Bar El Federal

July 3, 2007 by · 7 Comments 

El Federal: People watch, relax, socialize, or dine

Bar El Federal filete sign
[Photo Credit: Villamota]

Grab a buddy and head to El Federal, one of Buenos Aires’ most beautiful and classic cafes (in operation since 1864), for a relaxing afternoon coffee, lunch, or dinner. It’s a pleasure to sit in this café and admire the vintage ads decorating the walls, under a glow of soft lights. Bar El Federal is a perfect example of how the city has made an effort to preserve its cultural patrimony by maintaining old establishments in good condition.

El Federal also has a beautiful lowered bar (giving you the strange perspective of looking down on the bar staff) with an amazing carved wood and stained glass arching mantel above (see photos later in this post), an open kitchen which you can sneak a glance into if you sit in the back, two rooms full of sturdy wooden tables, and even a quaint little bookstore hidden within. The crowd is a mix of porteños relaxing with friends and family, tourists with their heads buried in Lonely Planet guide books, and eclectic San Telmo ‘locals’ from all over the world.

A classic café with cuisine that suits all tastes

Sit down at one of the tables and eventually a waiter in a crisp white shirt and black pants will bring you a menu longer and denser than a Borges novel. Whatever your appetite is calling for, Bar El Federal has it, and it will be prepared with fresh, simple ingredients. In general, their offerings fall into the category of cocina porteña: Italian favorites such as fresh homemade agnolottis, spaghettis and raviolis topped with tomato, pesto, or cream sauces; pizzetas with any imaginable toppings, milanesas, hamburgers, omelettes, and sandwiches.

Beautiful bar at El Federal
[Photo Credit: Paula Moya]

Elaborating on the topic of sandwiches, this cafe tops the charts in the vast quantity and variety of sandwiches you can choose from. There’s even an entire half-page in the menu dedicated to turkey sandwiches, which is not really common in Buenos Aires, as it is rare and very expensive. Then there are the medialunas rellenas, which are croissant sandwiches filled with cheese, ham, and other ingredients. They have traviatas, a sandwich made with crackers instead of bread, for a lighter option. You can choose from classic sandwich ingredients such as ham, cheese, salami, steak, sausage, hearts of palm, and more.

Worth mentioning are the picadas, large plates of finger foods that are served with bread baskets and make a wonderful light but satisfying dinner with some wine. El Federal offers some especially creative selections, such as sautéed eggplant, fried raviolis, peanuts, walnuts, olives, ham, cheese cubes, and goat cheese. The picadas are a great choice if you aren’t in the mood for a hot meal, and they are ideal for eating slowly during great conversation or romantic whispers with your date.

El Federal serves fresh homemade Spanish tortillas, and their salads are also notable, which range from specialties such as apples, carrots, walnuts and cheeses to traditional favorites with a lettuce and tomato foundation. The main theme here is fresh and simple, so don’t expect fancy bistro salads, but you will not be disappointed with the quality.

Food at Bar El Federal

Have a coffee, bottle of wine, cocktail, or milkshake

As for quenching your thirst, El Federal is like a bottomless well. You can sip on unique cocktails like a pisco sour, caipirinha, or the classic Negroni – a mix of gin, Campari and vermouth, with a slice of lemon – guzzle handcrafted Argentine beers by the bottle, partake in pitchers of draught beer or cider, or just linger over carafes of Argentine wine. Order like a local by asking for a chopp de sidra (a mug of traditional Argentine cider, on draught). Or you could even go all out and order a bottle of champagne, which is surprisingly affordable at El Federal.

Most of the alcoholic beverages are modestly priced, and as always in Argentina, wine is the best deal you can get if you don’t want to spend a lot. El Federal offers trusty, economic wines such as Traful, Lopez, and Concha y Toro.

Busy Bar El Federal in Buenos Aires

If you are looking for something that won’t get you tipsy, try a classic espresso-based drink such as café con crema, or a tea. And El Federal features licuados, the Argentine version of smoothies and milkshakes, which are made with either water or milk, according to your taste, and consist of any combination of fruits.

If you want a real dessert, Bar El Federal will not disappoint: it also has an extensive list of sweet concoctions, including strudels, pastries, and European-inspired creations of chocolate and fruits. Especially mouth-watering is the apple, pear, and cinnamon strudel, which is baked nearby and brought in fresh daily.

The service at El Federal is relatively slow, but it’s not the kind of place where you’ll want to rush through a meal or drinks. Enjoy the old-fashioned setting and the background noise of the kitchen sizzling meats and forks clinking on plates, while you experience the laid back lifestyle that Buenos Aires is so famous for.

Bar El Federal, San Telmo
[Photo Credit: Paula Moya]

Location of El Federal

Peru, corner of Carlos Calvo, San Telmo

Tel: 4300-4313

Bar Seddon

July 1, 2007 by · 2 Comments 

A Notable San Telmo Bar

Inside Bar Seddon, Buenos Aires

A Buenos Aires afternoon is not complete without having coffee, drinks, or a meal in one of the city’s famous “notable cafes and bars”. A few years ago, a city government commission drew up a fairly comprehensive list of 53 notable bars and cafes and awarded them this special status due to either their historical, cultural or architectural importance to the city of Buenos Aires. Many of these establishments have been in operation since the nineteenth century, and upon entering one of them you are quickly transported back to the city’s aristocratic roots.

One picturesque member of this exclusive club of bars and cafes is Bar Seddon, a San Telmo hang-out that was converted into a bar from a nineteenth-century pharmacy.

