The next stop on our virtual tour of Buenos Aires is Palermo. This is largely a posh residential area, but it’s also the place to go for many of the most trendy boutiques and cafés. That combo kind of reminds me of West Hollywood in Los Angeles, and as it would happen, in the 90’s many radio and TV producers began installing themselves in a section of this area now known as Palermo Hollywood. There’s another sub-section of the neighborhood called Palermo Soho, which is known for fashion and design. The guidebooks tell me that Palermo is also home to several parks, botanical and Japanese gardens, a zoo, and many museums.
Our new friends Anna and Greg—not to be confused with my Greg—served as guides for our first trip into the area. They lived in the area and were nice enough to show us around the neighborhood. Our first stop was A Manger.
A Manger is a small neighborhood joint; by no means fancy, but lots of fun. It’s the kind of place that would be perfect for a casual date. The entire menu is devoted to tapas, picada-style gourmet foods like cheeses and charcuterie, and a wide variety of delicious little preparations on toothpicks, or pinchos (See the picture at the top.) This is my favorite way to eat. Palermo Greg described it as “A great little place, good for ordering big selection of random stuff.” Right he was. We ordered a bottle of wine and I was a happy girl. (See below for a few of their other neighborhood favorites.)
The very next night we were back in Palermo with our travel buddies. One of the brilliant parts about this area is that there are a million bars surrounding small squares, making it easy for even the laziest of bar-hoppers (for example, Greg and I) to keep moving. We spent a happy, festive evening sampling the bars around Plaza Cortazar (aka Plaza Serrano).
Well . . . it was mostly a happy evening. I will now go on a little tangent on Argentine service. It varies WIDELY. At the moderate to high-end restaurants, we found service to generally be excellent and the style tended to be quite formal. However, at casual restaurants and bars, service was entirely a crapshoot. Some spots offered service far above what one might expect at the level, and at some spots you’d swear the waiters were expecting you to serve them.
Now, one thing that was explained to me about how the Argentines view service is that the customer should never feel rushed. A meal should be a leisurely affair, so a waiter would never come to you with the bill, as that would be seen as rushing you out. I can appreciate this. I get it. Cool. That said, if you’re in a rush it might be a good idea to ask for the bill as soon as possible.
This unhurried presentation of the bill, however, is not what I’m griping about. My problem is with never receiving chunks of my order even after multiple reminders, rudeness, and having waiters completely disappear after showing us to our table. The worst of these experiences happened here in Palermo. Tommy, D-Lo, Drew, Greg and I arrived at a bar with café tables on the plaza and ordered a round, fully intending to have a couple more while enjoying the gorgeous afternoon. We got our round, and never saw our waiter again.
Everyone at our table took a turn at trying to flag down the servers—at first we wanted another round, then we just wanted our check to get out of there. One of our friends tried going inside to ask for a waiter to come to our table. All that was left was for one us to literally stand on the table and jump up and down with flailing arms. Actually, we tried flailing arms. After an hour of waiting, we gave up, did a roughly tally of the bill, dropped money on the table, and moved on to a bar that would actually serve us. We think that maybe our original waiter finished his shift and no other server could be bothered to deal with our table. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the name of this place or I’d definitely tell you avoid it. And sadly, we had a couple more rounds of crap service during our stay in Argentina.
Luckily on that night, things could only look up from there. Each place we hopped to after the first unfortunate spot was better than next. We hit a couple of awesome rooftop bars and had a great night on the town.
Beyond all the eating and drinking, we did manage to take advantage of at least one of Palermo’s cultural draws. The MALBA art museum (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) is a beautiful, contemporary building housing a compact but interesting collection of modern art. The architecture and the work are definitely both worth the trip.
I will leave you here with a list of few of Palermo Greg and Anna’s other recommendations in the area:
Green Bamboo: Vietnamese/Thai fusion. Excellent food, one of the only places in Buenos Aires that uses spices! It's a bit more expensive, about 150 pesos per person with drinks. Palermo Hollywood. www.green-bamboo.com.ar
Bar 6: They have a good dinner menu for 90 pesos with appetizer, dessert, and wine included. The food is great, and the place is very cool. Palermo Viejo.
Antares: The best beer in town hands down. The food is very Americanish, hamburgers and sandwiches, but they have other stuff as well. They have 2 for 1 Happy Hours between 7-8. Palermo. www.cervezaantares.com
Tegui: Kind of an under the radar restaurant by one of Argentina’s most well- known chefs, Germán Martitegui. Palermo Viejo. www.tegui.com.ar
You can read a NY Times review here.Here are the rest of our adventures in Palermo: