La Puerta Roja
What? Restaurant / Bar
Where? Chacabuco 733 y Chile
Happy Hour: 6-10pm / Website (Spanish), but check their facebook page for proper info / Mon – Sun: 6pm – 5:30am. Sometimes opens earlier for football matches / Mapa interactivo
This is a place for foreigners who have been in South America for too long. Here you can buy a ludicrous amount of cheesy nachos, a draught pint of IPA, and watch football. Unless you like cramped hot spaces without seats, don’t go on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Go on a Monday (happy hour + curry and IPA meal deal), around 7pm. The door is not marked, so search for a red door (puerta roja) on the left side of the road as you walk from Av. Independencia. Behind the door are stairs leading up.
Whenever Ian suggested going to La Puerta Roja I always felt a justified sense of foreboding. Ian is my Texan (from Austin – the socially acceptable bit), eating-machine friend. He can eat anything, except mayonnaise, so quickly and in such vast quantities that I once suggested he enter some kind of competition.
At La Puerta Roja the thing to eat is nachos. Google tells me that there is no dedicated nacho-eating competition; but there is one for tacos – close enough. The record is held by Japanese superstar Takeru Kobayashi, a short, incongruously muscular man who, when feeding, resembles a seal with arms and a blonde toupee. His record stands at 106 tacos in 10 minutes.
Ian suggested going to La Puerta Roja approximately every Monday, and we would invariably be sharing a platter – yes, it was a platter – of nachos, aptly named Súper Nachos. A single platter could feed a small country, maybe Luxembourg, but we shared it between two, being manly and foolish.
In the early days the sheer ferocity of Ian’s eating meant that he would be gnawing into my half after a few minutes. I tried appeasement, but to no avail. So we were forced to lay down some ground rules. When the platter came, we would endeavour to draw as defined a line as possible through the sludgy mountain of nachos, guacamole, sour cream, beef mince and melted cheese.
This would be accompanied by as many beers as our bellies would allow before the inevitable cataleptic bloated phase came on. At this point we would try and play pool in the next room, but soon realised that our bellies prevented us from approaching the table, our arms were too heavy to lift the cue, and any bending motion threatened vomit. So we roly-polied down the stairs to the eponymous puerta roja and waddled home.
The original sense of foreboding was for the knowledge that any attempt to sleep during the cataleptic bloated phase was quite futile, and however much time I spent in the living room walking around in circles (exercise) or drinking herbal tea (detoxicant), the night would inevitably be spent listening to the industrial waterworks operating out of my stomach.
The other thing you eat at La Puerta Roja is curry. On Mondays you can buy curry with an IPA very cheaply (considering the paucity of good beer in Buenos Aires). If you are from England, it will be among the worst curries you’ve ever tasted; but it is edible and somewhat filling. Half the plate is curry and the other half is rice, with a separate bowl for naan. It is not spicy: there is no spicy in Argentina.
We once made the mistake of entering on a Thursday night, which is the night that office workers celebrate the end of the week. This mistake about when working-weeks end might explain the state of Argentina’s economy. The place was full of mullets and suits and noise. There were no seats available and various faces were disentangling themselves from webs of hot cheese flaked with nachos. We decided that we should probably leave, and got our fix of fatty food at the Parillada down the road.