Pele (they say he’s got great ball skills) once said “Brazil eats, sleeps and drinks football. It lives football!” Which is all very well if Brazil is hosting the World Cup. But what to do if you’re in Buenos Aires and want to catch some silkily skilled ball action?
Before addressing that, it’s also been said that football is a matter of life or death, but I assure you it is immensely more serious when considering the quest to decide where to eat and drink football (I’m talking about calorie intake here) in BA.
I have painstakingly eaten and drunk football around the city — without watching any games — to find the best spots to catch the entire World Cup. And I also now know what policemen get up to on their lunch hour… (See the Argentina section.)
This exhaustive guide (because I’m now exhausted from eating) is based on participating World Cup nations serving up their native cuisines and showing the games. Phew. Where the information is known, I shall also be divulging screen inches, proving that the old adage “size matters” really does matter.
In no particular order, we shall start with my homeland, and wind our way down to Argentina. Let the games begin. Ah, I’m being informed that they already have…
While chicken tikka masala might be the national dish back in Blighty, in my heart it’s chips and fish. And while the beloved Chipper might be owned by an Irish lady, sorry love, Ireland ain’t in the World Cup… so English food, it is. Susan and Marcelo have installed a whopping 42 inches of flat-screen telly for your viewing pleasure, so grab a date and head to Hollywood to begrudgingly share the Picada del Mar Mundial. This fishy selection of treats includes squid rings, fried prawns, fish goujons and baby squid — dip into Roquefort and tartar sauces. 275 pesos. Humboldt 1893, Palermo Hollywood.
The Gibraltar will be rammed to the rooftop with Anglos shaking their fists at the tiniest screen in the city, but those who don’t want to have to listen their barking can book the Tree House Room. A snug for 10 resplendent with leather armchairs, The Gib is proud to announce that they now offer two TVs, so punters can catch two games at once. Smokers can also indulge in the Tree House. Always devour their Thai Green curry (yay, the taste of home for 70 pesos!) with a pint of Antares Kolsch (40 pesos). Perú 895, San Telmo.
While owner Maxime Tankouo isn’t exactly going all out in supporting his country (no special openings, no giant screen), El Buen Sabor is the only African restaurant in the city and by default represents Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast. So to show some support for the five competing African nations but only in the evening or Saturday lunchtime (ergo, not for any first-round Cameroon matches), tuck into a goat and plantain stew (140 pesos) or grilled sea bass with sweet potato fries (140 pesos). Camargo 296, Villa Crespo.
It’s got to be tough being Croatian in this World Cup: at the time of writing, they are the first act up on the grassy stage, and they are up against big guns Brazil. Ouch. Still, at Dobar Tek, the city’s only Croatian restaurant on my radar, there’s plenty of fighting spirit and those who have Croatia’s timetable tattooed on their heart will know that heading there out of office hours is fine. Smokers are also catered for here. Carry on with the merriment until the restaurant officially opens its doors and share the cevapcici kebab. San Juan 548, San Telmo.
It’s a stroke of luck over at Cocu Boulangerie that all France’s first-round matches take place in the daytime — the French bakery and café only opens until 8pm although co-owner Anaïs promises they will open at night should her home nation meet Argentina in the final. In a double whammy of a gastro tribute, Cocu will be whipping up chili con carne for match days as it’s a favourite dish in France, while the dish’s red beans tip their hat to Brazil. Best taken with Pastis, the classic southern aniseed-based apéritif while scanning 43 inches of screen. 100 pesos. Malabia 1510, Palermo Soho.
Germany (and Switzerland)
Who doesn’t love them some German sausage? I bloody love them, and I’m thrilled to share the breaking news that Bratwurst Argentina — those sausage makers who found love and fame at the Underground Market — is popping up for the duration of the World Cup at La Muzza Inspiradora. With some practice runs under their lederhösen, Bratwurst is hosting this afternoon from 12pm. My tip: miss breakfast and go for the Todo Wurst II, a stacked combo of Pankow, Berliner Currywurst, spicy Chilibratwurst and three Nuremberg sausages with fries for 100 pesos. Get saucy with owner Michael Schnirch’s homemade dips: mustard, fruity curry salsa and a hot Mexican for good measure. Visit www.bratwurst-argentina.com for reservation details. The Bratwurst boys are also supporting the Swiss as well, should there be any of you out there. Callao 684, Tribunales.
