A mainstay of Argentine culture is the oddly timed and executed schedule of meals. Many people know that Spaniards, Italians, and South Americans eat dinner late, but Argentines have taken that pedal to the metal. A proper porteño will dine around 10-11 pm, eat a 600 g hunk of red meat, down ½ a bottle of Malbec, and promptly go to bed. If it´s a weekend you would switch to Fernet Coke and go out dancing until 7 am. Regardless, it´s a city for night owls and morning people need to adapt quickly. Like Spanish tapas, “Merienda”, occurring between 4-6 pm, is a time to meet friends, have a coffee or tea, and something sweet to tide you over until the meat festival later. Clearly, it´s a balanced diet of sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and protein.
If you find yourself in Buenos Aires, here are a few of my favorite Merienda joints:
Las Violetas (Almagro): Impossibly kitschy and crowded with nauseating bright décor, this café is one of the most traditional places to have your sugar fix. It´s been around for 129 years, on the historic Rivadavia avenue, originally a summer-house neighborhood where wealthy families flocked during the yellow fever epidemic in 1870. The café opened in 1884, but the current building was built in the 1920s, with French stained glass windows and Italian marble floors – still there today. Go for a step back in time and a full-on merienda – tea or coffee, cake, quick breads, cookies, scones, finger sandwiches, toast with jam and butter, and orange juice.
La Gruta (Recoleta): Truly an old school café, where old men in suits go to read the newspaper and down a brandy. It´s no-frills, with waiters in bow ties, good coffee, and sticky medialunas.
Anima Café & Cakes (Recoleta): An animal-themed light-filled café with cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and the best part, homemade animal crackers. The name has now changed to Saint Honore but the coffee and treats are just as good.
Pani (various locations): Nap-inducing portions of over-the-top cakes; definitely an American influence with items like four layer Oreo cheesecake, KitKat layer cake, cinnamon buns, and apple crumble. Needless to say, you should share. Their take-away boxes are quite beautiful too 🙂
Ginger Bakery (Recoleta): Homey treats like cinnamon buns, banana bread, and blondies.
Ninina (Palermo): Typical Palermo – overpriced, hipster, sleek – but good nonetheless.
Delicious (Recoleta): Really good coffee and many options for sweets.
Le Moulin de la Fleur (Recoleta): Proper french croissants and pain au chocolat.