I keep thinking of information about Buenos Aires and adding it to my blog. Here is another installment.
As I never seem to have money available for tango shows (and prefer dancing to watching), I had never been to a tango show in Buenos Aires before this year. However, my main teachers, Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas, are kick-ass stage performers, along with being fabulous dancers in the milongas. I went to the show at Esquina Carlos Gardel to see them. Most of the sweet young things (SYTs) were pretty to watch. Oscar and Georgina were amazing--ever think you saw fire and smoke sizzle off of performers? I think I did!--and Pocho Pizarro did his famous broom dance, which was even better than on YouTube. He had as much stage presence as all the SYTs put together! If you like to watch show tango, or if you have non-dancing friends headed for Buenos Aires, this is a classy place to have dinner and enjoy the show, and other folks told me that they consider this the best show in town.
If you are going to be in Buenos Aires for long enough to contemplate taking nights off to do things other than dancing, check out the great programs at the Centro Cultural Borges, Viamonte, esq. San Martin. There are great shows there (and tango classes, etc.). I didn't get to see the entire flamenco show featured in January and February, but I was lucky enough to see some of the performers from Entre Mi Sangre Y Mi Tierra when they showed up at TangoQueer to promote their show. WOW! Some of the best flamenco dancing I have seen. Centro Cultural Torcuato Tasso, on Defensa, also has shows and classes, again quite reasonable in price.
My favorite place to eat in Buenos Aires is Pedro Telmo, Bolivar 962, in San Telmo. It has good pizza, empanadas, baked pasta, etc. It is inexpensive and filling. However, the reason it is my FAVORITE place is because of La Negra, the proprietor. She's getting up there in years (no idea, but she reminds me of my grandmother), and she is everyone's Mama. I spent three months eating lunch there almost every day (close to my dive hotel, cheap, warm) about ten years ago. La Negra bossed me around, fussed if I didn't eat all of it, and generally made me feel happy and cared for during two cold winters.
Confiteria La Opera, Av. Corrientes 1789 (Corrientes y Callao) was the closest cafe to where we stayed this time. I remembered their yummy coffee from my other visits, and they have free Wi-Fi (email downloads!), so we made this our standard breakfast coffee place. They happily adjusted their omelettes to my traveling companions request (combining the ham and cheese omelet with the omelet with verduras), and got used to seeing us at all strange, random hours of the day and night. On our last night in Bs As, we told the waiter they wouldn't be seeing us until our next visit, and he refused our tip and brought us each a free glass of wine. Very unexpected, as they are nice, correct waiters and stayed out of our hair for the most part.
Chiquilín, Sarmiento 1599, esp. Montevideo, is open from noon to 2 am every day. It is more expensive than the other places we went, but it was nice to play hooky from tango for a night and pig out. I had the bife de lomo, medium rare; a salad; wine; and flan (my usual). I can't remember how much it cost, but it was above budget, and worth it! My travel companion happily checked email, as there is free Wi-Fi.
Gijon, Chile 1402 (Chile y San Jose), is a neighborhood parrilla. It was stuffed full of folks from the neighborhood, watching the football game and eating. The price is right (MUCH lower than the other parrillas we went to) for good food. The wine sucked, but we ordered the house wine, so . . . The flan was delicious, as was the salad and steak I had. Warning: closed on Sundays!
Chan Chan, Hipólito Yrigoyen 1390, is a neighborhood Peruvian restaurant. The food was cheap and delicious. It's just around the corner from La Nacional, and we went after dancing. Our friends had been there many times, and the entire wait staff kindly served us and waited until we were done (the absolute last to come in and order) with patience and friendly smiles. I had amazing fish stew. If you like Peruvian food, you will love this place!
Quorum, Combate de los Pozos 61, is right behind the Congreso building, and has an all-you-can-eat format, including salads, cold cuts, veggies, a dessert bar (flan oh my god), and a HUGE grill at the back. Phone for reservations: 4951-0855. Prices are reasonable but not cheap (32-43 pesos a person, depending on day of the week and whether it's lunch or dinner, with reduced prices for kids) and the food is very good.