They say their heart is Argentine but given that we know they’re also rooting for Greece to win, Mykonos in Cañitas will be showing all the matches from both Groups C and F. Chow down on the Mundial Menú for 140 pesos, which includes appetizers picada-style, gyro spit-roast sandwiches and unlimited Quilmes on tap, while keeping an eye on the 22 men and one ball on the giant HD screen. Baez 340, Las Cañitas.
Another lone player on the circuit, Van Koning is the one spot in town that will be showing both the Holland and Argentina games. Think dark pub lit up by fluoro orange shirts and tall blond people. Baez 325, Las Cañitas.
The following might have Argentina stamped across their chests, but the dishes they are serving up this World Cup suggest their support lies elsewhere, shock horror. Just kidding. I like my life. But for fast pizza, look no further than La Panadería de Pablo, which has pulled out all the stops to install 12 — count them — 50-inch (count those!) LED screens especially for the occasion. Definitely book a leather booth for a prime viewing spot whichever way you look and if those are already booked, make do with the giant screen. Their match day menu (for Argentina games) compiled by celebrity chef Pablo Massey is in fact a veritable Italian choice of dried tomatoes and arugula bruschetta with pizza, topped off by flan and backed up by as much Quilmes as you can sink for 220 pesos. Boom. Defensa 269, Monserrat.
Get stuffed with a great minis deal at Pizza Cero, which marks proceedings on its six large screens — what you save on food, you can splurge on the decent wine list. Three personalised pizzas will set you back 55 pesos and include mushroom, arugula and mozzarella, goat’s cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and fugazetta, the latter a particular hit. Also of note are new offerings, pork and blue cheese, walnut and leek empanadas (19 pesos), though not together, tasty alternatives to the usual meat packages. Pizza Cero’s 2-4-1 cocktail specials for 140 pesos (Cuba Libre, Screwdriver, Tequila Sunrise, Fernet and Coke, Caipiroska, you get the picture) rocks up with one of the following so you don’t pass out mid-match: mini burgers, buffalo wings, chicken sticks and tortilla among others. Book the VIP room and its projector for big-screen viewing. Av. del Libertador 1800, Recoleta.
Set in the most beautiful of San Telmo mansions, there’s a delectable selection of tapas on offer at El Casal, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary under the helm of chef Damián Cicero. With matches showing on a decent-sized LCD telly in the bar area, choose from fresh oysters, Serrano ham, whitebait, garlic prawns and tortilla as well as other tempting Spanish titbits. Chacabuco 863, San Telmo.
The Fábrica del Taco lot are feeling confident in El Tri and are pulling out the stops with match specials. For the Cameroon match on Friday, there was a tequila one featuring José Cuervo Reposado, so imagine that outcome. The usual splendid array of tacos (al pastor, carne asada and adobada, chicharrón and the like) will keep game-goers stuffed while getting their footie fill on two 40-inchers and the projector in the back garden. Gorriti 5062, Palermo Soho.
For more Mexican tastiness, check out the Madero Lupita, which lays claim to having the largest tequila bar in town. Go for drinks, stay all night — it’s open until 2am — that and its tempting 42 inches of screen will keep you there as will the Ruby Red Margarita, infused with jalapeños, grapefruit and mango (71 pesos). Also check out the Pa Las Compas menu for two (159 pesos), with a starter and a main to share. Olga Cossettini 1091, Puerto Madero.
Not a huge amount to report on the Brazilian front, weirdly enough, but there is a TV of relatively small size at Me Leva Brasil. Want to watch the Brazilian matches? Go to Brazil (closest border crossing, Puerto Iguazú). Costa Rica 4488, Palermo Soho.
