A trip to Buenos Aires would not be complete without a visit to at least one of its "cafe notables". If in Paris you make a pilgrimage to its famous cafés on the Left Bank like Café de la Paix and Deux Magots or to Fouquet's on the Champs Elysees, you do the same in Buenos Aires.
Wax figures of Jose Luis Borges, Carlos Gardel and Nadia
Café Tortoni is the oldest café in Buenos Aires. It has been around since 1858 and its regulars included Jose Luis Borges - the poet and short story writer, the poet Nadia and Carlos Gardel, the singer and actor who made tango music famous worldwide. Their wax figures stand in one corner of the main dining room. There's a theatre at the back of the café where tango shows are presented nightly. When I visited recently, there was a line at the door. The Tortoni is on Avenida de Mayo, a short walk from the Casa Rosada.
The Bar at Florida Garden
I would not order lunch nor dinner at these cafés. The food was not good at all at the Florida Garden which is located on the pedestrian shopping street of Calle Florida but I was well fed soaking in the beautiful room with paintings on the copper walls, the elegant staircase, the stand up bar with a glass fronted counter which displays tempting desserts and the constant stream of people coming in for coffee and sweets.
At La Biela in Recoleta, the best seat in the house is on the terrace. But on a hot summer's day with temperatures in the 90's, the most comfortable seat is inside the restaurant, by the glass window. I had a turkey cannelloni which was drenched in weak marinara sauce. It was a lot better though than the chicken and fries dish I was served at the Florida Garden and which I sent back to the kitchen for more time in the fryer as the chicken was undercooked, fatty, and was hard to chew. By the way, when you order food from the La Biela terrace under the green umbrellas with a view of the walls of La Recoleta Cemetery, you pay more than when you are seated inside the restaurant.
Turkey cannelloni at La Biela
To learn more about these cafés check out Frommer's Buenos Aires Day by Day. I found this book to be useful with maps and brief, relevant information. It is also light and portable.
* * *
Images by Charie