Here’s a Tip – Service

2006.Mar.01 Wednesday · 6 comments

in Restaurants

Buenos Aires – It’s not often that I don’t tip a waiter. I worked for too many years in the restaurant world in the U.S. and I know what waiters go through, and I know it’s how they make their living. Even here, in a country where they’re paid a “living wage” and tipping is much more of a true gratuity, I find it hard not to tip. It takes truly egregious behavior. No, actually, it really takes a waiter demonstrating that they really just couldn’t care less about me as a customer. Enter La Caballeriza, Vicente Lopez 2024, in Village Recoleta [This place closed down in 2009 with the closing of that section of the Village Recoleta shopping area for reconstruction.]. This is one of four outposts of this parrilla and I’ve heard mixed reviews. We thought we’d give it a try. I don’t give it a mixed review. The place itself is classic steakhouse, lots of dark wood, various cow related paraphenalia, you know the sort. The menu looks a trifle pricey, but this is Village Recoleta, and it’s not outrageous, so we start flipping pages – it’s pretty extensive, and includes both Argentine and Uruguayan specialties. Our waiter is distracted, and seems far more interested in hanging out outside with a young woman who is standing out there waving at him and blowing kisses whenever he’s not at her side.

La Caballeriza - achurrosI look at the wine by the glass, the waiter insists that the only one of the four that is available is the most expensive one (16 pesos a cup versus three others under 10). I decline and ask for water and he “admits” that he could probably find a bottle of one of the others if he really has to. We begin with a selection of achuras or mixed grill sorts of things. It takes an easy half hour to receive, despite their being no more than a dozen other people in a restaurant that seats 200. A really excellent chorizo, smoky and cooked perfectly, does a lot to take the edge off things. So does the equally delicious salchicha parrillada, a mildly spicy smoked coil of sausage. A couple of grilled red bell peppers, and a heap of lightly crisped riñones (kidneys) complete the array. Okay, we’re good.

La Caballeriza - tira de asado and brochette de champignonesAnother half hour passes after our appetizer platter is cleared and then my mixed salad shows up – note, I ordered it as my guarnición, or side dish, to my main course. Another ten minutes passes and then a platter of tira de asado (beef shortribs) and my skewers of mushroom shish-kebab. Oh wait, make that skewer. Singular. Twenty pesos and I have a skewer of four small brown mushrooms, each wrapped in bacon and with three separating morsels of red bell pepper. The ribs, ordered al punto, or medium-rare, are blackened on the outside and cooked to shoe leather on the inside. La Caballeriza - brochette de champignonesFlagging down the waiter elicits a “that’s the portion size” and “looks like al punto to me” followed by walking away. There is no manager present, in fact, other than two cooks there appear to just be two waiters. I eat the mushrooms and salad, we make a stab at the ribs, we ask for the check. 91 pesos. Oh, he’s charged for my side salad as a separate item. Did we really order that much stuff? I flag him down again and point out the salad and get “oh, if you knew how things work here in Buenos Aires you’d know that guarnición only means french fries.” Umm, no, and we live here. “Yeah sure, I’m not changing the bill.”

Hmm… let’s see, your tip would have been 9 pesos, 10%. The salad is 6 pesos. Guess who loses?


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Paz March 2, 2006 at 20:26

Oh, too bad for the service. Was the waiter a young guy, not that it give him a good reason to act the way he did. Food looks good, though.


dan March 2, 2006 at 22:40

Yes, he was young – mid-20s, but no excuse for the behavior. It was just clear from his attitude that he really didn’t care, and I’d guess, has been told to both steer “tourists” to higher priced items and very possibly to overcharge them. It’s not uncommon here, especially in tourist-oriented restaurants (and one of the reasons I avoid them) for things to get added to your bill that shouldn’t be there – most people never bother to look, especially given that things are cheap for them.

As to the food, yes, the appetizers were quite good, and the mushroom brochette was good, just way too small for the price. The ribs, not good at all – not a particularly good cut, plus overcooked.

Paz March 4, 2006 at 01:38


Paz (shaking head)

pooky4650 September 4, 2006 at 22:19

I know I am just a tourist. Having been to Buenos Aires 5 times in the last 4 years but I found this restaurant’s location in Puerto Madero to be wonderful. Both service and food. Everyone that I recommend it to has told me they thoroughly enjoyed it. On my next trip I was planning on going to some of their other locations but your description makes me leary of going to the others outside Puerto Madero.

dan September 6, 2006 at 09:05

I, too, have heard good things about their branch in Puerto Madero, but, like any other restaurant in that area, you’re looking at high prices in comparison to the rest of the city. The PM is designed as a tourist trap – I do think, in general, I’ve found a higher level of service at many of those restaurants, because, simply, they wouldn’t survive if they treated tourists in the manner that most restaurants in this city do. Locals, and (perhaps unfortunately) those of us who’ve plopped ourselves down here for longer periods of time, seem to have a much higher tolerance for inexcusably poor service. I look back at this incident now, seven months later, and my first impulse is… “oh, that’s not so bad, I’ve had worse…”. And I look at the things I write about now and realize that I let slide commentary on stuff like this that I found unacceptable not all that long ago. I’m not sure that’s a good thing…

Ro November 16, 2009 at 19:30

Hello! I found your page searching for a restorant in google, and I liked a lot your restaurant reviews.

I’m from Argentina, and recently I went to La Caballeriza in juan b justo, and had a bad expierience too. The waitress almost dropped a bottle of water on me, and the food was good, but very small servings for the price charged. We spent 120$ in a dinner for two, with provoletas (a bit burned) chicken and asado, and water.

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