Neighborhood Watch: Little Venezuela in Palermo, Buenos Aires

Venezuelans bring a taste of home to Argentina’s capital city.

WORDS Sorrel Moseley-Williams
November 2019
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Illustration by Antoine Corbineau / Photography by Javier Pierini

Argentines often refer to their country as a “crisol de razas,” or mix of races, since 6.6 million immigrants settled in the country in the 18th and 19th centuries—second only to the United States. The immigrants were mostly European, and locals still refer to themselves as “porteños,” alluding to their arrival via the port.

More recently, Buenos Aires has received a wave of immigrants fleeing the humanitarian crisis and economic collapse in Venezuela. “I moved to Argentina because I was sick of Caracas and its violence ... shortages of supplies, fear, insecurity ... you couldn’t foresee a future for anybody of any age,” says Gustavo Castillo, who arrived in 2011.

“I had friends who could lend me a mattress when I got here.”

For Castillo, a former sous chef, opening a storefront in the food-and drink-centric Palermo area made sense. Today he puts twists on a classic treat at Donut Therapy while fellow immigrants whip up arepas and agua de panela (sugarcane water), adding a dash of rum to bring home a little bit closer for more than 170,000 Venezuelans currently residing in Argentina.

Arepera Miss Venezuela

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Dating back almost 3,000 years, the cornbread-based arepa remains one of Venezuelans’ most cherished dishes. Choose from more than 17 iterations at Arepera Miss Venezuela, a tiny spot decorated with images of beauty queens. The favorite is Miss Pelúa, an arepa cut in half and stuffed with shredded beef and semi-hard cheese.

Caracas Bar

Buenos Aires, Argentina

At Palermo’s pioneering Venezuelan-run establishment, savor tropical cocktails and fish empanadas accompanied by a reggaeton and salsa soundtrack. For a taste of owner Félix Ovalles’ motherland, order the Candelaría, a refreshing rum, lemon and agua de panela infusion or Los Naranjos, Caracas’ take on a rum-based Negroni.

La Carbonera

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The husband-and-wife team behind this fast-food joint lovingly create Venezuelan empanadas from scratch, milling their own white corn flour. Order the Pabellón, a hearty, nostalgia-inciting breakfast dish of shredded beef, black beans, fresh white cheese and fried ripe plantains best drizzled with guasacaca, a parsley and chili pepper salsa.

@lacarbonerarg

Donut Therapy

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Gustavo Castillo sold homemade doughnuts to buddies before word spread about his whimsical toppings, such as maple syrup and bacon. A year of popular street-side pop-ups led to a permanent storefront in 2018, adorned with doughnut-shaped neon lights. Avoid the lines and arrive early for a fluffy, sugary fix.

@donutherapy

Vinotinto

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Chef Moisés Dagui bags up comfort food, such as stout-braised beef with manioc, for an inventive spin on grab-and-go meals. The fanfare for the original bite-size rotisería (deli) has allowed him to open a second, larger space in Palermo Hollywood that also serves excellent coffee.

vinotintococina.com

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