Monday, February 18, 2008

Cafés in Buenos Aires

Looking for inexpensive places to eat in Buenos Aires? There are no shortage of cafés with great food and low prices. Most cafes will offer pizza and pasta, a result of the large Italian immigration to Buenos Aires in the early 20th century. These meals are typically very inexpensive. A large cheese pizza, with two sodas, was usually under 30 pesos ($10.00). And, what is nice about most of the cafés is that they are frequented by porteños (what the locals call themselves) and not other tourists.

The cafés around the tourist areas such as Retiro, El Centro and San Telmo usually have menus available in English. But you’ll have to ask for them. I have some knowledge of Spanish but, if available, we get one Spanish menu and one English menu. Comparing the translations was a great way to improve our knowledge of Spanish food terms.

There are two very old cafés that are worth a special visit. Café Tortoni bills itself as the oldest café in the entire city of Buenos Aires. It is on Avenida de Mayo and is within walking distance of most downtown hotels. If you are nearby (and just about everyone is at one time or another) it is worth stopping in to admire the wood paneling, the Tiffany lamps and the pictures on the walls. And, while there, of course, to have a cup of expresso or cappuccino.

If you don’t mind going out of your way for something special, then take a taxi, as we did, to Las Violetas. This is an old French-style café and competes with Café Tortoni for oldest café in the city. We went there for afternoon tea and had their Maria Cala. This was 33 peso ($11) and consisted

of juice, coffee and a HUGE tray of sandwiches and pastries. What a treat! The two of us could not finish it and we didn’t eat dinner that evening either.