One of my favorite things about living in Buenos Aires is getting to know my neighborhood.  Fortunately for me, I have lived in three different neighborhoods already so I’ve had a chance to explore several.  Just like in New York, everything you need is usually in a few block radius.  I’ve now reached the point where I feel like I have “mastered” my neighborhood.

The guys working at the fiamberia at my corner, which sells cold cuts, cheeses (and the Argentine version of bacon which I recently discovered), now shout “New York, New York” when I come in.   Caddie corner is the fruit and vegetable stand I discovered has THE best produce in the neighborhood. The guy who always helps me is from Peru and makes sure to select the best fruit and tells me what’s good that week.   I know which kiosk will actually give me prized “monedas” to ride the bus when I am desperate, and which always carries the cell phone calling card I need, and another that sells a carton of my favorite fresh squeezed orange juice for only 7 pesos.

I love the carniceria in our neighborhood because of the sweet old man who has worked there for 30 years who always laughs at my lack of red meat savyness. It’s open until 8:30, has the freshest meats, though I also know that when I go alone he often “aprovecha” and sells me a different cut of meat that is twice what I expected to pay.  There’s a fruit and vegetable stand that’s a part of it that sells hard-to-find items (in Argentina) such as ginger and cilantro.  I discovered my favorite place to eat a nice dinner in the area, a place called T-Bone, and after a twice-per-week habit I couldn’t quit the entire wait staff now knows me and gives me free drinks whenever I come in. When we first moved in, I found myself at the hardware and kitchenwares store every week to fill in the odds and ends that were missing in the kitchen.  There is even an American-style gym three blocks away and a health food store that sells peanut butter.

Last week I passed through the other neighborhood I had lived in (Palermo – Pacifico), and despite it being only six blocks from where I live now, I had gotten to know all of it’s distinct best kept secrets.  I thought about how close I used to live to Nucha, my favorite café for breakfast or afternoon snacks.  The pollo con mostaza dish I had discovered at this one awful orange-painted restaurant, the “My Place” video club which was right next door and always had the newest releases, and the young guys that worked there who knew me always let me bring back the movies late and didn’t charge me.   I knew that the “Chino a la vuelta” (as Argentines lacking a bit of PC-ness call the large chain of Chinese grocery stores around every corner here) was THE only store I could buy food at until 10pm on a Sunday.   I had discovered the fastest way to walk to one of my favorite neighborhoods, Las Cañitas through a sort of hidden underpass and that heading towards Avenida LIbertador was a way to feel like I had stepped out of Buenos Aires.

So then what is so different about the Buenos Aires barrio vs. the New York one? In Buneos Aires there is no best dry cleaner to search for (porteños don’t really dry clean much), no two-on-every-block manicure shops, no Thai, Mexican, and sushi delivery restaurants in every neighborhood, no Sunday brunch spots to figure out, or 24-hour Duane Reedes.  There’s not even a mailbox to search for!  But by far the best part is that you really get to know the people who work in these neighborhood shops and it becomes a big part of the whole experience. The same old man is working the carniceria with his wife every time I go and I love that dependability, that smallness I feel in my barrio.  He waves hello whenever I pass by and once “lent” us a bag of coal for our asado when we had forgotten to buy one.