Enclave of the North

2008.May.26 Monday · 4 comments

in Life, Restaurants

 …we now live in the second robber baron era. One of the things that happens in such times is that the wealthy and powerful get to construct huge building and homes. Yet, however we may feel about the 19th century power hoggers, we are still attracted to the architecture and structures they were rich enough to build. Now, take a stroll through the downtown of a gentrified city of today or drive into the carelessly wealthy suburbs.”

– Sam Smith, Progressive Review

Acassuso – I have been to this small suburb north of the city once before – it was evening, we were there for another purpose, and I didn’t get a chance to see much of it. At some point way back when I wrote my great hamburguesa round-up, a local friend had sent me a note saying “you must try the burger at Pepino’s” and giving me an address in this river community about half an hour north of the city. I had nothing planned for last Sunday other than just getting out of the house, and thought, hey, why not? So, off to the northern suburbs…

I don’t know much about Acassuso, its history, or… hmmm… really much of anything. I would say from wandering around for the day that it seems to be a pretty wealthy suburb, with the majority of homes being behind security fences of one sort or another, private guards on the streets (though, none of them gave me a second glance as I snapped photos), fancy boutique stores, and a whole lot of English and French being spoken by the various people I passed or who were eating in one of the two restaurants I checked out. Yes, two… I was hungry. Mostly, it got me a couple of pictures of fall foliage (interestingly, the town is planted with alot of what I think of as North American trees – oak, maple, ash, birch, willows – that I don’t see here in other places), a visit to Peru Beach, so-named because it’s at the end of a street named Peru, and not much of a beach – more of a riverbank with some casual cafes setup in a strip mall along the water, and places to rent kayaking, windsurfing, parasailing, and sailing equipment, plus a roller hockey arena in active use. There’s a cute little antiques fair that lines one side of the Tren de la Costa train station (called Barrancas rather than Acassuso) on Sundays – one of two train lines that run through here, I took the regular suburban train out to the town’s main station. More on the restaurants after the photos…

Map of Acassuso

Fall leaves in Acassuso

Berries in Acassuso

Antiques fair at the Barrancas station

Equipment rental at Peru Beach

Parasailing at Peru Beach

My first stop, given the recommendation, was Pepino, Libertador 14475 – which is basically a big hamburger and hot dog stand. It’s setup to look like a bit nicer spot than that, but that’s really all they offer, other than a salad bar. The place was jammed with people, mostly families with small kids, indoor and outdoor seating, formica tables, vinyl booths and chairs, waiters rushing about taking orders – given that the choices are limited, it’s a quick and easy thing to decide. French fries arrived quickly – brought around by a guy who had plastic baskets of them stacked ten high as he ran around dropping them off on tables – clearly not made to order, and cold. The bacon cheeseburger arrived a good ten minutes later, so they’d have been cold anyway if I’d wanted to eat them together. The burger is tasty, well seasoned, and probably started off at 3-4 ounces before cooking weight. By the time it was cooked (well done, no options, and too thin to do anything else with anyway), it couldn’t have weighed in at more than about 2-3 ounces. It more or less disappeared under two strips of reasonably crispy bacon, lots of melted cheese (again, no options, just cheese) and pickles. The bun was a traditional soft style. All in all, points for the flavor, though not thrilled with the size or execution.

Pepino - bacon cheeseburger and fries

On my way to Pepino, I’d passed a place that looked intriguing, called The Embers, Libertador 14638. Something about it – whether it was the sign that proclaimed it as the “First American Restaurant in Argentina” or just the look of the place – like an old 50s burger and soda joint – caught my attention. Given the minimal nourishment ingested at the first spot, I thought I’d head back and see if I could manage another. The place has tables, plus a couple of counters around the soda stand and the kitchen, I seated myself at the former and perused the menu. Far more extensive, and packed with norteamericano classics, from burgers to ribs to chicken to sandwiches. All the signage is in English, right down to cute little humorous stuff like you’d find in a typical place in the States of this sort (you know, the “unattended children will be sold into slavery” sort). All the babble I heard about me was in English as well, and the newspapers that were here and there were all from the U.S. The owners popped in at some point – hard to tell – she looked like she was likely from the U.S., he didn’t, both, I’d guess, in their early 60s. My waiter highly recommended the chili-burger, I haven’t had one in a long time, so go for it – side of onion rings. The former, the burger itself a little underseasoned, but the chili was great – nice and spicy and completely warming. Delicious! I’d go back just for a bowl of that. The burger, again a bit undersized, not so much as the other spot, but small. The onion rings – hmm… they didn’t get the batter right and it was falling off the rings, but they were tasty. This is a spot I’d go back to!

The Embers - chili burger and onion rings

Apologies to the gentleman caught in my sights, but the picture with the “Chicken in the basket” sign above the swinging “baskets” was too cute to pass up…

The Embers - chicken in the basket

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

dan May 28, 2008 at 12:35

A friend just sent me a link to this article in today’s Clarin, one of our major daily newspapers – apparently Pepino got hit by a group of armed robbers. The gist of the story is that four men, not masked and just casual, wandered into the restaurant last evening, then suddenly announced a robbery, taking 10,000 pesos plus various cellphones, watches and jewelry from the cash register and 45 patrons. They exited, got into a car with a waiting driver, and were rounded up and arrested by police not far away, as someone had gotten a 911 call off to the local precinct. Glad I wasn’t eating my burger then, though I’d have happily given them my cold fries!

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