El Ateneo Grand Splendid
Make your dreams of standing centre stage in a theatre packed with people a reality at Café Ateneo in tranquil Recoleta. You’ll have to navigate a host of crowded tables and chairs, spilling over with hungry shoppers, and your audience’s view will no doubt be obscured somewhat by the countless bookshelves that fill the stalls and the circle, but it’s an experience not to be missed. To meander through the auditorium, bedecked with gold, perusing the latest best sellers, and then enjoy a cup of coffee beneath that sweeping, red velvet curtain really is a spectacle in itself.
Part of the appeal of Las Violetas is, perhaps bizarrely, the fact that it makes no attempt to move with the times, but obstinately remains nestled in a bygone era characterised by elegance and grandeur. Bronze columns and stained glass windows add to the air of timelessness, and the waiting staff don starched, white shirts and conduct themselves with as much decorum and politeness as if they, like the café, had been born into the 1800s. That said, the punters’ behaviour is a little less refined and they circle the counter in almost vulture-like fashion; but this is only a testament to the allure of the pastries on offer.
Las Violetas, Avenida Rivadavia 3899, C1204AAD, Buenos Aires, +55 11 4958-7387
A mere minute or so away from the important tourist attraction El Cemeterio de la Recoleta, La Biela is a firm favourite with both visitors to the city and locals. Historically, it was renowned as being the haunt of the city’s intelligentsia and Formula One legend Juan Manuel Fangio, hence, automobile-related memorabilia covers the walls. It is spacious, clean and light, and there is a large outdoor seating area overlooking an attractive cathedral and grassy plaza, for when the weather is pleasant. The food is commendable, reasonably priced and sufficiently varied, and the apple pancakes with dulce de leche come highly recommended.
The New York style café Pride is known for being one of the most popular hang outs for gay tourists. Minimalist in style, with white walls and sparkling chrome furniture, it boasts a selection of healthy salads and rather less healthy (but utterly delicious) cakes and pastries. It is worth mentioning that all ingredients used are 100 per cent organic. Pride boasts a wonderfully friendly and knowledgeable team of staff as well, who are only too happy to give their food and drink recommendations and dish out tourist information to those who ask.
Pride, Balcarce 869, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, +55 11 4300-6435
Cool, clean and elegant, Ninina Bakery offers honest, home cooked food. At all times the counter is laden with a mouthwatering assortment of sumptuous cakes and pastries. These are, perhaps, the highlight, but a range of breakfast foods such as eggs, waffles, and fruit, for example, and light lunches like sandwiches, burgers, salads, can also be rustled up. The smoothies and lemonades are also unfailingly popular, and the coffee is always superb.
Ninina Bakery, Gorriti 4738, Buenos Aires, +55 11 4832-0070
True connoisseurs of coffee, down to the finest detail, the LAB team are not likely to serve you a sub-standard cappuccino. They analyse each bean with pin-point precision, noting its strength, acidity, unique flavor, and are unabashed experts in all aspects of the process that transforms it into something foam-topped and delicious. The snacks on offer at LAB are very tasty, too, the cookies are especially delicious, and there is free drinking water available at all times. Plug sockets can be found by each stool as well, which is useful for those who wish to work whilst they enjoy their coffee.
LAB, Humboldt 1542, C1414CTN, Buenos Aires, +55 11 4843-1790
Historically one of writer Jorge Luis Borges’ favourite hang outs, Florida Garden has it all. Tucked away, somewhat surprisingly, on busy pedestrian street Calle Florida, it’s a great option for those seeking respite from shopping and wanting to escape the endless cries of ‘Cambio, casa de cambio,‘ yet still feel part of the hustle and bustle of porteño life. The interior is smart and traditional, and the waiters are dressed in shirts and bow ties to give a further impression of sophistication. The menu is vast, and while enjoying coffee and indulging in one (or more) of the many deliciously decadent desserts on offer, there is some prime people watching to be enjoyed.
Florida Garden, Florida 899, C1005AAQ, Buenos Aires, +55 11 4312-7902
With quality blends originating from all over the globe, specially selected by an expert team of baristas, Coffee Town is a must for those who see their espresso as something more than just a hit of caffeine. But that’s not to say that a less discerning coffee drinker shouldn’t check it out too. Ideally located in San Telmo’s permanent market, it makes for a great place to take a break from wandering the cobblestone streets and browsing antiques. This is especially true on a Sunday when the barrio is at its most lively because of the fantastic craft market. It offers sweet and savoury snacks, a whole array of beverages, and the chance to drink in a buzzing atmosphere.
Coffee Town, Bolivar 976, Mercado de San Telmo, Buenos Aires, +55 11 4300-7333
Situated in the trendy barrio of Palermo, Sintaxis really is unique in the fact that it can boast of being the first completely gluten free café/restaurant to open in Argentina. Though coeliac friendly, the menu is in no way, shape or form limited. In fact, there are plentiful breakfasts, lunches, snacks and desserts to tickle anyone’s taste buds and there is even a choice of meals especially for children. That’s the ethos of this place. A family run business, they take pride providing the best service for each and every customer, regardless of age or allergies.
Sintaxis, Nicaragua 4849, Palermo, Buenos Aires, +55 11 2071-2960
The quality of the coffee at Catoti is exceptional, but that’s not all they’re worried about at this little Belgrano café. Being ecologically friendly is one of their top priorities and, consequently, much of the interior has been made from recycled objects. They are keen for the customer to be comfortable and feel at home, and the result is a space that is cosy and comfortable but undeniably cool. Lazy afternoons are encouraged here, as are long conversations with friends and baristas.
Catoti, Blanco Encalda 2457, Belgrano, Buenos Aires, +54 11 5368-1314