Pizzeria Guerrin

January 7, 2007 by · 25 Comments 

The Best Pizza in Buenos Aires?

Sign outside Guerrin Pizzeria

Pizzeria Guerrin is regarded as one of the best traditional Pizzerias in Buenos Aires, and definitely lives up to its reputation. This is a major accolade in a city where Italian food is so popular and widespread, due to the history of Italian immigration that provides the back bone for much of porteño culture. To read a little more about the Italian effect on culture here, check out articles on Banchero Pizzeria and Caminito, both in the barrio of La Boca, which is traditionally the main Italian community of BA.

But for now it’s all about Guerrin, and its fantastic Pizza, so read on to find out why this restaurant is a must visit if you are ever in Buenos Aires.

Moscato, Pizza y Faina

Something unique to Buenos Aires is the tradition of eating a slice of faina, which is basically a very thin chickpea-based pizza, on top of a slice of standard pizza, kind of acting as a second crust on the top, making a sandwich of the cheese, sauce and toppings inbetween. At first, this may sound strange, but is in fact quite a logical arrangement…

Pizza con faina in Guerrin

You see, Pizza in Buenos Aires can be a lovely, sloppy, cheesy affair. Placing the slice of Faina on top, as seen above, helps to neutralize things by acting as a sponge for all of the gooey mess. And it just seems to taste right, somehow. Why didn’t they think of this in Italy?

To make things even more traditional, the pizza and faina should be washed down by a glass of inexpensive moscato; a very sweet, white dessert wine. Porteños have indulged in this eating ritual for years, and again, it just feels like the right thing to do when sitting in a pizzeria on Avenida Corrientes.

Table Upstairs at Guerrin, with Moscato!

Perfect Pizza at Guerrin

Of course, the tradition would be pretty pointless if the pizza don’t hold up in the quality stakes. Luckily, at Guerrin, it more than delivers:

Pizza Especial con jamon y morrones at Guerrin Pizzeria

The pizza pictured above is a Pizza Especial Guerrin grande, the house pizza. This is pretty much standard argentine fare for a pizza, with slices of ham and long thin strips of red pepper, in addition to the usual sauce, cheese and olives. Highly recommended, especially when joined by a few slices of faina and washed down with moscato, to really get you into the traditional spirit of things here in Buenos Aires.

Location of Pizzeria Guerrin

Av. Corrientes 1368, between Uruguay & Talcahuano, City Center

Tel: 4371-8141

Abasto Shopping Mall

December 11, 2006 by · 6 Comments 

Grand Shopping Center in Buenos Aires

Abasto corner

The Abasto shopping center is probably the one mall in Buenos Aires that has at least something to appeal to all people, of all ages. It’s wonderful 1930s Art Deco architecture and grand size add to the experience.

As far as shopping goes, it is full of mainstream clothes stores, and it boasts over 250 brands to choose from, including major labels like Nike, Lacoste and YSL. A bit logo-happy, but the building itself quite beautiful and unique (see right). And if size matters, it is one of the largest malls in the city of Buenos Aires (along with its newer, more modern counterpart, Dot Shopping in Saavedra, and Unicenter, the biggest mall in Argentina, which is technically outside the city limits).

This area of Abasto also has played a major role in the social and tango history of Buenos Aires, and for those reasons alone it is worth a quick visit, even if you are not interested in the shops inside. And there is also a range of things to see and do inside the center, which can be found near the end of this blog post.

History of the Mercado de Abasto

Mercado de Abasto

In 1893, a market fair started in this zone, which back then would have been referred to with its official barrio name of Balvanera. This official barrio is still found on the maps, but these days it is generally split into three unofficial, but more commonly used, areas, of Abasto, Once and Congreso – all named after major landmarks in each area (the Abasto mall, Once train station, and Congress building, respectively).

By 1930 Buenos Aires needed a wholesale distribution center for its food produce, and this old marketplace couldn’t cope with the needs of a rapidly growing population, so plans were projected by the architects Delpini, Sulsio and Besque for this grand structure to be erected as a new indoor home for the wholesale food market. Building began in 1931, and el Mercado de Abasto eventually opened in 1934. It soon became the center of the noisy, busy food trade in Buenos Aires. Crowds of workers would also drink, listen to tango music and play cards in the seedy bars around the market.

Art Deco Abasto

On the structural side, it was significant as the first building in Argentina to ever use cement for both its façade and indoor finish. The original façade is still the same as ever, with its lovely five curves at the front, the central one being wider and taller than the others, as can be seen in the picture above.

The Modern Abasto ‘Shopping’

Inside Abasto shoppingThe Abasto market set the lively pace of this neighborhood until it was closed down in 1984. This was due to its position in the middle of the city, which was seen as impractical, given that all of the produce came from the countryside and it meant unnecessarily travelling through most of the busy city to bring it here. And so a new central market was instead built on the city outskirts, which is the present Mercado Central, with the Abasto building sadly left abandoned to contemplate its former glory.

