Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Buenos Aires: Food & Drink on the Cheap

Three pounds of meat -- short ribs, strip steak and sirloin. A giant bowl of french fries. A caesar salad. A bottle of wine. A bottle of water.

The price? $100. Pesos, that is. In greenbacks, that's about $25.

In America, $25 wouldn't even cover the wine.

Eating, drinking and then eating some more were some of our favorite parts of our vacation to Buenos Aires. Paul had a steak (grass-fed, unseasoned beef) about every other day. I opted for empanadas. I downed 16 of them in six days, effectively octupling my lifetime empanada intake in less than a week.

No one drinks tap water -- my go-to drink -- in Buenos Aires restaurants, and a bottle of water was generally about $2 (this and all subsequent prices in this post will be in U.S. dollars). However, bottles of wine and liters of beer started at about $6, so it was difficult to resist getting that instead. Often we got both.

And sometimes we just ate meat, cheese, bread with a bottle of wine on the deck of the apartment we rented for the week.

Speaking of liters -- that was definitely the most common size of beer available. Tables would order a beer -- generally Stella Artois, Heineken, Schneider or Quilmes -- and get glasses that held maybe 10 or 12 ounces. I think I was served only one pint the entire week there.

Liters, while cheap in restaurants, were even cheaper in supermarkets -- just a little over a dollar.

One of my favorite restaurants of the week: La Carreteria, in the area of La Boca and San Telmo

I quickly learned to order "agua sin gas" (still water) rather than "agua con gas" (seltzer), which is so popular it even comes with your coffee and tea in cafes. More Spanish I learned: "batata." That's sweet potato, and it makes a delicious pastry filling.

Another item on our must-do list was drink mate. Along with a mate cup filled to the brim with bitter leaves came a pot of hot water and some savory cookies.

The tea -- which really just looks like lawn trimmings -- soaked a little water at a time, and the more you were able to add, the less bitter it became. (When we left, we saw a table adding sugar to the tea, which definitely would have improved the taste.) You drink the tea through a special metal straw that strains the water and prevents the leaves from entering your mouth. Mate seems to be just as popular as they say -- in Uruguay especially we saw people carrying and drinking the tea everywhere.

And now for the story you've all been waiting for -- how Paul and I got robbed for the very first time. Net loss: a single bottle of Coke.

Here's what happened: Paul was snapping a few pictures of me at the Obelisco, a Washington Monument-lookalike downtown. He sat down his 3/4-full bottle next to him. Before we knew it, a guy in a a wheelchair -- presumably homeless -- rolled up and grabbed the Coke. "Gracias amigo!" he called out.

Stunned at first, Paul then started laughing before calling back, "De nada!" Our robber rolled around the corner, unscrewed the cap and took a swig, all while I was watching. Better a Coke than my purse.

The scene of the crime.


  1. Sounds like you guys had a blast... Am glad it was just a coke. Emmm that's not robbery... But the guy simply helped himself and said "Gracias amigo" lol

  2. Yeah, it was hardly a robbery, but it makes a good story!



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