The sprawling city of Buenos Aires houses an astounding total of 48 barrios, each with a distinct personality. However, if you are just passing through the city and/or most of your friends here are English-speaking ex-pats, it can be easy to fall into a routine of hanging out around the same two or three neighbourhoods and forgetting about all of the rest that the city has to offer. If you are ready for a break from the regular tourist-ridden scenes of places like Palermo and San Telmo, it might be time to explore somewhere new.
Why not Almagro? This barrio is a mostly residential zone known for its history of tango, a relaxed bar and restaurant scene, and a generally laid-back onda that makes it a fun place to get to know. And, while it’s not exactly off the beaten path, Almagro is certainly a less frequented spot by foreigners.
With the mindset of looking for things new and different, the Indy researched some of Almagro’s hot spots and compiled a list of our favourites–while trying to skip the barrio’s more obvious places like the nightly milonga at La Catedral or the famous flower market. Here are our top picks.
Yes, at first glance Las Violetas might seem like an obvious choice, but this café notable made the Almagro list because for us it really is one of the barrio’s best places to visit and is essential for any sort of introduction to the area.
The café was established in the late 1800s and attracted an intellectual crowd early on, with guests like Carlos Pelligrini, the future Argentine president, and period writer Roberto Arlt. The coffeehouse was rebuilt in the 1920s to its current state, and remains a classic for locals and visitors alike.
Today, the spot is luxuriously decorated– with red and gold accents adorning stunningly high ceilings, stained glass from the original building, and grand pillars that make you feel like you have somehow found yourself in a royal tearoom amongst the rows of fast food restaurants, kiosks, and bus stops of the streets outside. Of course, the aroma of freshly baked croissants and piping hot espresso doesn’t put a damper on the café’s style. Neither do the accommodating waiters, which, uniformed in crisp white blazers and bright red ties, gracefully manoeuvre the café’s open dining room.
Although the café has a full menu for any meal of the day and an in-house bakery where you can pick up sweets for any (or no) occasion, its fortes are breakfast and the famous merienda (afternoon tea).
Las Violetas is located at Av. Rivadavia 3899 at the corner with Medrano. It is open daily from 8am until close. More information here.
Another Almagro highlight is Lúcuma, a quiet little bistro that serves incredible Peruvian cuisine in a tranquil atmosphere. The building is nondescript with a simple façade that almost hides the restaurant from passersby, and you could easily miss it if you were not looking for the place. A perfect date spot, this restaurant holds about eight or ten tables accompanied by calm music and peaceful lighting… and did we mention exquisite food?
The chefs at Lúcuma use a variety of traditional spices in their dishes and season their food with more of a kick than many porteño eateries. The restaurant specializes in Creole-Andean fusion and its menu spotlights ceviches, tacu-tacu (Peruvian fried steak), and lots of heaped seafood dishes.
The prices at Lúcuma are decent and definitely a bargain for the quality (and quantity) of food. For dinner you can expect to pay about $150 for main dishes for two people and a bottle of wine.
Lúcuma is located at Humahuaca 4101, at the corner of Humahuaca and Acuña de Figueroa. It is open everyday but Sunday from 12pm-4pm and from 8pm-12am.
Less of your typical boliche and more of a comfortable local tango bar, El Boliche de Roberto is a relaxed venue that hosts live performances about five nights a week. A possibly more authentic tango choice than the neighbourhood’s famous La Catedral, El Boliche de Robert is tucked away in a corner near the Plaza Almagro and draws a crowd of regulars for intimate tango shows and good drinks.
The bar is affectionately known as Lo de Roberto, and (allegedly) used to be the choice venue of tango star Carlos Gardel. Today, the spot features other regular tango singers whose old-fashioned shows keep a dedicated young crowd coming back again and again.
Lo de Roberto provides a laidback and personal setting for listening to classic local music.
Side note–the bar has been closed recently for repairs, but the owner assured us that the place should be up and running again shortly.
El Boliche de Roberto is located at Bulnes 311, at the corner of Bulnes and Peron. Regular hours are from 8pm-4am Tuesday-Saturday.
Lo de Mary
Almagro also does parrilla, and does it well. There are several good options in the barrio for a really good asado dinner, but Lo de Mary makes our list for its extensive menu, sizable portions, and affordable prices.
Lo de Mary is directly across the street from the intimate Peruvian restaurant Lúcuma, but has a completely different vibe. This quaint restaurant is more about meat and beer and friends who stick around for hours chatting at tables indoors in two large rooms and just outside on the sidewalk.
The restaurant faces a colourful mural across the street on Humahuaca. It has a very local feel and if you like Argentine asado, you can be sure that you are in for a treat. A meal at this locale doesn’t disappoint, and the meat is, of course, cooked to order.
Lo de Mary is on Humahuaca 4099 on the corner with Acuña de Figueroa. It is open from Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-4pm and 8pm-1am.
The last of our top picks for places to visit in Almagro is Ladran Sancho, a comfortable bar on Guardia Vieja with a modest entryway displaying no more than the street address to mark it.
Ladran Sancho is a relatively small venue with a bohemian vibe, usually filled with a crowd of young students and musicians.
The bar is just down the street from El Boliche de Roberto, listed above, and across from El Imaginario Cultural, another bar worth checking out if you’re in the area. Landran Sancho sticks out to us for its super relaxed yet stylish feel and unique set up– with a small but open feel, a warmly lit sitting area and bar, a stage with seating for live music shows, and a breezy back patio. The bar also serves as a space for local artists to display their work.
Ladran Sancho is a great place to hangout any night of the week for a couple of drinks and maybe an empanada or two. Local bands often perform at this spot and come for a jam session, Jam de Martes, that the bar hosts every Tuesday night. The bar charges $10 for the show if you choose to stick around for it. Arrive early on Tuesdays and weekend nights so you can grab a table!
Ladran Sancho is open from it is located at Guardia Vieja 3811. For more information click here.