Cafe La Poesia
A writer’s cafe in San Telmo
After you attend the San Telmo market – a rite of passage for any traveler in Buenos Aires – you and your tired feet might wonder, “Where can I relax in a quiet place around here?” Surprisingly, you only need to walk one more block.
Although it has received some attention in travel books, La Poesia has maintained its character, bohemian environment and simple, great tastes. Located on the corner of Chile and Bolivar, one block off from the feria on Defensa street, La Poesia (“the poetry”) charms its patrons with old, wooden tables, exposed brick ceilings, walls covered with pictures, signs and quotations, and a nice balance between bar and café.
Opened in 1982, closed in the late ‘80s and reopened four years ago, La Poesia has plenty of history. If Jorge Luis Borges didn’t sip coffee here, his admirers did. His quotations adorn the walls, invoking Argentina’s literary past.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I think La Poesia is a classic, romantic Argentine café. It’s open till 4am Fridays and Saturdays, and is often filled with friends chatting for hours and readers combing through novels. Furthermore, a local, Porteño crowd offers an authentic atmosphere. There isn’t an English menu. The place seems destined for a scene in a Woody Allen film.
If the downstairs is bustling with the feria crowd, a staircase to the left of the counter leads to the high-ceiling upstairs, which I’ve always found quiet with nice views of the street corner (sometimes the upstairs is closed early in the week).
Micro-brewed beer in Buenos Aires!
Argentina has excellent wines. Great Malbecs are available here for very affordable prices. When it comes to wine’s brother – beer – the quality is not the same across the board. Simply put, good beer can be hard to find in Buenos Aires.
La Poesia brews its own beer – I recommend the Colorado, a red-tinted lager with a smooth flavor served in a cold mug. They also have a stout and blonde ale. Judging by the surrounding tables last night, people came for the beer.
Coffee drinkers look no further too. One of your trip’s best deals in Buenos Aires is at La Poesia. Order the “café con leche, pan casero con dulce de leche y manteca.” Coffee with hot milk, a loaf of toasted homemade bread and ample portions of butter and dulce de leche make this a simple pleasure you might order twice. I have.
Poesia’s Irish coffee is also well done, large and comes with a small side of cornbread.
The menu at La Poesia can be dizzying. Pages of sandwiches and tapas initially made me feel like I was at a Greek diner in the U.S. where they serve everything under the sun. Like its beer and coffee though, a keep-it-simple mindset will lead you in the right direction. I recommend their meat and cheese plates, or an antipasto plate, chuck full of olives.
Whether in San Telmo for the feria or perusing the streets of Buenos Aires like Borges, take a break at La Poesia. Sip your café con leche, nurse your beer and let life and its worries fade away.
Finding Cafe La Poesia
Getting there: The address is Chile 502 in San Telmo. From Recoleta or Palermo, take the D Line subway to Catedral station and walk six blocks from Plaza de Mayo down Bolivar Street. Bus lines 29 and 45 also stop nearby.
When to go: Monday – Thursday, and Sundays: 8am – 2am; Friday and Saturdays 8am – 4am. I prefer going at night, but the daytime offers more people watching.