There's something about this place ...
Maybe it's the tango.
Those of you who have witnessed the real thing know tango--when done right--is not a dance for sissies. It is aggressive, moody, seductive, sometimes beautiful and maybe a little dangerous.
Like Buenos Aires.
So . . . is it a cliche to compare Buenos Aires to the tango? Maybe, but it was either that or "Evita."
Which brings us to the subject of steak houses--but first, the obligatory Travel story transition paragraphs:
Cool place to visit, Buenos Aires. There's history here, pretty architecture, grace, grit and a certain big-city buzz that demands you pay attention, lest you miss something you probably won't see anywhere else--for instance, street-corner tango dancers.
Plus, right now, for Americans (and especially for euro-spending Europeans) it's relatively cheap, and that, happily, brings us back to the subject of cooked Argentinian hoofed beasts.
Rumor has it that sushi is the rage in Buenos Aires, and, indeed, there are bright new sushi palaces among the parrillas (local jargon for steak joints). That may be wonderful news to los portenos (local jargon for Buenos Airesians), but that's not why we came here.
Why we came here was, to give just one example, a sweet little storefront called 1880 Parrilla Restaurante, in one of the less interesting sections of the very interesting San Telmo neighborhood.
With the place almost empty around 9:30 p.m. on a Thursday night, I was seated at a nice table and greeted by a waiter whose English was even worse than my Spanish, which is tres malo.
Eventually, I ordered the chorizo, a fat red juicy sausage the size of a small kosher salami that had been grilled (at a parilla like most everything but the beer) over hot coals. That set me back about 80 cents.
As I attacked it, the couple at the next table were thoroughly enjoying something hideous, so I called the waiter over and, at my request, was brought a half-order of what they were having: chinchulin de cordero, or grilled lamb's small intestine. About $1.65.
By this time--well past 10 p.m.--the place was packed with well-dressed patrons along with a few wearing soccer shirts.
Then came the bife de chorizo, a stunningly tender boneless chunk of beef comparable to a thick New York strip. About $5. Plus a plate of hot, crisp french fries. About $1.35.
All accompanied by the mandatory chimichurri, a garlicky red dipping sauce. Free. And a large bottle of Quilmes beer. $2.
The beer was just OK. Everything else, even the innards, was absolutely delicious.
Now if you haven't been keeping score: This steak dinner, among the best I've ever enjoyed anywhere in the world (including Chicago and Brooklyn) and graciously served by a waiter who couldn't have been nicer despite my linguistic stupidity, set the Tribune back about . . . $11.