From Agronomía to Villa Urquiza, each of the 48 barrios of Buenos Aires contains its own history, culture, and magic. Residents take much pride in their neighborhoods, quick to spout off their virtues, be it a legendary panadería, an illustrious vecino, or jaw-dropping park. Personally, I will *definitely* fight to the death for my beloved Retiro: I even created (?) the #RetiroRenaissance hashtag to celebrate the wave of bars, restaurants, and cultural happenings taking place with the enclave nestled between Av. 9 de Julio and Microcentro.
Which is why it’s so important every now and again to take a moment and look beyond the borders of one’s own barrio to see what might be going on across town. Sure, routine is nice, but isn’t it fun to head out and explore a different part of Buenos Aires every now and again? Reminding ourselves that there’s life beyond Palermo and Recoleta is the perfect jumping off point for a self-guided tour of discovery through one of Latin America’s most fabulous capital cities! (Forgive me, I had three coffees before writing this)
Inspired by the Día del Vecino Participativo (talk about a mouthful), which takes places on June 11th every year, we thought it would be fun to showcase one of the most dynamic little barrios of Buenos Aires: Villa Crespo. Before we share our top ten reasons to eat, drink, and shop in that neck of the woods, let’s enjoy some quick trivia because, why not? Villa Crespo earned its name thanks to Dr. Antonio F. Crespo, a mayor that was responsible for bringing the Fábrica Nacional de Calzado – founded on June 3, 1888 – to the area. Its population grew thanks in part to to commercial activity taking place there, though in the ’60s and ’70s many residents left for other parts of Buenos Aires, leaving Villa Crespo in a state of decline. However, since the barrio’s 100th anniversary in 1988, there’s been a marked push to revive commercial, cultural, and social activity,
Without further ado, our officially unofficial roundup of ten reasons that we love Villa Crespo.
This speakeasy – the first of its kind in Buenos Aires – is on the cusp of celebrating its 15th birthday. Known by locals simply as el ocho, this watering hole was opened by Julián Díaz and Florencia Capella (you might recognize their names from other great Buenos Aires bars such as Los Galgos and La Fuerza) at the onset of a new era of Argentine gastronomy. As the cocktail culture was vamping up and iconic spots were in their infancy, 878 opened its doors on a sleepy block of Thames, unaware that more than a decade later it would be an emblematic representation of Argentina’s gastronomic potential. As Narda Lepes describes it: “Not a lot of fanfare, good cocktails, and buena onda. That’s how 878 got started. Hidden away, without any windows facing the street. It always had a sense of ‘behaving a little bit badly.’ Since the start, it’s also been a gastro-friendly place, meaning that those of us that work in the food industry have chosen it as a place to go late at night, when we’re done with our shifts. We go [to 878] for the quality, for the service, and above all, because it’s anything but pretentious.” Today, 878 continues to be a hotspot for great cocktails, food, and service for both its regular clientele and newly-minted fans alike. When you think about it, can you really say you know Villa Crespo if you haven’t had a late-night Negroni at el 8?
Oh No! Lulú
I never knew just how badly Buenos Aires needed a tiki bar until Oh No! Lulú opened. No, seriously. Three months after opening, the newest concept by foodie mogul trifecta Luis Morandi, Patricia Scheuer, and Ludovico De Biaggi (think BASA, Gran Bar Danzón, and Sucre) has brought some much-needed tropical whimsy to Villa Crespo. The name is play on “Honolulu,” which means “place of shelter” in Hawaiian, and as soon as you step in off the street you’re transported to a fantasy land where fish tacos and rum punch reign supreme. Most of the drinks are served in hand-crafted ceramic vessels that resemble everything from sharks to skulls to tiki gods and the food menu is just as fun, including Café Habana-inspired grilled corn, poke bowls, and the very fun to say pu-pu platter. What’s more, the bar opens at 6 PM and closes late, with happy hour deals to get the party started right on time. In a city full of overdone craft beer and traditional cocktails, throw on your best Hawaiian shirt and spend an evening far away from the porteño drizzle and gloom.
Oh No! Lulú | Araóz 1019 | Tel: 4774-4543 | Tuesday – Sunday 6 PM – 3 AM | Instagram
Vico Wine Bar
What’s better than one glass of wine? Infinite glasses of wine. Vico has brought a dose of sophistication to the wine bar game with its sleek décor and snazzy Italian Wineemotion dispensers. Not sure what that is? Basically, they’re machines that preserve bottles of wine once they’re opened, meaning you’re served the perfect glass – every time. Plus, it’s fun to insert your little card in and select both the wine and the size of the copa you’ve set your eyes on (it’s like a grown-up SUBE, but instead of shoving yourself onto a crowded B Line subway car, you’re sipping on Cabernet Franc, Torrontés, or Syrah). At Vico, you can *only* order wine by the glass, forcing you to shake things up a bit and try something new; sommeliers are on hand to offer suggestions and guidance if you’re overwhelmed. A friendly reminder: it’s not smart to eat on an empty stomach. Luckily, the food is just as top-notch as everything else, offering fantastic charcuterie, small plates, and delicious mains that ensure a perfect pairing experience. Don’t forget to check out the private tasting room upstairs.
All the cool kids are doing it. And by “it” I mean going to Anchoita. One of the hottest reservations in town, the passion project of Argentine-Italian actor-doctor-pilot Enrique Piñyero opened in October 2018 and has been buzzing ever since. Thanks in part to an investment of US $300,000 (!), the space is impressive, featuring a central wooden bar over which a massive extractor hangs. There’s exposed brick, dramatic lighting, an entire sector dedicated to high-quality cheese (!!), and so much more. Anchoita’s menu focuses on seasonal, organic, and market-fresh ingredients, prioritizing grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish, no small feat in a country that’s more and more connected with feedlots and salmon farms. The wine list is extensive and offers something for every budget and taste; the wait staff are trained sommeliers who are more than ready to help you make your final decision. Try not to fill up on the bread and kefir-based butter and be sure to leave room for the “pistachio three ways” for dessert.
