A week in Buenos Aires

28th February 2019

We spent a few months in Buenos Aires in 2009 (click here), returned again in 2017 and still love it. What a place to go for a 70th birthday lunch. Great idea Pam!

San Telmo is the oldest barrio in Buenos Aires. With its cobblestone streets, fading grandeur, street art, markets, traditional bars and restaurants it’s our favourite. We’ve stayed at Lemon Apartments 4 or 5 times. 

Lemon Apartments
A rainy day in Buenos Aires

First stop – Pirilo – a local pizza place in San Telmo on Defensa 821, random opening hours after 2pm. Established by Genoan immigrants in 1932, it hasn’t changed. Traditional cheap Argentina pizza, two types Muzza (mozzarella) and Cebolla (onions and cheese) plus Faina (polenta). There’s no tables or chairs, you grab a slice of pizza and glass of wine or beer. Average cost, about AUD$2 per slice/glass.

“Si no comiste en Pirilo no estuviste en San Telmo” (If you did not eat in Pirilo you were not in San Telmo)

Enjoying Porteña pizza at Pirilo

Took the bus an hour out to Feria de Mataderos, Sunday afternoon only. Looking forward to a vacío (flank steak) sandwich with a glass of patero (foot-pressed) wine from a stall at the back. Except it was all closed for vacations, disappointed.

Normally there’s gauchos dancing in the street, music, dances, good parrilla (BBQ) food stands and quality craft stalls.  A festival atmosphere without tourists.  So here’s a couple of photos from last time (2017).

Meat grilling at Mataderos
Gauchos dancing in the street at Mataderos

San Telmo Sunday Markets – full length of Defensa (Street).  Antiques and crafts, music, hippies, lots of people mostly local.

San Telmo Sunday Markets
Beautiful hand-made glass jewelry and plates at the San Telmo Market
Street food in San Telmo, very tasty chori (pork sausages)
San Telmo Street Art – click here for more

Dinner at Nuestra Parrilla de Freddy – Bolívar 950, beside an entrance to San Telmo Markets. Random opening hours. It’s a hole in the wall joint serving choripan (grilled pork sausages in a bun) – authentic, cheap, simple and quick. The best choripan in Buenos Aires. About AUD$3.5 for choripan and AUD$2 for a generous glass of wine.

Freddy’s son preparing choripan
Freddys is closed

La Covacha de Chicho – Chacabuco 1054, cheap, friendly, family steak grill. The meat might not be the best in Buenos Aires but it’s cheap and cheerful and the vacío (flank) sandwich is very nice. Open 12 till about 3, then again in the evenings.

La Covacha de Chicho – you can tell when it’s open, the bike is parked outside

La Brigada – Estados Unidos 465, our favourite restaurant in San Temo. Very traditional, somewhat formal but decked out with lots of football memorabilia. Fabulous steak (lomo) and wine (Malbec, naturally) = a great experience. Yes, you can cut the meat with spoon.

We flew from Australia to celebrate my 70th birthday here!

La Brigada – a classic Buenos Aires steak restaurant
Lunch at La Brigada

Bars – there are some beautiful old, historical bars (Bares Notables) in San Telmo. They also serve food. 

Bar El Federal, El Hipopótamo and Bar Británico
Bar Plaza Dorego, La Poesía

La hora del vermouth Porteño – In Buenos Aires of old, a melancholic moment at dusk before laborers returned to their families but today revived as an aperitif, usually with tapas. By the way, it tastes nothing like the vermouth of martinis and comes with a splash of soda.

Cafe San Juan La Vermuteria
De Lucía – San Telmo Markets, vermouth & paella

Street Art of Palermo – Buenos Aires has some of the finest street art in the world. Once frowned upon, it is now actively encouraged by the government. Leafy Palermo with its trendy bars, restaurants & boutique shops is one of the best barrios to enjoy the “graffiti” of Buenos Aires. The artists use multiple techniques – brush, roller, spray cans, stencil, glued on posters. Artists are respected and there is almost no vandalism of their works. Many works are commissioned by the building owners. Here are just a few examples. Click here for bigger and better pictures.

The law says that dog walkers can have no more than 8 dogs at once, but nobody takes any notice.

Professional dog walker

Some of our favorite Buenos Aires light foods:

Migas (3 layer sandwiches), empanadas and gelato

Recoleta – Clean and tranquil, Recoleta cemetery is worth a visit. Eva Peron is buried here.  There’s some fancy apartments, shops and restaurants in this barrio.

Recoleta Cemetery

il Nonno Bachicha – Defensa 963, the name means a grandfather who recently arrived from Italy in the early 20th century and now wants to be a Porteño (a person from Buenos Aires). Back then vino patero (foot-pressed wine) was served in a penguin shaped jug. They still have a few “pingüinos” so we asked for our wine in one. Somehow vino en pingüino tastes better! We had Milanesa, crumbed veal, Buenos Aires’ quintessential dish. Reasonably priced and open at our dinner time.

Il Nonno Bachicha, milanesa (crumbed veal), typical Porteño food and vino in pingüino

Tigre – Delta north of Buenos Aires.  About 1 hour 30 minutes from Retiro via Tren de la Costa.  At Tigre a 1 hour boat trip around the Delta, about AUD $8, in the public launch that stops at people’s jetties along the way is very nice.

Tigre main wharf – Delta house – small stream – house jetties – shop boat – public launch

La Estancia – Lavalle 941 in the Centro. The whole cow cooking in the traditional gaucho manner over a fire is on display in the window.  Large restaurant, open all hours, a bit touristy, not cheap.  The costillas (ribs) are really good. 

Meat slowly grilling at La Estancia

Plaza Dorego – San Telmo, for a beer or wine in the plaza and watch free tango (the dancers are busking).

Afternoon Tango in Plaza Dorego

Pulpería Quilapán – Defensa 1344, the oldest house in Buenos Aires, decorated in gaucho style has the biggest clay oven in town. We had ribs, and lamb slow cooked in the oven and of course vino in pingüino.

Pulpería Quilapán – Buenos Aires biggest clay oven – slow cooked lamb – vino in pingüino

La Boca – colourful buildings, history, home of the tango.  Sure it’s touristy but still nice. About an hours walk from San Telmo.

Colourful buildings of La Boca
Caminito, the main street of La Boca

Desnivel – Defensa 855, for our final meal, an unpretentious parrilla/bodegón (grill/tavern). Their version of Proveleta (grilled cheese) with bacon, tomato and peppers was delicious, as was the steak.

Desnivel – parrilla (BBQ) in action – Proveleta (grilled cheese) – lomo (sirloin)

For more detailed information on how to spend a week in Buenos Aires (in a downloadable .pdf) click here.