched away without a word of thanks.

If you’re in the mood for a quick, typically Argentine meal, hunt down La Morada. We really enjoyed it.

Hipólito Yrigoyen 778
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Tel: 4343-3003
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May 5, 2011 at 3:20 pm Comments (0)

Café Tortoni

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Buenos Aires’ oldest and most famous coffee shop is Café Tortoni, just a few blocks west of the Plaza de Mayo. A gorgeous space which has been serving porteños since 1858, the café is usually toward the top of everyone’s “must-see” list. For good reason.

Reading the Menu

The oft-photographed Parisian-font logo above the front door betrays the café’s origins. Tortoni was founded in 1857 by a French immigrant, who named it after his favorite coffee shop in Paris. It quickly gained a foothold among the people of Buenos Aires, and was the first of many cafés that would sprout up around the city toward the end of the 19th century. A host of famous people have been patrons, from Borges and Federico García Lorca, to Albert Einstein and Hillary Clinton.

Inside, Tortoni is spacious and beautifully decorated with stained glass windows, wooden furniture and old pictures on the walls. There’s a billiards room, and a couple smaller salons used for concerts and tango performances, as well. The cafe has done a splendid job maintaining its spirit of authenticity, despite the crowds and camera flashes. If possible, try and go on a weekday; there are still a few hours when Tortoni calms down, and you can fully immerse yourself in its charm.

Café Tortoni
Av. de Mayo 825/29
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Tel: 4342 4328

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April 30, 2011 at 7:08 pm Comments (0)

Las Cuartetas – Pizza in the Theater District

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We’ve already written about El Cuartito, one of the very first pizza joints we discovered in Buenos Aires. Las Cuartetas is similar in food, name and decor. But it’s larger and, especially on a weekend night as the theaters of Calle Corrientes are emptying, much more boisterous.

Animated Pizza

We took friends from Germany on the same Thursday night that Plácido Domingo put on a free concert at the nearby obelisk. The restaurant was full when we arrived and, after the concert ended, the insanity in Las Cuartetas ascended to a level I could scarcely believe. Unceasing rivers of people flowed through the doors, passing by our table, headed towards the back in search of seating. I don’t know where any of them ended up; the restaurant was already packed to capacity when the flood started. The only explanation we could imagine was that they were exiting again through a door in the back, in an elaborate game to punk us. The line of people just kept filing past, like midget clowns piling into a car, and I swear I saw a few faces twice.

The pizza was incredible. Deep-dish, cheesy, greasy; everything we’ve come to expect of Buenos Aires’ best pizzerias. But really, the food took a back-seat to the atmosphere inside Las Cuartetas. Every seat was taken, and people shared tables with total strangers. Old deaf couples munching down fugazzas next to lip-pierced alterno-kids drinking Fanta, everyone screaming to be heard. Most of the screaming was directed at the waiter. The dapper old gentleman had to deal with about 40 tables in our section, and did so with the utmost professionalism.

We had a blast at Las Cuartetas, and can definitely recommend a visit, especially when it gets crowded. If the idea of cheesy, unhealthy pizza in a raucous madhouse full of shouting Argentines sounds like a good time, you won’t be disappointed.

Las Cuartetas
Corrientes, Av. 838
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
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April 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm Comments (5)

The Plaza de Mayo

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The History of Argentina

With the Casa Rosada to the west and the city hall to the east, the Plaza de Mayo is undoubtedly the political nexus of Argentina. From famous speeches to white-hooded mothers united in a call for justice, the plaza has long been the focal point of the country’s most compelling dramas.

Buenos Aires

One of the more famous scenes was the massive October 17th, 1945 demonstration of the descamisados, organized by Evita and the CGT Workers’ Union to demand the release of Juan Peron from prison. After decades of misrule by military juntas, the people finally demanded to be heard. And they were.

Ten years later, the plaza became the blood-soaked scene of the most devastating attack ever to occur on Argentine soil. Juan Peron was still in office, empowering workers, and the country’s military leaders didn’t like that… not one little bit. As the opening salvo in an attempted coup d’etat, the country’s army and air force flew over the Plaza de Mayo and bombed a rally being held to support Peron. 355 died, and damage from the shrapnel is still visible today.

But the plaza’s most enduring image is that of the weekly Thursday vigils of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. During the Dirty War (1976-1983), the conservative government kidnapped, murdered and disappeared the remains of tens of thousands of young, liberal Argentinian men and women. Families were given no information as to the fate of their children, and in the face of government indifference, a group of mothers banded together in a call for justice. They donned white shawls and marched every Thursday around the Plaza de Mayo, silently pressing the government for answers.

It’s difficult to overestimate the bravery of these women. They congregated in full view of their children’s assassins, comfortably seated in the Casa Rosada, tacitly daring them to either arrest or murder a group of peaceful women. And in fact, their gamble wasn’t without consequence. Government operatives would occasionally sneak into the group, and a few mothers were disappeared themselves.