From quirky Caribbean closed door to haute cuisine fine dining powerhouse, i Latina has certainly raised the bar when it comes to Argentina’s dining scene. Run by Colombian chef Santiago Macías, the restaurant got its start in Bariloche in 2008 before relocating to Buenos Aires. Its focus on Latin American cuisine – via a seven-course tasting menu – sends diners “on a culinary journey from Mexico to Patagonia.” Macías is inspired by local flavor, technique, ingredients and culture, and this passion shines through in every dish. He’s also become a local proponent of sustainability and other zero-waste initiatives, using the restaurant’s own garden and compost to ensure nothing is tossed aside from start to finish. i Latina has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, the Guardian and more. Among the myriad accolades it’s received, one of the most recent was Best Restaurant in Argentina (2018), number two in South America, and number 21 worldwide at the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice awards. If the dinner menu’s price tag gives you heart palpitations, be sure to book for the monthly Desaiuno brunch extravaganza; it’s a great way to get a taste of the i Latina universe without breaking the bank.
Associating Argentina with high-quality leather is about as trite as tango, Maradona, and screaming out “Don’t cry for me” from a random balcony somewhere. Like it or not, Buenos Aires is still a hot destination for the clotheshorse with an eye for style. What’s more, in recent years a new crop of fresh young designers have continued this tradition – with a twist. Enter Nimes, run by Clara Bartolomé and Santiago Sellares, which creates exquisite hand-made bags and accessories using only uncorrected, vegetable tanned leather, sourced from the only sustainable tannery in Argentina. Think classic silhouettes that appeal to both your mom, dad, and your cool kid sister (the one who was sporting a fanny pack before everyone else) in colors that range from timeless to trendy – never straying into fashion victim territory, ahem. Their small workshop and storefront is located conveniently across the street from Vico, and there you can watch the artisans at work as you browse among happy houseplants and chic citizens of the world. Whether you’re just passing through and want to take home a unique souvenir, or have been on the tireless search for the *perfect* leather bag, Nimes has got you covered.
Gone are the days when Argentine fashion was limited to slightly cropped bootcut jeans, XL white tank tops, and yellow silk flower hair accessories (2007, we do not miss you). OK, chunky platform death sandals are still very much a *thing* in Buenos Aires, but the proliferation of young, edgy, and forward-thinking designers has really kicked into high gear in the last couple of years. Soifer fits the bill to a T. The self-described “easy to wear, no gender” label features chunky knits, color-blocked separates, oversized trousers and outerwear, and more than a few body-conscious pieces that keep things sexy. Basically, Soifer makes clothes that will remind you how fun it is to play with personal style, test the limits of personal expression, and incorporate a more open-minded approach to the world at large.
Alta facha, che. But really. You can spot a Facha bag a mile away: every piece is truly seamless, not an insignificant design feat if you ask me (then again, I wear the same jeans every day so maybe I’m not the best person to ask). From petit and chic backpacks in a rainbow palette of colors to purses inspired by Chinese takeout boxes, these leather babies look gooooooood. Facha’s Instagram is a hyper-curated, hyper-hip gallery of effortlessly cool people – probably 100x more interesting than you – sporting their wares all about town. Like, you probably never thought you needed a miniature transparent backpack that could also be worn as a fanny pack, but now it’s all you can think about. Another perfect example of the quality of young, local, Argentine design, the brand – founded in 2013 by friends Santiago Lopes and Guillermo Sukiassian – has definitely upped the ante when it comes to style, branding, and the ever-elusive cool factor.
It’s not easy to find home goods in Argentina that can compete with the variety or the quality of what you might find in North America or Europe. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an impossible task. Take your dreams from Pinterest #inspo board to reality after you browse Tienda Mayor‘s mind-boggingly diverse array of table linens, pillowcases, bedding, and more. You won’t find any garish cherry red synthetic slipcovers here (I shuddered just typing that sentence out); instead, you’ll float among a neutral sea of linen, canvas, and tussor – dreamy! Everything that comes out of the Tienda Mayor ecosystem is 100 percent local, meaning that the raw materials, production, dye process, and final touches are hecho en Argentina. If you’ve been talking a big game about reducing your carbon footprint or supporting small business owners, consider this the perfect opportunity. Meanwhile, I’ll be planning my next dinner party tablescape, thank you.
Ruth Benzacar Gallery
Ruth Benzacar was one badass art bitch. No, really, she was. Her gallery was founded in 1965 and is currently managed by Orly Benzacar and Mora Bacal (Ruth died in 2000). From the beginning, its mission has been strongly linked to showcasing the best of contemporary art, with a special focus on highlighting local Argentine artists. Previously located downtown just steps from Plaza San Martín, the Villa Crespo space carries on the half-century tradition of five annual exhibits that blend both established and emerging artists as well as special events, workshops, and dates that foster interdisciplinary artistic dialogue. Ruth got her start in the early ’60s and was known for filling her Caballito home with the stars of the Instituto Di Tella scene: Marta Minujin, Marilú Marini, Antonio Berni, Jorge Romero Brest, Aldo Pellegrini, and more. Whether you’re an art lover, a culture vulture, or just curious to visit a new-to-you gallery, Ruth Benzacar should be the number one spot on your list.
Ruth Benzacar | Juan Ramirez de Velasco 1287 | Tuesday – Saturday 2 – 7 PM | Instagram