Just Back From... the Tango Halls of Buenos Aires


Reader Latika Young and her boyfriend rented an apartment for three weeks to scope out the "milongas" and eat gluttonously.

Great local meal… Pedro Telmo at Bolívar 962. We avoided the hordes of tourists on Defensa, near the weekly San Telmo market [PHOTO], and headed over one block to this no-frills restaurant filled with locals. Since it was close to where we were staying, we spent several warm evenings here at one of the few rickety tables outside. The food is so affordable and yummy that it was all too easy to order steak, empanadas, and a pizza grande for one meal— along with a liter of Quilmes, of course!

Our favorite part… Watching all the tango maestros dance! In New York, we can watch visiting professionals during special milongas (social tango events). In Buenos Aires, the entire milonga was one amazing performance after another. We saw Pedro Alberto "Tete" Rusconi, one of the last milongueros from the golden age of tango, dance at Salon Canning just two nights before he passed away (he died on January 7, 2010, two days before his 74th birthday).

Wish we'd known that… Carrying large bills is such a headache in B.A.; we spent so much time trying to get change. We eventually learned to request multiples of 20 from the ATM and to seek out big chain stores where we could make small purchases with large bills. We had to plan ahead to be sure we still had small bills for the taxi rides home late at night; more than one driver claimed to have no change at all.

Worth every penny… Gelato in January! At first we were a little hesitant about Freddo, because it's a local chain, but its rich chocolate amargo and the creamy goodness of its refreshing melon quickly dispelled any lingering doubts. We agreed that summer in January was the perfect excuse for buying the biggest tub to enjoy late at night on the balcony of our rental apartment.

Fun surprise… How perfect the restaurants are for a vegetarian-carnivorous couple. My boyfriend, Ilker, was thrilled to eat meals consisting solely of steak with a side of chorizo, and I was equally delighted to delve into bowls of freshly made pasta and hearty salads. A classic that we could both agree on: provoleta, the herb-flecked grilled cheese. (Sorry, vegan couples!)

We're still laughing about… how we missed New Year's! We had decided to celebrate with a quick getaway to nearby Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. [PHOTO] But we didn't realize that the city is one hour ahead of Buenos Aires. We were still eating dinner on December 31 when the fireworks began exploding. We were genuinely perplexed by why the celebrations had begun so early.

Total rip-off… Tickets for the stage tango shows. Save your money and go to a traditional milonga instead. Even if you are there only to watch, you will see amazing tangueros who are dancing for the sheer love of the embrace and the spontaneity of the dance. The experience is utterly different from sitting in a theater and watching a piece of choreography onstage.

Hotel we likedWe rented a room in the Casa Magica, a private apartment. After living in a cramped studio in New York, the apartment was truly "magical," with spectacularly high, pitched ceilings and a spacious living room with a wood floor perfect for morning yoga and private tango lessons.

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