Does the USA have any chance in the World Cup? What do I know? But I do know their people unquestioningly get behind their people. With three projectors and two plasma TVs, Sugar is a go-to place for English speakers who require pints and burgers with their game. Go for the Sugar classic burger with bacon and most excellent homemade fries (68 pesos). The bar is also opening up its kitchen to guest chef El Tejano, who will feature his fave dishes such as pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, chopped brisket, smoked chicken and ribs served with garlic mash on game days. Get there early, because Sugar always packs out for the big matches, and reserve the mezzanine for great viewing. Costa Rica 4619, Palermo Soho.
The other infamous Palermo expat haunt, Magdalena’s Party, is also getting behind the Mundial with all the games you can shake a stick at as well as some great booze promos to back up a big old screen. From buckets of Miller Lite (100 pesos) to vast pitchers of rum and coke, Fernet and coke or Campari and tonic (also 100 pesos), the food side is backed up by quesadillas (40 pesos), fries (30 pesos) and baked nachos (60 pesos). Expect the party to spill out on the street. Thames 1795, Palermo Soho.
Last but not least, this is the real deal in terms of watching the game in Buenos Aires. I hear that Argentina actually has a chance of winning (not that anyone wants them to, according to Thursday’s New York Times), so spirits will be predictably high. If you’re at a loss of where to live the great Argentine football experience, well, I’ve gone steak, and I’ve gone picada.
You don’t get much more classic than a bar and sports café La Academia is a great bet for mingling with ye local folk who’ve been supping at bitter aperitifs for decades (eight to be precise). Wooden chairs are rather more comfy than expected, tables are small and the match-day picada for two comprising cheeses and cured meat, olives, nuts and bread costs 180 pesos. Backed up by a large beer, this deal rather spectacularly also includes a free hour to play some pool or billiards in the back room. (That’s what the cops do in their lunch hour, shoot pool instead of getting handy with guns in their downtime.) And if Argentina wins, boom! That’s 25 percent off your (old) bill. Callao 368, Congreso.
With a cloudy forecast predicted for today’s match, you need a plan B should your asado be called off. La Dorita can take care of meaty matters. Besides offering a choice of wine to fill your penguin jug (choice! Not just crap from a carton!), sporting a heap of bunting, funky Marcos López artwork and owning the coolest light fittings I’ve seen in a while (recycled Hesperidina bottles), their Mundial menu at lunch and dinner covers all the bases.
Empanadas, offal, steak presented on a clever wood and metal dish with a gap for easy slicing (order medium-rare flank), great chips, salad, dessert, a bottle of wine (which, is not currently clear) and unlimited Imperial lager for 237 pesos, this all-inclusive meal will seem like a full-blown holiday.
Plus friendly staff who deserve 9.5 points for helpfulness, two giant HD screens and a quiz with real prizes (a penguin jug sporting Argentina’s football colours), this is a veritable top spot to eat and drink the World Cup. Humboldt 1892, Palermo Hollywood.
With 32 inches of TV and 2-4-1 on selected wine, Pain & Vin is a sophisticated alternative to downing pints. Plus, their sandwiches rock. For the smarter boozer. Gorriti 5132, Palermo Soho.
Normally known for attracting bodies to the dancefloor, Club Aráoz will throw open its doors and flip down a “giant” screen for Argentina games even in daytime. For ravers who are still up. Aráoz 2424, Palermo.
Looking for something a little cheaper?
Plaza San Martín and Parque Centenario will be proving that football really is for everybody with their epic cinema screens, so make friends with the pancho guy to get the maximum amount of little crisps topping on your dog (around 10 pesos).
And if you don’t like any of this lot, get down to LXF. The only dedicated footie bar in the world (not strictly true, it’s an international chain, natch), every last game will be on so you won’t know where to look. For the die-hard. Las Heras 2101, Barrio Norte.
Buenos Aires Herald, June 15, 2014