Trying to Watch Football at a Mediocre Sports Bar

12 Sep

I don’t write too many reviews on bars or restaurants here, but after my experience this afternoon, I felt compelled to give my opinion on a place listed in reputable guide books like Lonely Planet. Like many a good American, I love (American) football and was very excited for the first week of games starting Thursday and really kicking off today. Because I’ve been out of the country for two years, I’ve been out of touch on most things sports relating, among other things, and I’m trying to change that. In Ecuador I could only watch a few games, but when I arrived in Argentina I had Slingbox which only worked for me until halfway through the season. After that my other option was El Alamo, a sports bar in Recoleta run by expats for expats.

It’s not a scene that I was particularly crazy about, but I really wanted to watch my Patriots play, but the hardest part was spending my Sunday in a dank bar when it was summer and beautiful out. I never really wanted to head back, but now that I’m in a fantasy league and trying to get back into the sport, I decided to head down there, only a 10 minute walk from my house, for the opening game. Oddly enough, I wound up at El Alamo last night for a drink and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The consecutive English songs, college football on the TVs, and general American bar scene was so familiar. I felt nice.

My joy was quickly brought to an end today as I walked over at 1:30 pm for the 2 pm kickoff (local time). I was a bit hungover and craving a cheeseburger and fries and the Patriots. That was all I wanted out of the day. I was the first patron there and unfortunately found that all of the TVs were down. I would have expected that for the opening day, they would have things ready to roll, but instead it was like they were caught by surprise.

As several employees struggled to figure it out more people showed up and scratched their heads as kick off drew nearer. A grumpy waitress with a cast on one arm asked if I wanted anything and I ordered the desired cheeseburger and fries, but she said the kitchen was closed. Two cooks didn’t show up and they had no bread. I’d have to wait an hour. It was hard to call it anything other than amateur hour. Now, I’m aware that everyone has off days, and that you can’t predict cooks calling in sick or satellite feeds not working out. But the night before every TV was on, and knowing that the bar would fill up should have been obvious to an expat bar scene where they make their killing on football Sundays.

Finally a few TVs were put on, but all we had was sound while soccer showed. I pulled together a New England corner booth, with three others wanting the Pats, and while we waited the wrong broadcasts came on. We could hear that the games had begun and were missing the action. I got there a half hour early to make sure I saw it all. It appeared as though they called in reinforcements to figure out the TVs, and we were told that our game would be in the back corner of the bar by a drafty window. So we shifted positions, and now that the bar was filling up nicely it was hard to get a good seat. With flat screen HD TVs, the best they could do for the Pats game was a feed from Slingbox (an Internet feed). Basically, it was like watching crappy quality stream videos at home. For that I went to a sports bar.

After a long wait I got my cheeseburger, and just in time because I was on the verge of getting sick. I hadn’t eaten all day and was dehydrated, but the greasy fries and giant burger looked incredible, just what the doctor ordered. Perhaps the Alamo had redeemed itself. I took a few bites and was loving it until I saw a cockroach crawling around on the bar by my ketchup packets. Yep, immediate fail. I know this isn’t the United States and the health inspector might not be quite as strict, but I don’t want to find cockroaches by my food that is supposed to be better than what I can make at home. I continued to eat my food because I’m not too high maintenance, but took a mental note that it was definitely necessary to write a review.

The final blow came when with seven minutes left in the 4th quarter, the lousy Internet feed cut out to a different game. Luckily it wasn’t a very close game, but there was still no explanation for why the channel changed, and the bartender couldn’t get it back, or at least didn’t try very hard. By that point enough people were there so that they couldn’t be bothered to focus on one game. But why would I wait through all of that mess and then not see the ending? It’s so unsatisfying.

In the end, the food was still pretty good (when forgetting about the cockroach looking for a handout). The drinks are fairly cheap and the scene, while aggravating at times, can be refreshing after months or years in Latin America. But it’s not the only expat sports bar in the city. For example, The Northside Bar in San Telmo has good food, atmosphere, and fair prices as well. I watched some World Cup games there in July and if I had the energy to make it down there after the fiasco today, I would have. So keep these things in mind when looking for a dank place to watch a game next Sunday.

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2 Responses to “Trying to Watch Football at a Mediocre Sports Bar”

  1. Mike D September 12, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    Hey Jon, I hear you on missing the American Football. I would also recommend Sugar in Palermo as a great expat bar with the DirectTV NFL Ticket…. havent seen any roaches there either…. yet : )

    • Jon September 13, 2010 at 11:02 pm #

      Thanks for the heads up Mike. I might have to check that out next week. I’ve only been there once, but remember that their wings were excellent. Actually spicy food, in Argentina. Incredible.

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