A bar that takes you into the elegant past of Buenos Aires

If you stand still for a moment in Bar Seddon, you can almost pretend that you are in a salon among intellectuals, philosophers, and young lovers from a Buenos Aires of many years ago. The musty yellow lighting casts an antique glow over the mahogany wooden bar, which shines with the additional luster of candles distributed throughout the bar. Bar Seddon is impressive in its décor, which consists of statues of Roman goddess-like figures, big windows for gazing out into the street, and an original old black-and-white checkered tile floor.

The bar has two stories with plenty of wooden tables and comfortable seats where you can share a bottle of wine and spend hours talking, listening to the bar’s music selection, or enjoy a live musical performance on certain nights of the week.

Bar Seddon in San Telmo
[Photo Credit: Paula Moya]

Wet your whistle or appease your appetite

During the day the bar is open for lunch, and it’s a great place to relax with a coffee and pick up a magazine or a diario (newspaper) at the bar. On any night of the week at Bar Seddon you can find an eclectic mix of clientèle, ranging from grungy European backpackers to students from all over the world to porteños seeking a little bit of the laid-back San Telmo attitude.

On Wednesday nights the bar features live bossa nova acoustic guitar and vocals, and on Saturday nights you may find a rock/funk band that transports you from Buenos Aires to New York City. Also, if you are looking for a place to hold a meeting of any kind, you might want to come to Bar Seddon during the late afternoon to enjoy the warmth, good coffee, and relaxed atmosphere. If you like a drink or two, Seddon has a great 2-for-1 happy hour in the late afternoons.

Bar Seddon: Fancy a drink or ten?

If your belly is rumbling, the chef at Bar Seddon whips up traditional dishes such as costillitas de cerdo (pork ribs), bife de chorizo con pure de zapallo y hojas verdes (beef strip steak with pumpkin puree and fresh greens), homemade pizzas, soups, pastas, and minutas (usually milanesa sandwiches made from either meat, soy, or eggplant).

Bar Seddon – a second home in San Telmo

Seddon is one of those bars where you come once and you just keep coming, whether it’s the music, the food, the atmosphere, or the people that traps you. As for the service, it’s pleasant and personal. The family who owns Bar Seddon works hard to keep the place clean, friendly, and enjoyable for everyone.

They are promising new deals in the future for backpackers who are staying at hostels to get a free drink with their meals. Also, they are looking into having ‘world’ specialty nights, such as German or French night, to vary up their cooking and give Bar Seddon a more international appeal.

One of Buenos Aires' Notable Cafes/Bars

So grab your date for a candlelit dinner, bring your friends to see a beautiful renovation of a historic building, or simply cozy up to the bar with a magazine and a glass of wine and chat with the smiling bartender while you listen to some Latin tunes. Whatever mood you are in, whoever you are with, Bar Seddon is always a good place to feel the rhythm of San Telmo and imagine the Buenos Aires of a hundred years ago: all with a good bottle of Malbec red wine to liven up the conversation, of course.

Location of Bar Seddon

Defensa 695, on corner of Chile, San Telmo

Tel: 4342-3700

Acabar Buenos Aires

January 24, 2007 by · 5 Comments 

***UPDATE: Acabar has sadly now closed for business. We’ll leave the below review online for posterity***

A Resto-Bar with a twist

Acabar in Palermo Hollywood, where neon rules OK!

Acabar is a very nice bar and restaurant – with a twist to make it interesting. The menu itself is far more interesting than the actual food, a colorful distraction to take your attention away from the sub-par dishes:

Acabar - cool menu, not so cool food

In the end, it is the “bar” part of “resto-bar” which is worth visiting.

So, what’s the twist?

Games. To spice up your weeknight, Acabar offers a selection of board games to help loosen the mood and keep the atmosphere relaxed. You and your friends can choose from old favorites like Jenga, Pictionary and Battleship – and don’t be shy to invite neighboring tables of people to play along with you (or against you). The games not only help to enjoyably pass the time, they can function simultaneously with your cocktail as a social lubricant.

Acabar: Nice name

Great name, in fact. Multi-faceted. Firstly, it has all kinds of comedy potential. In English, acabar basically means “to finish”, and those who are clever enough in Spanish can manipulate the name of this place into all sorts of sexual innuendos. Secondly, if you break the name down, it separates into two Spanish words: “Aca Bar” translating into “here-bar,” letting you know that you have indeed arrived where you wanted.

But the bar itself is great too. Besides the many wonderful board games, the wait staff are extremely nice and friendly, and there are usually enough of them around to be able to grab one quickly for drink orders even when it’s busy. And it does get busy, producing a happy, buzzing atmosphere full of mildly inebriated board-gamers.

Acabar is also HUGE, which is helpful for seating large groups of gamers. You’ll have no problem getting a table as the place opens up round the corner to the left and backwards, and just keeps on going, and going. At one point it feels like you may even have to traipse through their neighbors’ back-patios to reach the end of the bar. But don’t let that put you off your drinks.

Inside the Acabar Bar

And all of that space is filled with character… interesting old chandeliers, pop-art on the walls, lots of funny ornaments and bits & bobs, a hundred different types of wooden tables that have definitely seen better days but still add to the rag-tag look. All very pleasant in a hip kind of way, as you would expect from somewhere located in Palermo Hollywood.

Location of Acabar

Honduras 5733, between Bonpland & A.J. Carranza, Palermo Hollywood

Tel: 4772-0845 / 4776-3634

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