Los 36 Billares, founded in 1894, is one of the bares notables -historic bars and cafés- of Buenos Aires.
I make a point of visiting at least one historic café when I’m in Buenos Aires. What’s special about them is the atmosphere, the décor with lots of marble and wood, the idea that generation upon generation of porteños sat at these tables to drink coffee and eat medialunas while discussing current events. It’s the sense of history that draws me in.
Los 36 Billares is located inside a Beaux-Arts building on historic Avenida de Mayo, the mile-long avenue that runs directly between the National Congress and the Presidential Palace (Casa Rosada). Although the café has clearly been renovated, it kept a timeless style: wainscoting, marble tops, chandeliers, Tiffany-style lamps, black and white checkerboard floor and brass fittings.
The basement billiards hall is spacious, well-lit and neat. There’s nothing seedy about it. It was mid-afternoon and there were a handful of players, mostly men. It is said to be the best in Latin America. I’m usually wary of such claims. But I know for a fact that it is a well-known venue for tournaments.
I ordered a cortado en jarrito -roughly ¾ coffee and ¼ milk served in a glass mug with a stubby stem. It came with a glass of fizzy water and three mini cookies. These extras are included in the price of the coffee. The service was a bit slow; my waiter was more interested in other customers I think. The longish waits gave me time to notice things like the wood-burning pizza oven. The absence of ambient music made it easy to eavesdrop on the conversation of those TV types –I thought I recognized one of them from a TV show- or those friends over there meeting for a nice catch-up.
I know I said there was no ambient music; however I could hear stray notes here and there. As it turned out, on my exploration afterwards I discovered that tango singers and musicians were auditioning for the live shows the café puts on weekly.
Los 36 Billares Avenida de Mayo 1271
Billiards hall Sun. to Thu 10:00 - 2:00AM Fri. Sat: 10:00 - 4:00AM
Restaurant/Pizzeria Mon. Thu: 7:00 to 2:00AM Fri. 7:00 to 3:00AM Sat. 7:00 to 4:00AM Sun. 7:00 to 1:00AM Pin away!