Local Haunts in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

San Telmo quickly overwhelmed me with choice. If I wanted a coffee, there were ten cafes to choose from, all within a stone’s throw of the apartment. There were at least 3 grocery stores, more fruit shops and bakeries than I cared to count, and a place to have a decent beer everywhere I turned.

Book Tank
Also, there was a book tank. I don’t even know what to do with this one.

I made a list, because that’s what I do when I’m overwhelmed. A list of bars, steak houses, vegetarian restaurants, heladerías, cafés, and bakeries, complete with addresses and specialty items-to-try. The plan was to methodically work my way through the list, so that I’d be in a position to say which places I liked best.

That didn’t happen.

I went to one heladería – Nonna Bianca – six times. It’s good, it’s far cheaper than its nearby competitor, Freddo’s, and the cash register is always manned by a surly old woman who is never happy to see me. But I’m comfortable there. I’ve made peace with the fact that there are other heladerías in town, ones that I won’t try. I like this one.

Six weeks isn’t long enough to become a local, but as temporary expats, Jared and I became regulars at a few establishments around town. If you ever get to San Telmo, drop in and say hello. Don’t tell them Lauren sent you, because they might not remember me – but I’ll remember them.

Breoghans Brew Pub

On Bolivar, between Independencia & Estados Unidos
Open from 6-late Monday – Saturday, closed Sunday.
Happy Hour: 2 pints for $30 pesos from 6 to 10 PM.

Breoghans Brew Pub San Telmo
Easily the best happy hour in town.

We came for the happy hour, we stayed for a few games of pool, and we came back for the unfailing hospitality of Angel, the owner/bartender. Angel immediately greeted us with a smile, helped us practice our halting Spanish, and was quick to refill our beers when we were ready. And speaking of the beer – it’s artesanal, which means that it’s brewed on site and, best of all, is so much better than Quilmes. I usually stuck to the honey beer, but sometimes switched to golden ale. Jared’s pint of choice was the cream stout or scotch. The bar’s location (two doors down from our apartment) and happy hour sometimes resulted in an unexpected late night, but we always had a great time.

Nonna Bianca

On Estados Unidos between Defensa & Bolivar
1/4 kilo sin tapa (without a lid) was $17 pesos as of October 2012

Nonna Bianca San Telmo, Buenos Aires
My second home in San Telmo. Sadly, that’s not a joke.

I like ice cream. A lot. This was right around the corner, so I went. A lot. Some of my favorite flavors included Oreo with chantilly cream, dulce de leche con granizado, chocolate blanco, and banana split. There’s WIFI, large wooden tables, newspapers, and big picture windows that let in a lot of light. But the ice cream is the star of the show.

La Leonesa

On Carlos Calvo between Bolivar & Defensa

La Leonesa, San Telmo Buenos Aires
I always thought this meant ‘lion,’ but it’s actually a town in northern Argentina.

One day we were feeling too lazy to cook, so we ducked into this fresh pasta shop. The choices were overwhelming, so we went with a sheet of spinach ravioli, a medium bolognese sauce, and a pizza base with 200 grams of mozzarella. It cost about ten US dollars and quickly became a weekly stop.


On the corner of Bolivar and Estados Unidos

Territorio, San Telmo, Buenos Aires
That lurker wouldn’t get out of my picture.

I felt like a glass of wine and some atmosphere, so we chose Territorio at random. The first reward: glasses of malbec were only $15 pesos (about $3USD). The second: the waiters are very generous with their pours. There are two tables outside, but we usually sat inside, next to a big picture window. The high point was the night we ordered a picada for two – an enormous, gourmet platter of meat, cheese, pickled vegetables, and a side of fresh bread. That was the night I learned to like olives and pickled radishes.

Picada, Territorio, San Telmo, Buenos Aires
That is a picada. You may ooh and ahh at your leisure.

El Gauchito

On Independencia between Bolivar & Defensa
I believe they close for siesta in the afternoon around 3 or 4, but reopen in the evening.

El gauchito, San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Translates to: “The Little Cowboy.”

This is a hole-in-the-wall empanada shop that keeps it simple: 8 flavors of empanada, plus pizzas and sandwiches. Empanadas are $5 pesos each and heated in the oven until they’re nice and crispy. Humita, a kind of creamed corn, was my standby, while Jared usually went for carné.

La Poesía

On the corner of Bolivar and Chile

La Poesia, San Telmo, Buenos Aires
I dare you to get writer’s block in this place.

This is one of the notable cafes in Buenos Aires, which basically means it’s been around for a long time and people really like it. I loved that I could order a coffee and sit down with my laptop for hours, and no one would disturb me. It was usually busy with tourists and locals alike, some talking, some working, some lost to the world like me – but somehow that was calming, not distracting.

Runners-up: There were a few places I only went to once, but with more time I would have become a regular.

Wafels del Sur
On Estados Unidos near Bolivar
Sweet or savory waffles with surprisingly good bottles of artesanal beer. Smoothies looked smashing, but I didn’t have one.

Wafels del Sur, San Telmo, Buenos Aires
The owners came up from Patagonia to bring waffles to San Telmo.

Café Clasico
On the corner of Humberto Primo and Bolivar
I tried several different cafes and typically ordered the set of 3 medialunas and a cafe con leche. This place really delivered on both.

Cafe Clasico, San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Found this one on our second-to-last day in town.

Chorípan stand – name unknown
On Humberto Primo, between Bolivar and Defensa, next to the San Telmo Mercado and opposite La Leonesa
It was weeks before I even noticed this place, but for $10 pesos I had an excellent sausage sandwich, hot off the grill.

Choripan stand, San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Hidden choripans – follow your nose.

Have you been to any of these San Telmo favorites, or was there something I missed?

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