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Experiencing Argentinian Evenings in Buenos Aires

Eleanor Hughes

Contributor

There’s plenty of bars, nightclubs and restaurants in Buenos Aires, the suburbs of Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho come to life at night with them. But you can visit those in any city. Explore what Argentina is famous for. Its tango, it originated in Buenos Aires, and beef. Enjoy both in this capital city known as the Paris of South America. Get a taste of the past in the oldest café in town or check out some Argentinian culture.

Experience Plaza Dorrego on a Sunday Evening

Situated in San Telmo, the oldest part of the city, Plaza Dorrego comes alive with music and tango dancers on a Sunday night as the sun sets. This isn’t a tango show, but locals gathering to spend their evening dancing. Being in the square is like stepping into an old-time movie set. It’s overlooked by 19th Century buildings with wrought-iron balconies, with old-fashioned street lamps and coloured lightbulbs strung between trees lighting it. Scratchy-sounding recorded accordion music plays. Enjoy watching the dancing while having a meal or drink at one of the wooden tables set up in the square from nearby restaurants or bars. Or perhaps tango, a few tourists join in, usually easily spotted as they’re not quite as elegant as the locals!

Try a Mouth-Watering Argentinian Steak

Argentina is famous for its beef with Argentinians eating more than 45 kilograms per head a year and steakhouses are synonymous with the country. Beef is cooked slowly over a parrilla, a grill heated by wood or charcoal and it’s good! Buenos Aires hosts numerous steakhouses, so finding one isn’t a problem, waiting for them to open might be. Argentinians tend to eat late, with many restaurants not opening until at least 8 p.m. You could check out Gran Parilla del Plata on Calle Peru, once visited by Michelle Obama. It’s a busy corner restaurant in an area of rundown, graffitied buildings, and random rubbish piles but don’t be put off. It’s a local favourite, be sure to make a reservation. A butcher’s shop in the 1930s - tools still hang on the tiled walls - the place buzzes with chatter as waiters walk the green and white tiled floor. Try the steaks, blood sausage, chinchulines (small intestine), chorizo, kidneys, or ribs. Also on the menu is an Argentinian speciality, provoleta, a provolone-style cheese, cut thickly and grilled. Crispy on the outside and melting in the middle, it’s served as an appetizer, and delectable. 

Get a Taste of Old Time Buenos Aires

Café Tortoni was opened in 1858 and is the oldest café in Buenos Aires. Situated on Avenida de Mayo, perhaps the grandest avenue in the city with the Presidential Palace at one end, stepping into the net-curtained café is like stepping back in time. Black suited, bow-tied waiters wait on customers who are seated in maroon leather armchairs at marble-topped tables. High ceilings, some of which have stained glass panels, walls covered in old photographs and pictures, and art deco lamps and memorabilia add to the bygone atmosphere. A visit is a must just to experience old-time Buenos Aires. Meals don’t seem to get a great review. Perhaps just pop in for dessert or coffee. The Bombón Suizo comes highly recommended! Queues sometimes form outside, possibly a ploy to make it look busy as quite often after waiting it’s found that there are plenty of empty tables inside.

One hour tango shows are held at the café twice nightly from Monday to Friday in Sala La Bodega, a small, dim downstairs room decked out in rich red furnishings, seating perhaps fifty. You may not understand this intimate show, dialogue is in Spanish, but it will probably leave you wanting to learn to tango. Other shows are also on offer.

Dance to a Different Beat

Playing every Monday night at the La Ciudad Cultural Konex in the suburb of Palermo, La Bomba de Tiempo is an improvising percussion group. The concerts are mainly attended by locals in their twenties and thirties and the music is a full-on assault of the ears with tribal beats turning the crowd frenetic whirling, leaping and performing moves that may put backs out. If you’ve ever been to a STOMP performance, the music is akin to this.

La Ciudad Cultural Konex is a complex of indoor and outdoor theatres with La Bomba de Tiempo playing in an outdoor courtyard overlooked by industrial buildings. There is an indoor venue in case of rain. The show starts at 8p.m., tickets can be bought in advance slightly cheaper than on the day. Otherwise get there by 7p.m. and join the queue. Fliers are handed out while you wait for after parties and beer is sold in the street. The show lasts for around 2 hours with a bar available, although there are long queues and trying to find your group again in the crowd… good luck.

Tango the Night Away

There are many classes available for budding tango dancers with individual or group lessons. You could try out what you’ve learnt at one of the many milongas. These organised tango dance clubs kick-off late, unlike the one at Plaza Dorrego, with 11p.m. about the earliest start. Some get going around 2 – 3a.m. Dress up and have a meal, tables usually surround the dance floor, then dance the night away or just watch if your tangoing expertise isn’t that great. Some milongas welcome beginners more than others, check them out on-line before you go.

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