Many but not all tango venues are in the southerly barrios of Monserrat  and San Telmo . Professional shows range from straightforward, low-priced programs to extravagant productions at high (often excessive) cost. Milongas are participatory bargains for those who want to learn.
One of the best values is Monserrat’s legendary Café Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 825, tel. 011/4342-4328, www.cafetortoni.com.ar ) Live song-and-dance shows at its Sala Alfonsina Storni, separated from the main part of the café, cost around US$10–18 pp plus drinks and food.
Dating from 1920, the elegant El Querandí (Perú 302, tel. 011/5199-1770, www.querandi.com.ar ) is another classic; for US$80 pp, the nightly dinner (starting at 8:30 p.m.) and show (starting at 10:30 p.m.) occupies the upper end of the scale.
San Telmo’s Bar Sur (Estados Unidos 299, tel. 011/4362-6086, www.bar-sur.com.ar ) is a relatively spontaneous and informal venue open late Monday–Saturday nights. The show costs US$48, the dinner another US$19 pp, including unlimited pizza, with drinks extra.
One of San Telmo’s classic venues, occupying a late-18th-century building, El Viejo Almacén (Balcarce and Avenida Independencia, tel. 011/4307-6689, www.viejo-almacen.com.ar ) charges US$78 pp including dinner at its restaurant, directly across the street.
Literally in the shadow of the Mercado del Abasto, part of a project to sustain the legacy of the “Morocho del Abasto” in his old neighborhood, the Esquina Carlos Gardel (Carlos Gardel 3200, tel./fax 011/4867-6363, www.esquinacarlosgardel.com.ar ) has nightly shows from US$65 (show only) to US$92 pp (with dinner); there are also more expensive VIP seats.
In the southern barrio of Nueva Pompeya, El Chino (Beazley 3566, tel. 011/4911-0215) has become a tourist hangout for its rugged authenticity. Inexpensive shows (around US$8) with live music start around 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, with an à la carte dinner an hour earlier. The food is working-class Argentine.
For those who want to learn instead of watch, the best options are neighborhood milongas. Organized events charge US$2–3 with a live orchestra, less with recorded music. For classes, a good clearinghouse is Monserrat ’s Academia Nacional del Tango (Avenida de Mayo 833, tel. 011/4345-6968, www.anacdeltango.org.ar ). For the truly committed, it even offers a three-year tango degree.
San Telmo’s Centro Cultural Torquato Tasso (Defensa 1575, tel. 011/4307-6506, www.torquatotasso.com.ar ) offers outstanding live tango music (but no dancing) Friday- and Saturday-night shows at 11 p.m. several nights every week, a free Sunday-night milonga at 10 p.m., and tango lessons every day.
Balvanera’s Italia Unita (Perón 2535, tel. 011/4953-8700, www.saboratango.com.ar ) hosts tango floor shows, but after 10:30 p.m. Saturday night it hosts a milonga that often features live music. Constitución’s Niño Bien (Humberto Primo 1462, tel. 015/4147-8687) has an elegant Thursday-night milonga from 10:30 p.m. that gets crowded early, as it has one of the city’s best dance floors.
Palermo’s Salón Canning (Scalabrini Ortiz 1331, tel. 011/4832-6753) hosts the Parakultural (www.parakultural.com.ar ), a more avant-garde milonga that incorporates electronica, on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 11 p.m. On Wednesday and Friday from 8 p.m., nearby Crespo’s Tangocool (Avenida Córdoba 5064, tel. 011/4383-7469, www.tangocool.com ) offers lessons and a práctica (apprenticeship) that becomes a quasi-milonga.