One thing you learn very quickly upon arrival in Buenos Aires is that the porteños love their cafés. They are on virtually every street corner, sometimes with multiple dotting the streets in between. They almost always include outdoor seating and are open until rather late into the night, by American standards. As someone who used to drink three large cups of black coffee before leaving the house back in the States, I’ve had to adjust, but I’m learning to love it.
First, know that “café” = espresso. They don’t use coffee pots to brew their coffee here, only espresso machines, and “café con leche” is the most common combination. It’s similar to a latte and served in a cup much smaller than the “venti” size I was used to ordering at Starbucks. There are a lot of Italian influences in this city, so know you’ll probably see some Italian coffee drinks sprinkled on your menu.
Secondly, cafés serve many purposes, each better than the last. You may see people doing business, studying, on a date, or (my personal favorite) catching up with friends for hours on end. Porteños love to socialize, and it’s not uncommon to visit with people from lunchtime until three or four in the afternoon, talking about relationships, soccer, the weather, and everything in between.
Finally, in keeping with the last point, you must flag the waiter down yourself in order to get the bill. Unlike in America – where the restaurants want you to sit down, eat, and leave so they can seat another group – they live a slower paced life in Argentina. People truly stroll down sidewalks, saying you’ll be somewhere at 2 may turn into 2:30 without issue, and one café con leche can last several hours. Expect it, embrace it, and enjoy it. The United States could stand to learn a thing or two about stopping to “smell the roses” – or the espresso.
The world awaits…discover it.