However, fifteen years later, in 1999, Abasto was reborn into a shopping center (or just ‘Shopping’, as they say in Buenos Aires), as it was refurbished completely on the inside, and with additional structures at the back and side, but keeping the original beautiful Art Deco façade.

Carlos Gardel’s Old Stamping Ground

The area around Abasto also just happens to be where the most famous tango singer of all time, Carlos Gardel, lived (with his mother) for most of his life. He was so closely connected to this area, that one of his nicknames was El Morocho del Abasto, which basically means ‘the dark-haired guy from Abasto’.

Carlos Gardel in his 'hood' of Abasto

In honor of this, a nice bronze statue of the immortal tango crooner stands just outside of the Abasto building, as shown in the picture over to the right.

Also within just a few blocks distance are his former house where he lived with his mother, on Jean Jaures 735, which is now a museum about his life, a small street named after him, called Pasaje Carlos Gardel, a subway station bearing his name, a corner tango house built in an 1893 bar that ressurects his songs in razzle-dazzle Argentine tango shows each night, and even a small street called Pasaje Zelaya where Gardel’s multi-colored mug is painted on most of the walls.

Finally, just across from the side of the mall is El Progreso Bar, on Anchorena 529, which happens to be one of the few places in Buenos Aires where Carlos Gardel actually sang (among other famous tango figures such as Tita Merello), which has also been preserved in the state it would have been in when Gardel performed there.

How to get to Abasto

Getting to the Abasto mall is fairly easy, thanks to an adjoining Subte (subway) station, called estacion ‘Carlos Gardel’, on the red B Line.

Also, if you are staying in a hotel, you can ask them to call 4338 2333 to arrange you free transport to and from the shopping center, which will certainly help if you are planning on going on a big shopping spree.

Things to do for families in Buenos Aires

Big wheel in the Abasto shopping center

The Abasto shopping center also includes several activities that may help to keep families with kids entertained when on holiday in Buenos Aires, for example:

  • A 12 screen cinema, which goes by the name of ‘Hoyts’ and shows all the major American, European and Argentine release.
  • A massive food court on the top floor where you can guiltily pig out on junk fast food, if that is, like me, one of your secret pleasures. This includes a Kosher McDonald’s restaurant, as Abasto is part of the Jewish area of Buenos Aires.
  • The Museo de Los Ninos, with its massive indoor big wheel (see right) and where kids can play at being adults in a ‘city’ scaled down to child size, where they can, for example, operate cranes on a building site, run a TV studio or man the helm of a ship. Open from 1-8pm on every day, except Mondays.
  • A fairly large games/amusements arcade replete with the usual flashing lights and games machines that gobble up pocket money at a fast rate.

Buenos Aires Cinema

If you are looking for a place to go to the movies in Buenos Aires, the Hoyts cinema complex in Abasto is an excellent choice for a laid back night at the cinema. It also serves up some tasty sweet popcorn, called pochoclo in Spanish, and if you want sweet, ask for dulce, or say salado for salted.

Also, if you go to the Hoyts cinema in the Abasto mall at night, you will get to see the outside of this wonderful building at its best, when its curves are lit up after dark, to stunning effect:

Abasto mall beautifully lit up by night

And finally, if you are on a budget, the cinema offers discounts on Wednesday nights, which is the day before the big releases come out. Almost all films in Buenos Aires are shown in the original English version, with Spanish subtitles, so there will be no potential language problems.

Location of Abasto Shopping Center

Corrientes 3247 (between Aguero & Anchorena), Abasto

Open 10am to 10pm daily,  Website: http://www.abasto-shopping.com.ar/

California Burrito Co – CBC

December 4, 2006 by · 12 Comments 

***UPDATE: The California Burrito Co has since closed down in Buenos Aires. It does however still have an outlet in Argentina in the city of Rosario, and several others in the countries of Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. We’ll leave this post here for posterity, in case they ever decide to come back to their roots in BA. You can read more about the company on their website.*** 

Burritos in Buenos Aires?

California Burrito Co - CBC, Buenos Aires

Yes, that’s right, Buenos Aires – the city that spicy food forgot – actually boasts a burrito restaurant whose efforts do not fall flat. The California Burrito Co, CBC for short, is spicing up the lives of residents and visitors alike. Word of mouth amongst Yanqui expats and resident food bloggers like Saltshaker (read here – Wrap it Up! In a tortilla please) have put CBC on the map as the real deal in your search for an authentic burrito in BA.

As a quick aside, for those of you who don’t know Saltshaker, he writes a food-themed blog with excellent, regular reviews of restaurants in Buenos Aires, in addition to recipes (he is also a chef by trade – with his own ‘closed doors’ restaurant called Casa Saltshaker) and his thoughts on life in BA. He really knows his stuff when it comes to food, so a Saltshaker thumbs-up for a restaurant means you are in for an excellent meal.

So if you are tiring of the usual Argentine menu suspects, head down to the city center and try your luck with Cal-Mex fast food.

