Argentina’s Café Culture

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A Buenos Aires CafeOne of the aspects of Argentine culture that makes it warm, welcoming, and unique is the integral role of the Argentine café. This European cultural import alone might be why Buenos Aires is sometimes called the Paris of South America. On almost every street corner in Buenos Aires (and other major Argentine cities) you will see at least one café, and in many cases three or four. And no, we’re not talking Starbucks here.

Most cafés offer both indoor and outdoor seating, to give the customer the choice of escaping the busy streets or of getting a good vantage point for people-watching on the sidewalk. Once you have seated yourself, a waiter or waitress will offer you a carta (menu) which lists everything from coffee to sandwiches, empanadas to desserts, grilled entrees to salads… you get the point.

After putting in your order, just sit back and relax. While the food will probably arrive quickly, there is absolutely no rush in an Argentine café. As an American, I am accustomed to walking into restaurants, being seated quickly, having two minutes to scour the menu and then order, receiving my food promptly, and then being handed the check before I even finish. Not in Argentina! And especially not in an Argentine café!

Here, it is common for someone to camp out at a café table for hours and order nothing more than a $3 peso coffee. And instead of evil glares from the staff, you will find a friendly smile and an offer to freshen your drink or bring you another medialuna (an Argentine croissant).

So if you find yourself in Buenos Aires with a couple of hours to kill or even if you are just looking for a relaxing place to read, head to a café. As an added bonus, get yourself a café con leche (espresso with milk) and a couple of medialunas. There’s just no better way to round out an an afternoon.


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