Neighbourhood Watch: Chacarita

Pull up a wicker seat on the street at Las Damas.

Somewhere to the northwest of Palermo, the only neighbourhood that exists in many people’s, and certainly tourists’, minds with its similar-looking cobbled streets and tree-lined curbs shadowing elegant, dilapidated townhouses is Chacarita.

Renowned for its cemetery, which houses Little Britain and Little Germany sections akin to embassies for the long-departed, Little Farm is a microcosm of Buenos Aires.

Resplendent with a railway station, an organic market alongside the deserted tracks, pizzerias at whose bars you can rip gloopy, gooey cheesy dough to shreds, its very own CACJ football club, the neighbourhood’s equivalent to Petticoat Lane thanks to all the florists catering for weeping widows attending nearby graves and enough tame drunks in the Parque Los Andes to bleed a brewery dry, Chacarita is often cast aside in terms of gastronomic options, if, indeed it was ever considered in the first place.

Take a Saturday, when the sun is shining and Los Andes park is lined with stall-holders eagerly trying to flog antiques they have probably made and can’t get rid of at the biggest and best flea market in the area — strictly speaking, the Mercado de las pulgas is located in Colegiales — and you’ll find Chacarita is a bit like San Telmo but with far fewer dawdlers speaking bad Spanish, picking up a mate gourd destined to gather dust.

Saturday can be spent wandering Little Farm, from the 95-hectare cemetery, Argentina’s largest and a pleasing alternative to Recoleta, where former president Juan Perón was laid to rest albeit just for a bit, to picking up some organic dried fruit at El Galpón market at Federico Lacroze 4171 or having a coffee at the Simik photography museum and café, also on Federico Lacroze at 3901.

If you start off early enough, you’ll soon be in need of a bite to eat, and in this new, sporadic series, Neighbourhood Watch, all your eating needs will be catered for, for one day only. Just make sure you have cash to hand.

For lunch, why not stop off at Las Damas. Located on a leafy corner, this rather sweet little restaurant is both quaint and cool at the same time, thanks to its vintage decor and retro daisy table-cloths.

Las Damas offers up a lunch dish of the day for around 40 pesos, which from kitchen to table appears quickly, and a delicious-sounding although not lengthy, sandwich menu.

Pull up a wicker chair on the pavement outside — this is a lovely corner, local, generally peaceful bar the rumblings of the 39 bus as it bounces past, and certainly quiet enough to hear the cicadas whirring as they go about their business.

Although it isn’t particularly cheap for a lunch spot, and the outdoor street venue definitely outweighs a fairly average daytime menu — the stir-fried chicken and vegetables with rice could have been vamped up with some ginger to make it a touch more authentic — the lemonade, which has been frothed up with ginger, is refreshing and worth 18 pesos, even if it you can’t buy it by the jug.

If what is possibly the only clock in Buenos Aires offering up-to-the-second information (on Charlone and Jorge Newbery) hits four-ish, it’s time for tea at Le Blé.

This French patisserie, kitted out in country-kitchen style furniture, hits the spot with its buttery croissants and pain au chocolat, delicate strawberry tarts and baguettes made in-house although the service is somewhat distracted and disorderly in the sense that wait staff are not very aware of clients. Those in need of an alcoholic pick-me-up (and my grandma always said the bar opened at 5pm) will be pleased to know Le Blé is now brewing its own beer, while those in need of a bargain will be really pleased to know that it’s two-for-one on takeaway pastries after 6pm. If you’re not up for dealing with distracted staff, take your cakes to Los Indios park, just two blocks away. (Also check out Le Blé on Alvarez Thomas 899.)

Come nightfall, why not hop into the vermouth restaurant, U Comodo Vostro. Before you munch down some delicious mushroom bruschetta as a starter, wander through to the far end of this Italian restaurant, which opened last summer, and pull up an armchair for a pre-dinner drink.
Promising to serve up pasta al dente on the menu, owner slash waiter Marcelo’s offerings are simple, honest and do precisely what it says: pasta al dente. How refreshing to find an Italian restaurant in BA which is concerned about its ingredients and doing things the Italian way, even managing to provide a full black-pepper mill.

Although Marcelo admitted he was was out of carnaroli rice for the mushroom risotto and the menu is pizza-free, the Sicilian pesto accompanying farfalle al dente was probably the most representative such sauce tasted in six years. Served up in a deep bowl, work up an appetite before pulling up a table indoors or on the street. Good (Italian) job.

Neighbourhood Watch: Chacarita
Las Damas
Charlone 202
Tel: 4554-3466

Le Blé
Dorrego 999
Tel: 4854-2616

U Comodo Vostro
Jorge Newbery 3540
Tel: 4553-7043

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