The challenge. Dinner for two people, including soft drinks for both, in Buenos Aires. The challenge does not include pizza, empanadas or milanesa.
It’s the day after the night before. It’s Sunday. Before casting aspersions, the night before involved, certainly on my behalf, a tame yet fun-filled and highly cost-effective leaving dinner for a colleague at legendary Palermo haunt Club Eros.
Two things about Club Eros. First, it in no way has anything to do with sex unless you get your kicks watching sweaty men, energized by colourful fizzy drinks, showing off a different kind of ball skill as they streak up and down a scuffed-up indoor pitch while scoffing down a juicy steak and chips in the adjoining restaurant.
(One “a”. If you Google the establishment’s name, the sixth Argentina listing refers to the self-proclaiming hottest swingers’ club in Cleveland, but a review of that joint belongs in a rather different publication, and is unlikely to be penned by yours truly.)
(One “b”. Meanwhile, the third Google listing says a plate of sorrentino pasta with tomato sauce costs six pesos, and while I am fully in favour of getting change out of 100 pesos, I never ever promised anyone they would get change back from 10 pesos, so ignore that snippet of confusing information — it’s six years old.
And second, I have suffered a bout of food poisoning over the past few days and so this dip into the world of Club Eros in fact applies to last Friday night.
Club Eros is the stuff of legend, so much so that I can pinpoint my first meal there. How many restaurants can you say that about? It is so very legendary that friends have reminded me that we met at Club Eros around an enormous table organized by someone who’s long bailed out of the city, overlooking 10 panting men pursuing a ball.
And in my humble opinion, it is so very legendary for remaining a local sports club and restaurant, to retain its DNA and do what it has always done despite the developmental chaos around it: serving up a totally dependable porteño menu at truly reasonable prices without fail.
Despite the remarkable all-round value of this spot, I am always on the hunt for the new Eros, eager to try and replicate it elsewhere, but so far I have failed to come up with the goods. Maybe I should stop looking.
Four years ago, I lived a mere hop and skip from the sports club on the corner and had wandered past it a heap of times as I rambled the neighbourhood, always intrigued to know what went on behind the windows’ bars, and why there was so much yelling and cursing. But new to the city, with barely any friends to my name, I had a slight fear of stepping into this nameless white premises alone.
Then Grant from ZZK Records suggested lunch there and sent me the address. I still hadn’t put two and two together to come anywhere close to four, so when I arrived I was thrilled to finally make it to the sports club which was packed at midday.
Absurdly, I clearly remember what he ate: gnocchi with tomato sauce. My memory is rather more hazy with regard to my choice, but I tell you this: the good-natured staff, the bustling quick service, the huge bife de chorizo steaks cooked as you wish and a minuscule bill meant I would return. And I have, time and again.
Four years ago, a steak, and there really is only one option of beef, cost 17 pesos. Many’s the time I’ve been regaled by mates whose residence in Buenos Aires has been longer than mine, of happy memories that go as far back as 2006, 2007, when that medio bife de chorizo cost nine pesos. (Bear in mind that an expat year is similar to a canine’s own age-measuring stick — take one and times it by four. Which means I’ve been here 24 years…) But today, February 19, 2012, that same juicy steak will set you back 30 pesos.
That, for a slab of beef cooked medium rare — because if that’s what you asked for, that’s what you’re going to get, sir — is more than a decent price in this day and age, and will certainly keep the visitors, keen for a bargain Argentine hunk, happy. Just yesterday, I walked past two restaurants, nothing special, totally not beguiling and certainly without a football club on the side, in Colegiales which charged 79 pesos and 50 pesos for that very same cut.
The average porteño menu includes a healthy dose of milanesa, three pastas with two sauce options and some cheap plonk. But although this is fast-food Buenos Aires style, in terms of speed from order to plate, Club Eros’ fodder is always tasty and you’ll literally lick the white plate clean, proving it’s worth as a place for genuine cheap eats in Buenos Aires.
With freshly fried chips to share for 17 pesos (that’s what they cost last night), or perhaps you’re on a health kick and would prefer the standard LTO salad and cause less artery damage for the same price, and some cheap plonk for 20 pesos, I think we can safely assume there is change from 100 pesos at a dinner for two. Three pesos, exactly.
You might need to briefly wait for a table, but it’s a chance to catch an Argentine footie genius in the making, isn’t it?
Uriarte 1609, Palermo Soho
Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on February 19, 2012
Photo by me.