The other day I received in the mail a review copy of The Authentic Bars, Cafes, and Restaurants of Buenos Aires by Gabriela Kogan. There is a serious lack of English-language travel books about Buenos Aires other than the traditional guidebook. Kogan, a graphic designer in Buenos Aires with her own local imprint, provides a nice addition, a good supplement to, say, The Rough Guide to Buenos Aires. The pocket-sized format of The Authentic Bars, Cafés, & Restaurants of Buenos Aires makes it an easy volume to carry around in your exploration of Buenos Aires. It certainly could be useful in pre-trip planning as a way of narrowing down some places that you want to try out. But to try all the places you basically have to live here.

I’m not a foodie and this book isn’t much on reviewing the quality of the food at these places. That type of review is best left to Dan of Casa SaltShaker or by consulting the Oleo guide to restaurants in Buenos Aires. (Also related to this topic, Dan has an extensive, bilingual English – Spanish Food & Wine Dictionary).

What The Authentic Bars, Cafés, & Restaurants of Buenos Aires does provide you with is the sense of a place, a feel for the individual spots. Undoubtedly, one of the great pleasures in visiting Buenos Aires is sitting in one of the city’s classic cafés.

For my first reading of this book, I decided that there was no better place than at one of my own neighborhood cafés, so I headed over to El Hipopótamo (photo below), which oddly isn’t listed in the book though fortunately the other fine place just across the street, Bar Británico is covered.

In her introduction to the book, Kogan says

Visiting these places and writing these brief descriptions, I realized that I began to retell and relive what Buenos Aires is really like, its history in all its idiosyncrasy….writing this guide has connected me to the joy of what is genuine, of what doesn’t need language to translate. It has connected me to the essence of Buenos Aires.

There are a number of my favorite places in the book and quite a few that I didn’t know about. Some of the places are those deservedly mentioned in all the guidebooks, but then there are the other little, local places that are full of character. I often advise visitors to Buenos Aires just to walk randomly around town and drop in on any corner café. But for those people who like a little more structure, some guidance, then this book can help you uncover the charm of Buenos Aires.

Yanqui Mike also has a review of this book on his blog.