Monthly Archives: March 2008

San Telmo or Palermo Soho: Traditional vs. Modern

I’m often asked which neighborhood (barrio) is better, San Telmo or Palermo Soho.  Here’s a brief description of the two barrios from an insider/outsider point of view to help you decide.

El Federal

San Telmo (above) is tango and the past; Palermo Soho (below) is hip and modern.  Choosing between the two is really a matter of what you most want to experience here in Buenos Aires. San Telmo is New Orleans; Palermo is Miami. Or something like that.     

 Cluny from Above  

 San Telmo is walking distance to most sights; Palermo requires a taxi ride or a walk to the subway. Sights Nearby: Within walking distance from San Telmo are the Plaza de Mayo, la Casa Rosada, the cabildo, Cafe Tortoni,  Avenida Florida (the famous pedestrian street for shopping), Avenida Corrientes (loaded with theaters…. BA’s Broadway) with its obelisk, and Teatro Colon (although it’s currently being remodeled). 

  Blue and White  

In the area of Palermo, you’ll find: the Botanical Gardens, the zoo, the hippodrome, the polo field, major shopping centers on Avenida Santa Fe, the Evita Museum, MALBA (the museum of Latin American Fine Arts), and many gorgeous parks.  

Polo Field 

Prices and Restaurants: San Telmo is cheaper than Palermo in part because it has more variety. You’ll find more inexpensive traditional parillas, pizza joints, choripan stands on the road, rustic eateries with wooden tables that have been there for ages, more Italian restaurants, a fantastic market for buying fresh produce, more bars and milongas (tango dance halls), and more traditional cafes.

Antique Market  

In Palermo, you’ll find some of the best restaurants in Buenos Aires where the menus are more modern and innovative. Cafes and restaurants are trendy and pricey. There are more outdoor cafes in Palermo Soho than in San Telmo. It’s more difficult to get a traditional parilla (Argentinean barbeque) in Palermo. Some of the hottest nightspots are in Palermo, but there aren’t as many bars where one can stop in for a drink and a game of pool.

 El Ultimo Beso  

The Streets and Shopping: Palermo is cleaner and has less riffraff than San Telmo. San Telmo is more crowded and more bohemian than Palermo. Both areas are very active on weekends.  The antique fair in San Telmo brings in hordes of locals and tourists. Streets are filled with live performances that are out of this world. Palermo’s weekend fair is for designers. The square is filled with stands where you can buy jewelry, shirts, etc. 

 Tango in the Street  

Shopping is better in Palermo than in San Telmo, but it comes with a higher price tag. San Telmo is changing though. A few stores that are in Palermo are opening in San Telmo, too. But for clothes, shoes, jewelry, and art, Palermo has more to offer.

Designer Interiors 

So, do you want a filet with a dijon sauce and fancy table settings or some empanadas, pizza, and  steak served on wooden plates? Answer this question and you’ll know where to stay. 

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No Beef

Butcher shops are empty. The beef aisles in the supermarkets are bare. If restaurants are serving beef, it’s likely from frozen stashes. The two-week farmer’s strike which threatens to leave the markets not just without beef, but without dairy and other staples doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. Farmers have blocked the roads and stopped shipping goods to protest sliding export duties which sometimes reach 41% (soybeans). 

Argentinean Parilla

  For the past hour, the city has been filled with honking horns meant to tell the government that the people (and not just the farmers) want to see a change in the fiscal policy. When Boca or River win, the city is filled with honking horns, but nothing compared to tonight’s. 

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez refused to lower the tax hikes today. And the farmers vowed to continue the strike as long as is necessary.

 At least 9,000 cattle typically enter the city’s stockyardsfor slaughter. This week, not one animal arrived.

If you’re here in Argentina this week, I think you’ll be eating a lot of ham and cheese. Or try some of the amazing vegetarian restaurants I wrote about earlier here

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Parilla Lezama for Dinner

Parilla Lezama on Brasil Street offers typical dishes (cocina porteña). While the place we’d most recommend for steaks in San Telmo is Don Ernesto, Parilla Lezama is one of our favorite restaurants in the area.

Parilla Lezama

 

Since it’s a grill, you could order the parilla (grilled meats) which they’ll bring to the table on a small grill. A parilla at Lezama usually comes with a variety of beef cuts, some chicken and sausage.

Parilla Lezama

But Lezama’s speciality dishes are very tasty. Try the conejo al ajillo (rabbit with garlic), the matambrito de cerdo (pork flank steak), 1/2 pollo (boneless half of a chicken served with bacon, fries, and leek salad with grilled tomatoes), brochette de lomo (tenderloin skewers), cordero a la calabresa (lamb with potatoes), or the bondiola de cerdo (pork shoulder).

Parilla Lezama

And Lezama has a large selection of very traditional Argentine desserts: queso fresco y dulce (fresh cheese with jam), queso y batata (cheese with sweet potato jam), queso y membrillo (cheese with quince jam) zapallo (pumpkin), castañas (chestnuts), and higos (figs).

Parilla Lezama

Brasil, 359

San Telmo (on Parque Lezama)

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