El Estaño 1880
I wanted to like El Estaño, I really did. Estaño means tin and it refers to the original metal bar, which with the closure of Bar Carlitos, is apparently the only one remaining in the city. As you may be able to guess from its name, it opened in 1880, and it now situated a couple of blocks from the legendary Bombonera stadium, home to Boca Juniors.
The interior is nicely decorated, with glass-fronted cabinets lining the walls behind the bar and a large mural taking up the entire back wall and a lively air conditioner keeping the worst of the January heat out. So what’s the problem then?
When we arrived there was one of the city’s yellow open-top tourist buses parked outside. Entering the bar, it became clear that all of the clientele had been herded off the bus, into the bar where they were drinking overpriced Quilmes. We sat down and waited. None of the 4 staff behind the bar made any move towards the table. After 5 minutes it became obvious that you had to go the the till at the end of the bar to order and collect your drinks from an incredibly surly lady.
10 minutes after we arrived, everyone except us was herded back onto the bus, and not 10 seconds after it left another one arrived and the whole process started again. After another 10 minutes we were again the only people in the bar (and obviously not on the yellow bus) and we began talking to the staff about other Notable Bars in La Boca and they brightened up and became quite chatty.
Despite this, the whole experience was so manufactured and cynical – we even speculated that the bar is now owned by the bus company – that I will not be returning in a hurry. Along with La Perla, two beautiful and historical bars have had all traces of character removed in the name of “tourism”.
El Estaño 1880: Aristóbulo del Valle 1100
Colectivos: 10, 39
This page is part of a series examining the Notable Bars of Buenos Aires.