I arrived in Buenos Aires the night before. Passed out due to jet lag and woke up the next morning feeling extremely hungry. It was my first time in Buenos Aires, and I had a list of restaurants to try. Going down the list, I decided to go to Café Margot for breakfast.
The taxi ride from downtown to Boedo took about 25 minutes. Boedo, a predominately residential and working class neighborhood, has little appeal to tourists. But I am not a tourist; I am a traveler, blending in with locals is far more interesting than visiting a touristic monument. And from my experience, looking for excellent local restaurants had always led me to unexpected places.
With over 100 years of history, Café Margot was a meeting place for poets, writers, painters and tango artists in the early 1900s. To preserve its culture and history, the Argentinian government selected it as one of the 54 “Bar Notables” in Buenos Aires. By doing so, the government provides grants to help maintain its original appearance.
Café Margot is located at the corner of San Juan and Boedo. At 10 am, I was happy to find it open for business, and with free wifi! The restaurant is old but enchanting. Everything from the wood cabinets, to the black and white tile floors, to the chairs are all in its original form. The posters that hang on the walls were once considered contemporary has now aged naturally to a beautiful vintage. There were about 5 customers, mostly older men, enjoying a morning coffee with their newspaper.
The non-English speaking waitress sat me at a small table by the window, then handed me two menus. One is the regular menu, only available in Spanish, and the other, a breakfast menu with English translation. I ordered an omelet with cheese and ham, coffee, orange juice and toasts. Besides being a bit oily and burnt on the edges, the omelet and everything else were fine.
With soft music playing in the background, I was carried away in my own imagination. Like Gil in Woody’s Allen’s Midnight in Paris, suddenly I was fluent in Spanish, wearing an embroidered 30′s style dress, mingling with poets and tango artists in Café Margot.
Three days later, I met up with a Buenos Aires local named Fabian, to learn about the culture and history of his city over good food and coffee.
“Fabian, what about El Obrero in La Boca? I’ve heard great things about it, didn’t Bono and Francis Ford Coppola frequent there?”
“El Obrero was great, but it has not stayed true to its identity. They are overcharging because of the popularity with tourists. Why don’t I take you to a hidden gem, a place so authentic that they would only take Argentine pesos (it’s common to pay in USD in Argentina). I took visitors there and told them not to mention about this place on Tripadvisor. I want to keep it a secret.”
“I love hidden gems! I love secret places! Where is it?” My voice was getting louder as I became more excited.
“It’s called Café Margot.”
Fabian was very surprised that not only did I know about Café Margot, but it was also the first place I went in Buenos Aires.
“What? So you just woke up, and say hey, take me to Café Margot? Your taxi driver knew where it was?” Fabian asked me repeatedly.
“Oh yeah.” I answered with a proud grin.
By the time we arrived in Café Margot, Fabian and I had already gone to two other restaurants. We were full but we decided to order a proper meal anyways. This time around Café Margot was very busy and filled with locals.
Fabian ordered the Pavita En Escabeche, a famous Café Margot signature sandwich with marinated turkey and suggested I order the Bife de Chorizo Compiero, the Argentinian for New York Strip, complemented with fries, eggs and bacon. Recommended beverage are a glass of local Melbec and home brewed beer.
Apparently Fabian’s turkey sandwich is very popular among the locals although I found it a bit bland. As to my sirloin steak, it was big and juicy, not overly seasoned and actually, medium rare.
By this time I had already gone to the highly recommended, some say the best steakhouse in Buenos Aires – La Cabrera in the trendy Palermo district. I thought the quality of the steaks was equally good, however Café Margot is less expensive and the chair you sat on is probably the same chair Juan Perón used while daydreaming about Evita.
Café Margot, Avenida Boedo 857 (corner with San Ignacio), Boedo, Buenos Aires