Is it OK to write about restaurants that I wish I had visited? Sarkis, Thames 1101, is a WONDERFUL Arab and Armenian restaurant that I visited years ago with an Argentine friend. We debated going there this time, but ended up at a different place due to time constraints (see next). It is not super cheap, but you will end up eating so much that you hurt, if you like this kind of food. Yummy yummy yummy!!!!
Bodega Campo, Rodríguez Peña 264, was our chosen spot to meet this year because it was between our houses and both of us had appointments afterwards. This was not amazing, but the food was good and the price was, too. It has a western feeling to the decor, a tango show in the evenings (a strange combo), and a good wine cellar. The empanadas were not on the menu, but were produced when we requested them (very good!), along with salad. My friend says that the locro is very good here (a bean stew with unmentionable cow innards in it that tastes wonderful and looks a bit strange to this ex-vegetarian).
I admit it: I love Zival's, on the corner of Corrientes and Callao (subte stop: Callao). It didn't help that I was staying a block away. I'm still impressed with myself for limiting the number of CDs I bought!
What I love about Zival's is the knowledgeable staff. I walked up to ask questions about good milonga CDs, and the counter person called for another guy to come over. I told him what I already had, and he made some suggestions to augment my collection. He could tell me what CDs they had, whether the sound quality was good or not, and was able to find them for me in about a minute. Wow!
I also like their system (installed since my last visit) that allows you to listen to every cut on most of their available music. This really helped in selecting music for my sweetie, who prefers electronic tango music (not my strong point). I listened to ten albums before choosing two. I now hear those two albums daily ;-)
I wandered into several other stores and bought music, but only Zival's had someone who knew tango well (I'm sure other stores do, too, but not the ones I went to!). You can order from Zival's online (see link above).
If you are looking for something to read, and don't read Spanish, toddle over to one of these two bookstores that stocked with English books:
Rincon 9 and Junin 74 (both named after their addresses)
They appear to cater to teachers of English, English and American literature (and also current fiction) and children's books. I found some nice books on Buenos Aires architecture and social history for my sweetie. The store personnel speak at least some English, and are VERY helpful.
Ways to get from the airport to the city
Vicky Ayer's friend, Luis, arranged for our transport to and from the airport. I don't have his phone number, but Vicky can set you up with him. His son took us back to the airport, and was very chatty and nice. Luis' friend, Graciela Guido, picked us up; she also runs her own airport pickup and rents an apartment in Palermo Soho to visitors. She seemed really nice, although we did not see the apartment. I don't think she speaks any English, but we had a rolicking conversation in Spanish. You can contact her at ipedeargentina @ hotmail.com or 1540639799 (mobile) or 4573-5597 (land line).
One of the artists displaying their wares along Humberto Primo in San Telmo, caught the eye of my traveling companion. You could see that the artist had talent (which I can't say for all of the artists selling there). Mirtha Ruix paints and does india ink and paint works. She is also a teacher. I couldn't find any pictures of her work online, but if you go to the street fair, look for her portly husband selling paintings/india ink work that involves pretty cats, women, etc.
If you buy too many pairs of shoes, you may find yourself shopping for luggage (in the end, we fitted everything in, but it was close). Pinco Pinco, Av. Corrientes 2250, was your standard Once retail/wholesale kinda place, but the owner was both helpful and funny ("Buy some luggage, feed my children! Stimulate the economy!"). He gave honest opinions about the quality of the available bags (if you want super cheap, this is it; if you want something that will last, this medium price bag is better made than the one you are looking at, etc.).
Cheap pants and Tshirts
Basicos, Rivadavia 2297, had pants, skirts and shirts for very reasonable prices (30 pesos for a Tshirt, with 3.8 pesos to the dollar). They were not very friendly, but if you need some more clothes, there they are. I really like the harem-style pants I bought there. They do NOT have a changing room, but you can exchange sizes (they looked at us, handed us clothes, and the clothes fit--no need to exchange).