Folk music & criollo flavors

A pleasant combination in the Northwest and Buenos Aires

By Bonnie Tucker / FST
“A friendly get-together” is the Spanish dictionary definition that best describes peña, this way of listening to live folk music that originated in the provinces of northwestern Argentina and also has its fans in Buenos Aires.
Nowadays, a peña is a restaurant or bar when people get together to listen to music and play or sing it between servings of regional food such as empanada meat turnovers and locro stew washed down with several glasses of wine. In the most authentic peñas, you begin the night listening and, if you have singing and guitar-playing skills, you just might end up entertaining others. But you usually have to take your own guitar.
There are all sorts of peñas. The admission to some is free, in others you pay. Some are outright tourist traps, but there are others without professional singers, where common people just go to sing. In some towns, the places where the next peñas will be held are advertised on small pieces of paper stuck on shop windows.
In Buenos Aires, the two most famous peñas are both in Palermo. Los Cardones (Jorge Luis Borges 2180,, is the favorite of polo players and other sons of ranchers. The restaurant of La Peña del Colorado (Güemes 3657, is open day and night on weekdays and has a yerba mate bar for non-drinkers and curious tourists. When the show is over at night, guitars are handed around to guests who want to sing.
The food served in these places brings together the flavors of the original peoples of the region and those of the conquistadores of the Americas. Barbecued meats, stews such as locro, humita (corn meal boiled in corn husk packages), and hearth-roasted potatoes go well with empanadas, a dish that the Spaniards inherited from the Arabs, and stews that use ingredients brought from Europe.