Author Daniel Tunnard shares some train and food spotting highlights in and around Buenos Aires.
As the author of Colectivaizeishon, el inglés que tomó todos los colectivos de Buenos Aires (available in most good bookshops, albeit in Spanish, so I’ve lost you there) and of The Trains Stop Here. A Survey of Railway Velocities in the Argentine Dust Cloud (not yet published, and will probably only be published in Spanish, but bear with me), I am often asked by boutique hotels in Palermo to suggest itineraries involving public transport and gourmet dining. Not a day goes by without such a request.
If you’ve been here a few weeks and fancy something off the beaten track and a little adventure, the city’s crumbling bus and train network offers all sorts of low-budget spills and thrills. You need a full day for this itinerary. Dress down, hold on to your belongings, and don’t let them smell your fear. We start at the faded grandeur of Estación Once de Septiembre in Plaza Miserere. From here you will be taking one of the country’s worst trains to Moreno. Keep away from the doors, they don’t always close. Coffee and churros available from train-based ambulant vendors, shouting out their wares. Counterfeit socks and Elite tissues also available. Every man has his price.
Lunch in Mercedes At Moreno, change for Mercedes, a bargain 3 pesos for a two-hour train journey through the grassy sub-suburban spread of Greater Buenos Aires. If you’re lucky you’ll get one of the vintage silver-grey carriages – a bit like a 1960s Mercedes that has been left in a barn for the past 20 years – a missing tyre here, a broody chicken there, but still just about dependable and a darn sight more romantic than much of the new Chinese rolling stock rolling into Argentina.
Mercedes is a green and pleasant small town with a peaceful central square and gothic cathedral. You can relax now, you’re back with the middle classes. How they welcome you into their moneyed bosom. The best options for lunch are the gaucho-friendly Pulpería Cacho de Catarina (empanadas, gin, knife fights) or at La Vieja Esquina (charcuterie, vino patero, a nostalgic tear). Mercedes is the Peach Capital of Argentina. Eat a peach. Go on, live a little. There’s also a salame festival every September, if that’s your thing. Indeed, who doesn’t enjoy a good sausage party? Dinner in Once
If you don’t fancy another three hours of low-quality train travel, you can get the 57 bus back to either Plaza Italia in Palermo or good old Once. By now you’ll have digested your lunchtime peaches and you’ll be looking for somewhere in Once for an early dinner and a bit of a change from all this gaucho-and-salame tourist nonsense. As if by magic, a classic Korean restaurant awaits. Combining the names of not one but two Calvin Klein scents, Bi Won (Junín 548) opens early and closes early (that means 7.30 to 10pm), making it ideal for foreign tourists shocked by the idea of dining after the sun’s gone down. Silver chopsticks, privacy screens, impeccable service.
Daniel Tunnard is the author of Colectivaizeishon, el inglés que tomó todos los colectivos de Buenos Aires