Other Pages of Interest

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cafe Tortoni vs. Las Violetas

Cafe Tortoni (Avenide de May0 829 in the Plaza de Mayo area) is the self-proclaimed oldest cafe in Buenos Aires. It originally opened in 1858, and moved to its current location in 1880. It is a huge tourist spot due to its long history, placement in every tour book you can find and (I recently found out) its placement in the book 1,000 Places You Should See Before You Die. Cafe Tortoni has indoor tables for the cafe portion, a basement for tango or jazz shows and a small museum dedicated to tango. The stained glass ceilings, historic decoration and interesting artifacts make it a great place to stop for coffee or a small bite to eat. To date, this is the only place in the city that we have had to wait for a table, the wait was only 5 minutes or so, but wait nonetheless.

Jon's coffee at Cafe Tortoni. I made the mistake of ordering an imitation frappuccino. It was best described as "lukewarm" and was not photo-worthy.

Me, Jon, Juan and Sole for what I'm pretty sure was all of our first time to the cafe. Just like at home, they don't do the tourist thing until someone is in from out of town.
My thoughts on the cafe - it is a cool place to see, but there are a zillion cafes in the city, and the food/atmosphere here was not the best. It was busy, I'm pretty sure that it always is busy, and as you can see in the picture, we had the smallest imaginable table for four people. Sole ordered food and had to just about eat it on her lap. The service was friendly and the waiters had a good sense of humor about everyone taking pictures or asking to take pictures of the table (our waiter just saw my camera and asked if we wanted him to take a picture, he knew the drill). All in all, the food was a big OK and my frappa-whatever should really not even be on the menu. This is all purely from a food standpoint, we did not see any tango or jazz performances.

My recommendation, if you're OK with missing the attraction of Cafe Tortoni, go to Las Violetas (Av. Rivadavia 3899, Almagro area). Though it has only been open for 125 years (not 152, like Tortoni), it has a very similar feel with the stained glass windows and antique decor. It was cheaper, less touristy, and both the food and drinks were better. We went with a party of six and ordered a platter of food recommended for four (pictured on the left) and we could not finish it all. The platter had sandwiches, tarts (sweet and savory), desserts, etc. They have a vast collection of hot tea if coffee isn't your taste and I ordered a frutilla licuado con leche (strawberry milkshake) even though everyone but Jon advised me not to. Apparently, these concoctions are normally made with water, not milk. I loved my creation, and after tasting it, the whole table agreed.

Moral of the story - go to Cafe Tortoni to see the decor, and to say that you have been there. It's one of the few places in Buenos Aires that people will ask if you visited while you were here. I recommend Las Violetas for a great place to stop for coffee or a snack, the food is much better and the decor is pretty cool too.

No comments:

Post a Comment