A small bar painted a cool ocean blue runs along the window of Cachita, a neighborly joint posted quietly on a residential corner of Belgrano. Behind it is just enough space for a dozen people to sit at a counter that zig zags in the shape of a lightning bolt. “We call that one the barra del mar. All that this place is missing is an ocean view,” explains Sam, the restaurant’s affable patriarch. He looks freshly ripped off the beach with a faded natural bronze and a snapback permanently placed on top of his head. “We originally wanted to open a little place like this somewhere in the Caribbean [sic] in Cartagena, maybe. We really feel at home in Colombia. Someday that’s what we’ll do.”
At 7pm, a mixed bag of people begins to slowly filter in. A chic woman slings a white coat and matching purse over the simple bar stool and laughs with Flopy, the second half of this relaxed duo. A trio of men grab seats at the edge of the bar and catch up over beers and hummus with pita. Young friends and couples fill in the empty patches and order falafel starters and wine. By 8pm, a short queue begins to form; everyone greets Sam and Flopy by name and no one seems to be bothered by the wait.
I scan everyone’s orders and audibly debate my options. Crisp looking dark brown falafel with hummus, lamb braised in tamarind sauce and served over beetroot, or a hamburger that a friend argued was ‘the most underrated burgers in Buenos Aires’. The couple beside me each order a sandwich de cuadril, or rump steak, and the guy who has settled on the window seat behind me orders the same. They are all obviously regulars. Sam chimes in, “The cuadril is the most criollo thing on the menu. A slice of bread, grilled steak and another slice of bread. It’s magnificent.”
Cachita opened nearly three years ago on a quiet street that rests at the cross-section of Belgrano, Coghlan and Nuñez. Initially, it was just Sam in the kitchen while Flopy worked the front. It feels homey. During the day, light shines brightly through the large windows. At night, the reggae gets turned up and the place feels like a comfortable local. Polaroids are strung on the back wall and when cooks come to grab something from the fridge in the front, they say hello to everyone they pass. The pair tends to shun press and have purposefully decided not to expand the layout or add seats outside in order to maintain a vibe that feels like a local hangout rather than an overcrowded trendy bar. The feel is so local that on a recent visit the two guys standing behind me wondered how ‘a pair of gringos found out.’
Before opening the restaurant, the pair traveled around the world, particularly in the Caribbean. Sam grew up bouncing from country to country, spending much of his childhood in Bangkok and across Europe. The experiences are reflected in a menu that alludes definitions—a little bit of Greek Mediterranean, touches of the Middle East and some North American styled pulled meats. Bottles of Sriracha are dotted across the bar next to small glasses of chili oil and criolla.
“We just play with the flavors that we like. The burger is one of the first things we put on the menu. But it is just one thing on the menu. Once a kid came in all excited on the phone talking about how he’d just found a new hamburgueseria,” Sam’s face turns, “We don’t want to be defined so easily.”
The sandwich arrives on a simple metal platter fit for its modest contents. A crunchy homemade brioche roll is all that stands in the way of the gluttonous slice of rump steak, which was cooked a nice medium-rare that packed a dense but buttery chew. Smother it with rich aioli, smooth criolla sauce and a drizzle of slick chili oil. The sandwich typified the menu, which is made of familiar dishes and comforting flavors with little surprise edits, like pomegranate that added a pop to an otherwise traditional criolla salsa.
Starters include a small grouping of Middle Eastern inspired dishes. Falafel balls are fried to a crunchy deep brown and are served with a white yogurt sauce and a smooth hummus, which absorb nicely into the pillowy dough within. They are immediately addictive. Half moon slices of pita are served warm to scoop up more hummus, which was slightly nutty and had a nice balance of tahini and citrus flavors.
Mains include sandwiches, wraps and different meats ‘al plato.’ Mountains of shredded pork shoulder or lamb peak up on the platters. The bondiola tastes like it was left to braise in its own juices. The satisfying fatty pork flavor is left to sing on its own next to thick sweet potato fries and crunchy coleslaw. I particularly enjoyed the lamb braised in tamarind sauce. Similar to the pork, the meat wasn’t overpowered by too much sauce and spice but rather tasted like a rich cut of lamb with notes of tangy tamarind that sits quietly on the back of the tongue. Bright fuchsia spoonfuls of a thick beet root sauce add a mix of earthy and sweet to the tender morsels of lamb. A creamy cucumber yogurt sauce dripped on top was pornographic. Everything can be washed down with a lightly hopped red ale from Antares served on tap or a small selection of red wines.
I scoop up the bits of bread and pomegranate that survived as I put back on my winter coat, aware that people are eagerly awaiting my seat. As I take off, Sam comes over to give me a warm handshake, “We hope you come back like one of the locals.”
Moldes 3102 | Belgrano
Monday through Friday from 12:30 to 3:30 pm and 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm