No single place embodies tradition better than Monserrat’s historic Café Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 825, tel. 011/4342-4328, www.cafetortoni.com.ar). Most tourists come for coffee and croissants, but there’s live tango and the bar serves good, reasonably priced mixed drinks accompanied by a sizable tabla of sliced salami and longaniza, pâté, Vienna sausages, cheese, and olives that easily feeds two people.
Though it has undergone a partial rehab, the worn-about-the-edges Confitería Ideal (Suipacha 384, tel. 011/5265-8069, www.confiteriaideal.com) remains one of the most traditional settings for coffee and croissants. Despite worn upholstery and cracked floors, the Ideal served as a set for Madonna’s Evita debacle, and it hosts downstairs tango shows (for spectators) and upstairs milongas (for aspiring dancers) Wednesday and Thursday around 3 p.m.
By contrast, the elegant Confitería Richmond (Florida 468, tel. 011/4322-1341), one of Borges’s favorites, looks nearly as good as the day it opened.
Recoleta ’s La Biela (Avenida Quintana 596/600, tel. 011/4804-0449, www.labiela.com) is a classic breakfast spot, but it remains a pricey place to eat. In good weather, try the patio, beneath the palm and palo borracho trees, and the giant gomero or ombú, which needs wooden beams to prop up its sprawling branches. It’s slightly more expensive to eat outside, where the service can be inconsistent.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition