Buenos Aires is a charming city of vast boulevards and winding alleys. But what about the food? Argentina is renowned for its grass-fed cattle and superior wine regions, but there’s much more to eat and drink in this diverse capital these days, as I found out during a recent visit (and yes, it’s summer there when it’s winter here!). Here are 10 places to eat well in Buenos Aires right now.
1. La Cabrera
In a country that does not mess around with red meat, building a reputation as the best steakhouse in town is no small task. To the locals, La Cabrera is among the most noteworthy parillas (steakhouses) in town. La Cabrera offers over 25 cuts of extremely high-quality meats and hundreds of full-bodied wines, mostly from Mendoza. The generous portions of steak are big enough to share, so order several cuts and pass the plates around. The sweetbreads are also exceptional (and the size of a porterhouse). Not that the steaks needs any additional flavor, but the house-made chimichurri by itself is good enough to write home about. Also worth trying are the side dishes, including lots of vegetable gratins and an exceptional quail egg potato salad. José Antonio Cabrera 5099, C1414BGQ Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4831-7002.
Situated in the trendy Palermo Hollywood district, Olsen is a sleek Scandinavian restaurant that has been attracting Buenos Aires’ cool crowd for the last decade. After walking in through the massive wood-paneled door, past the impressive zen garden and the sculpture series, the restaurant is situated half-indoors, half-outdoors, and has an open layout. Nordic flavors are represented through an array of smørrebrød (open sandwiches) served with different shots of vodka (over 60 to chose from ). Other highlights are the gravlax and rösti (crispy sautéed potatoes). Gorriti 5870, Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4776 7677.
Farinelli is the perfect neighborhood spot that you miss when you’re on vacation. Proprietor Marina Bissone first set up shop at a tiny restaurant in the Botanico neighborhood, and after much success, has expanded to a second location at a sun-soaked corner in the Retiro district. The restaurant is open from 8 to 8 and serves breakfast, lunch and pastries. Fresh salad, seafood and meat are displayed family-style in the middle of the restaurant. Standout dishes include eggplant croquettes, quinoa, zucchini, corn and dried apricot salad, and the house lemon tart. The illy coffee is also exceptional. Bulnes 2707 Buenos Aires, Argentina second location: Arroyo 900 Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4328 7998.
4. Guido’s Bar
Popular throughout Buenos Aires are bodegons, or taverns, that serve typical Argentinian cuisine with either a Spanish, Italian or German flair. Much of Argentina’s population came here from one of the three countries. Guido’s is a popular Italian bodegon, where you won’t find a menu, but will be served copious plates of pasta and antipasti, mostly from Naples, all night. It’s authentically Italian and delicious. Republica de la India 2843, Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4802 2391.
5. Bar Dada
A casual hole-in-the wall full of locals, Dada is a good place to start a night of bar-hopping around Buenos Aires. The party usually spills over outside onto the streets, so the place is hard to miss. Be sure to try one of the many Fernet cocktails. Fun fact: Argentina is the world’s largest consumer of Fernet Branca. Many Argentines will tell you that Fernet-Coke is the national drink. San Martin 947, Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4314 4787.
6. Colectivo Felix
Buenos Aires is abuzz with closed-door (puerta cerrada) restaurants. Run by chefs from unadvertised locations — including their own homes — these word-of-mouth underground supper clubs evoke the spirit of a speakeasy. Chef Diego Felix and his wife Sanra run Colectivo Felix out of their home, cooking with organic produce from their own garden. Diego invents dishes based around his own macrobiotic upbringing. Ingredients such as plantain leaves, manioc and an Argentine mint called peperina are commonly used. A five-course meal costs an entirely reasonable $38. Address provided at the time of booking. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
7. La Brigada
Parillas are a dime a dozen in the city, but La Brigada is a true standout. The meat is served in small stainless steel plates. No sides, no distractions. You can order salad or french fries on the side, but they come on separate dishes so as not to tamper with the temperature of the beef. Standouts include the sweetbreads, goat and lamb chitterlings, blood sausage and flank steak. The speciality of the house is bife de chorizo or New York strip. The meat is so tender that the waiter cuts it in front of you with a spoon. Yes, a spoon. No knives required at this steakhouse. Estados Unidos 465, Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4361 5557.
8. La Esquina de la Flores
After two weeks of eating red meat several times a day, I was in need of something a little different, so I headed to La Esquina De La Flores, an organic, vegetarian, part-restaurant/part-health store. Here you can fill up with as many gluten-free spinach and sweet potato or quinoa and corn empanadas as your heart desires. There are also plenty of salads, rice and lentil dishes, fresh juices and not an ounce of pretension. Gurruchaga 1632 Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4228 5000.
Tegui is one of Buenos Aires’ cult restaurants. Owned by Chef Martin Martitegui (also behind Olsen), Tegui’s kitchen operates like a lab, where the chef works with his team to come up with new flavor combinations. Keep your eyes peeled, as the façade of the restaurant is covered in tags and grafitti, and can easily be overlooked. But behind those walls is a sophisticated restaurant which offers three appetizer options, three main course options, and 3 dessert options which change every two weeks. The cuisine is highly innovative, and more vegetable/seafood–centric than most. The warm oysters with oyster flan, bacon, hazelnuts and green apples is among the must-tries. 5852 Costa Rica, Buenos Aires, Argentina. +54 11 5291 3333.
10. Trucks on Avenida Sarmiento (Near Galileo Galilei Planetarium)
Argentinian chorizo is loved by all porteño — people from Buenos Aires are known as porteño, or people of the port. For some of the best chori pan — chorizo sandwiches — stop by the food trucks on Avenida Sarmiento. Hop into a cab, ask the driver to take you to the planetarium and you will see the trucks lined up. Forget about whatever condiment you like at home. Here you get a mini-baguette and a chorizo, no frills. Wash it down with a Quilmes, the local Argentine beer.
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