Every visitor to Buenos Aires is going to find themselves in the Plaza de Mayo at some point. On a sunny day, and especially at dusk when the setting sun illuminates the Casa Rosada, it can be beautiful. The country’s turbulent history may darken that beauty, but also makes it richer.

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March 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm Comments (4)

El Querandí: Dinner and a Primer to the History of Tango

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There are a few ways to experience tango while in Buenos Aires. Milongas are probably the most popular option, where people of all skill levels join in the dancing. And there are recitals with excellent music, usually no dancing, but possibly the most authentic. Or, you can choose the full-on tourist experience of the dinner show.

Sexy Tango

We arrived at El Querandí at 9:30, and were promptly served dinner: salads, empanadas, steak and wine. While eating and awaiting the show, we met our table companions. Everyone in the restaurant was a foreigner; German, American, French, Japanese. That would usually be a turn-off, but not tonight. The crowd was happy and energetic, and besdies, you wouldn’t go to El Querandí if you wanted to be surrounded by locals. The show is an overview of tango’s history! Hardly a lesson most Argentinians would need.

Once the lights went up, idle chatter with our new friends immediately stopped: our attention was entirely captured by the show. Two hours of top-notch dancing and singing, with incredible music performed by an odd quartet consisting of a piano, violin, bass and accordion. Some of our favorite moments in the show were actually just the band playing by itself.

The initial acts were set in the outskirts of Buenos Aires in the late 1800s, when roughly-dressed workers and the immigrant women who worked in brothels were inventing a new art form. The way it turns out… and I had really suspected as much… and perhaps especially when it’s performed by young, skilled and beautiful people… and, yes, perhaps especially when they are dressed as rough-n-tumble dock workers and prostitutes… well, the tango can be … let’s just call it “passionate”.

There was singing as well, with a tribute to Carlos Gardel who popularized tango both at home and around the world. As the show moved into modernity, when tango found acceptance among all walks of Argentine society, the sets became more professional and the dress more genteel. The grace and timing of the dancers was amazing, and there were a number of beautiful moments. The dancers struck a lot of classic poses, which was well-appreciated since photography was permitted during the show.

Fine, it’s not the most authentic way to experience tango in the city, but El Querandí provides a wonderful evening of food and music. And anyway, “most authentic” doesn’t necessarily mean “most enjoyable”. We were amazed at how well-staged the show was, and how much fun we had. If you’re looking for an entertaining evening out, and a solid tango show, you won’t be disappointed in El Querandí.

El Querandí’s Website
Peru 302
Tel: 11 5199 1770 (Reservations Necessary)
Location on our BsAs Map
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March 10, 2011 at 12:50 am Comments (3)

Old Mansion Hostel in Monserrat: Art Factory

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You can’t go wrong with this unique hostel perfectly located in the heart of Monserrat, near San Telmo and the Plaza de Mayo with the Casa Rosada. The hostel is in an old mansion with a vibrant, colorful interior based on urban street art. But the main reason to chose this hostel is the rooftop bar. They also offer events like tango lessons, Spanish lessons, city tours, asados and trips across the river to Uruguay.

That’s not all!

  • Hot water in all bathrooms all day long.
  • Fresh products delivered daily to prepare our inclusive “all you can eat” breakfast featuring different fruits, breads, cereals, juices and our famous Sunday Brunch.
  • Fully-equipped kitchen
  • Wi-fi and cable TV + movies in DVD
  • Luggage and bike storage room
  • Library and book swap

Book your stay in the Art Factory here
Location on our Buenos Aires Map

Hostel Buenos Aires

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March 7, 2011 at 11:13 pm Comment (1)

Tour of the Casa Rosada

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The US might have the White House, but Argentina has the Pink House. The Casa Rosada at the eastern extreme of the Plaza de Mayo is the seat of the country’s government, where the President and her staff work. On weekends, you can tour the building for free.

Casa Rosada

Unlike America’s White House, the President doesn’t live inside the Casa Rosada. But very much like America’s Jennifer Lopez, the building is most frequently photographed from behind. The front of the Casa Rosada faces towards Parque Colón, and people taking pictures from the Plaza de Mayo are actually admiring its boomin’ rear facade. The back balcony is where Eva Peron delivered her famous speeches.

Evita’s presence still looms large over the Casa Rosada, which is more correctly known as the Casa del Gobierno. Along with a huge group of about 60, mostly Argentinians, we were led the premises around by a decoratively outfitted soldier. There was a gallery of important South American leaders, a gorgeous courtyard with a fountain, classic artwork on the walls and stunning interior architecture. We were able to get out onto the balcony, and look out over the Plaza just as Evita once did. I’ll give you one guess what song I was humming. We were even allowed entrance into the President’s office.

The house’s strange color has a poetic meaning of its own. Pink was chosen as a way to soothe relations between rival political parties, by symbolically mixing their colors: red and white. It looks beautiful, particularly at dusk. The Casa Rosada has been the heart of Argentine politics since the country’s founding.

Casa Rosada on our Buenos Aires Map

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February 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm Comments (3)
La Morada
For 91 Days