California Burrito Co Counter

Yes, that’s right, Burritos in Buenos Aires

The restaurant is very clean, sleek and modern looking, and based on the pedestrian street of Lavalle in the bajo (low, sloping down to the river) area of Buenos Aires City Center. The set-up is as follows: you head up to the counter and order your combo:  select either a California burrito, a fajita burrito (has peppers & onions instead of beans), a veggie burrito, or 2 tacos (each combo includes a beverage). Then you proceed to select your meat (grilled steak, grilled chicken, beef strips or braised pork) if not going veggie; decide on your extras from a list of rice, beans, cheese, salads, sour cream and guacamole; and finally your sauce, including the spicy rojo, and the even spicier fuego, in addition to some tamer offerings.

It’s all put together in front of your hungry eyes, wrapped up in foil and chucked into a basket. Pay the man at the register and you’re off to your table to wolf it down with you bare hands, making a lot of lovely juicy mess in the process.

Yes indeed, a true BA Burrito.

Pictured is the California Burrito, with chicken, rice, all the extras that would fit, and the spicy rojo sauce. These burritos are huge, very tasty, and satisfying. The sauce is fairly spicy, and they even offer one more step up on their salsa spectrum – fuego (fire). Cool your tounge with a mineral water, fountain soft-drink or pay a little extra to indulge in a Negra Modelo or Corona beer with a slice of lime. CBC also occasionally holds Happy Hour promotions where the Margaritas are two-for-one. Not bad.

A Burrito, in Buenos Aires!

Just like Burritos in the US, only in Buenos Aires

CBC Buenos Aires StaffAmerican expats will tell you that California Burrito Co is a little bit like Chipotle in the US, which apparently is a good thing, and the two, they say, are on a par in the quality stakes.

The staff (see right) in CBC are also very friendly, a mix of the American owners and Argentine staff, and they do an excellent job of packaging up your burrito in front of you, advising you on what extras they have, and I am sure, for visitors to Buenos Aires, that there would always be an English speaker on hand to help out if you are feeling a little lost trying to order.

They are famous too! The Associated Press covered the three American CBC owners in a feature earlier this year, entitled ‘Foreign Entrepreneurs Spice Up Argentina’, which is worth a quick read, and also profiles some other expats making their way into the Argentine world of business.

Oh, and CBC also do salads for those who want to shed the flour tortilla. But don’t let health concerns get in the way of your Burrito.

Bull Bar (ex Deep Blue)

November 3, 2006 by · 3 Comments 

Pool Near The River

Booths at Deep Blue Pool Bar, Buenos Aires

(Note: Deep Blue has now been renamed “Bull Bar”)

(But many people still refer to it as Deep Blue, so we still will for most of this article!)

Deep Blue / Bull Bar is a fairly expensive pool bar in the bajo (low) area of Buenos Aires City Center, which basically means the part where the land starts to slope down towards the river. It is an area with a high concentration of bars, and due to this also being the banking/business district, you will generally see a lot of the ‘after office’ crowd about. In any other major city this would probably be a sign of a drunken mess waiting to happen, but in Argentina they are generally not very big drinkers, which is one of the more accurate stereotypes you will hear about the city. Although of course, things can get a bit crazy on Friday and Saturday nights, when these bars become rammed with twenty-something porteños.

High Quality Pool

Pool Tables in Deep Blue BarAs for the bar, Deep Blue is a nice place to go for a few games of pool, a beer or a cocktail (or three), and an American style burger (if you are missing that kind of thing). Although the games of pool are pricey per ficha (a ficha is the token you need for each pool game), the tables are of a higher quality than the rest in town, so you can get down to some serious pool shootin’ action.

One good thing about Buenos Aires, and Argentina in general, is that people are generally friendly and not in the slightest bit shy. So if you fancy a game of doubles, just ask around and you can easily set up a heated “Yanquis vs Porteños” game with a little bit of light-hearted banter thrown in for good measure.

Cocktails vs Beer

Deep Blue is also a nice place for a few cocktails. Men: don’t question your masculinity, ordering up a few colorful concoctions is quite acceptable, and guys at Deep Blue drink them without shame. The beer selection in Argentina is unfortunately sub par by world standards, so it might be a nice reprieve.

If you really must go for the cerveza, Deep Blue has a very interesting, if dangerous, twist on draft beer. You can sit at a table WITH YOUR OWN BEER TAP. Here you can keep on refilling yourself to your heart’s content, just don’t get so drunk that you lose track and end up with what will be a very expensive tab. Maybe you are better off sticking with the cocktails.

And if you don’t feel like anything alcoholic at all, Deep Blue also has a range of delicious milkshakes, many featuring, oddly enough, floating Oreo cookies. These also come in alcoholic varieties for the really adventurous, but these may leave you feeling a little queasy later that night and into the next day, as you can probably deduce from the line-up in the below photo!

Cocktails and Milkshakes at Deep Blue

Location of Deep Blue Bar (now renamed Bull Bar)

Reconquista 920, between Paraguay & Marcelo T de Alvear, City Center
[Other branches: Alicia Moreau de Justo 1130, Puerto Madero]

Tel: 4312-3377, Website: http://www.barbull.com.ar/

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