Bar Plaza Dorrego
No trip to San Telmo can be complete without a visit to Bar Plaza Dorrego. Located on one corner of Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo’s central square and the heart of its famous Sunday market, this café and bar (dating back more than 130 years) instantly takes visitors back in time when they step through the doors. The décor is pretty much as traditional Buenos Aires as you can get. A black and white tiled floor, a high ceiling, dark wooden furnishings and vintage tango pictures covering the walls. On Sundays the café is absolutely packed, but during the rest of the week there is more chance of grabbing a table.
Mercadito Latino is a cute little café offering the best of Latin American food. While the menu is probably suited to more of an early lunch rather than a late breakfast, the food is tasty and full of flavour, with choices such as huevos rancheros, quesadillas, or various tarts served with rich dulce de leche. The café itself is light and colourful with friendly and efficient service, and is located about a block away from the main tourist street of Calle Defensa so is a quieter spot.
After Bar Plaza Dorrego, El Federal is probably the second café on the list of San Telmo’s must-see historic spots. It was established in 1864, and has managed to retain much of its original charm. The antique and old-fashioned bar take visitors right back to late 19th century Buenos Aires. It serves the usual brunch items (coffee, medialunas, pastries) but what customers really come for is the atmosphere. Pretty much always busy, El Federal is a Buenos Aires institution and is certainly worth a visit while in the area.
Another one of San Telmo’s most historic cafés is Café Rivas, located a little further away from the tourist trail than the other traditional hangouts. The café is opposite a quirky bookshop, so you’ll often see a number of visitors having a relaxing coffee and a read. It has slightly more of a tearoom ambience than a classic Argentinian café-bar, and serves an enticing array of pastries and other sweet brunch items. The décor is old-fashioned, but with a 1960s retro vibe rather than a 1920s tango bar, with a lovely curved wooden mezzanine.
Located on the corner of two streets is the unassuming café La Poesía, a traditional spot with a unique literary history. The café was only founded in 1982, but was a key meeting place during the dictatorship for socialist writers, artists and intellectuals, so despite its relatively short existence it nonetheless has an important legacy. The café is decorated with portraits of famous writers, and the walls are covered in books. Occasionally one of the original visitors from the 1980s might be seen stopping by. The brunch menu is composed of the usual items, but the café is worth a visit due to its cultural importance and old-fashioned ambience.
Coffee Town, Mercado San Telmo
Found within the Mercado San Telmo is Coffee Town, a small coffee stand serving some of the area’s best coffee. The baristas are well trained and certainly know how to prepare top quality cappuccinos, espressos and more. They also offer good brunch snacks, including cookies, pastries, and alfajores, a traditional biscuit with dulce de leche. The market is also a great place to explore, full of fruit and vegetable stalls, plus a number of antique stores, for which San Telmo is famous.
La Panadería de Pablo
La Panadería de Pablo is a classy bakery and restaurant, with an elegant range of brunch items. The menu offers tasty dishes such as bruschetta, French toast, frittata, or eggs Benedict, set in a light and bright converted warehouse. The restaurant attracts a sophisticated crowd, often business professionals, so the establishment has a different vibe to San Telmo’s more historic joints. For something more upmarket but still within the San Telmo area, La Panadería de Pablo is a good option.