As I wrap up three months in Buenos Aires (on top of the six months I spent here in 2013), I’m going to publish three posts: The Five Best Restaurants in Buenos Aires, What to Do Every Night of the Week in Buenos Aires, and What You Need to Know Before Traveling to Buenos Aires.
Before I jump into my favorite restaurants in Buenos Aires, first a huge tip and a disclaimer.
It’s actually hard to not find the blog Pick Up the Fork, since it shows up on pretty any google search related to Buenos Aires restaurants. Run by a long term American expat, it is the English-language food guide to Buenos Aires. You can get reviews–funny and in depth–and pictures from pretty much every restaurant worth knowing about on Allie’s awesome blog. She’s even kindly agreed to let me swipe some of those photos for this post. Every photo in this post is hers except for two.
My only complaint about the blog is that it lists prices in pesos. With 40% annual inflation, those quickly become outdated, making it very hard to estimate current prices. In this post, I’ll put approximate prices in dollars. Those prices change way more slowly and far less dramatically.
Check out Pick Up the Fork’s restaurant guide where you can sort by neighborhood and cuisine.
Disclaimer: I like cheap, delicious food in large portions. I don’t like wine; I don’t like waiting; I don’t care for presentation. The more similar your tastes are to mine, the more useful this post will be. The less similar, the less useful.
The list also undoubtedly reflects that I live here for months at a time, so I don’t think it’s weird to go to delicious restaurants even if they serve American barbecue, burgers, or brunch. If you’re here for three days, you might prefer steaks and empanadas (one place for each is recommended below) because even if the food isn’t quite as good as at the masterpieces I recommend, you’ll be getting a more authentic Argentine experience.
Without further ado, my favorite five (plus one) restaurants.
Burger Joint; Borges 1766; Palermo Soho; Burger, Fries, & Beer
The best burger in the world is The Bleu from Burger Joint. I’m not the only one who has noticed. The Bleu is a perfectly sized and seasoned patty topped with blue cheese, mushrooms, sundried tomato, caramelized onion, and arugula on a home made bun for $5. Get it with fries and a pint of craft beer ($8 total) or fries and soda ($7.)
I used to get the Mexican with its fresh guacamole and Jamaican with pineapple and bacon, but now I am stuck on the Bleu.
When you order at the counter, make sure to ask for Curry Ketchup, Cilantro Mayo, and Hot Sauce (which I think is a misnomer, it’s more like spicy ketchup.) I don’t even like mayo, but the Cilantro Mayo gets smothered on my bun and fries.
Really, the only thing Burger Joint is missing is chili, which is the perfect topping for burgers and fries. So one day I brought my own!
At lunch, an expat-heavy crowd of students lingers over their burgers and Seinfeld plays looped on the TV. At night, the line is out the door. The restaurant is open every day from noon to midnight, and I prefer to eat before 8 PM for shorter wait times.
Las Cabras; Fitz Roy 1795; Palermo Hollywood; Parrilla (Steakhouse)
Our relationship started because of proximity, but the portions, prices, chorizo, and flavor cemented my longterm bond with Las Cabras.
Two years ago, I lived half a block away, and I would sometimes pop in at lunch to get chorizo (pork sausage) to go.
It’s also my go-to place to take people for their first parrilla experience because the grill is visible to diners, and the parrillada para dos (platter for two) is suitable for three or four people who want to experiment with all the typical cuts of an Argentine asado (barbecue).
The steaks are huge, and a full dinner with drinks and tip should be under $15 per person.
At lunch there is never a wait, but at dinner there always is unless you come early. Conveniently for Americans, early is 8 PM.
Sarkis; Thames 1101; Villa Crespo (a block from Palermo); Mediterranean
This institution of Mediterranean food is a favorite of everyone I’ve taken for its moussaka, hummus, baba ganoush, and grilled meats. The food plus being way too cheap ensure a long line every night when it opens.
Unlimited pita is included in the $1.25 per person table fee (most sit-down restaurants in Buenos Aires charge one), which I pair with hummus and baba ganoush to start. Most of the appetizers are priced at $2.50 per plate, so go wild with sharing for the table.
For the mains, I love the moussaka (sautéed eggplant, tomatoes, onions, cheese, and minced meat) and fierrito del pollo (chicken kabab with tomato and onion). Everyone else raves about the lamb if that’s your thing.
I suggest going for lunch or arriving at 7:55 PM. There will already be a line five minutes before the restaurant opens for dinner at 8 PM, but you will definitely get a seat. If you come at 9 PM instead, expect to wait an hour.
Huge, shared meals with lots of drinks set the group back about $15 per person after tip.
El Tejano; Honduras 4416; Palermo; Texas Barbecue
El Tejano churns out the best brisket and ribs in Buenos Aires.
I recently went to a friend’s birthday here that was course after course of thick-cut fries, chorizo, chicken wings, brisket, and fall-off-the-bone ribs. I’ve seriously never seen ribs so tender–and “seen” is the right sense, give them a shake–and I think the owner sent the courses out in reverse order of deliciousness, which caused me to gorge more than I should have. I had to cancel my plans for the rest of the night.
Meals range from $9 to 12 including beer in a frosty mug and tip, or pay $28 for the sampler platter with a pitcher of beer for two.
Try out all the sauces on the table. They will only add to the experience.
Genhgis; El Salvador 5090; Palermo; Mongolian Barbecue
Don’t be fooled by the dingy interior. Don’t be fooled by poutine being on the menu. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it failed in two other neighborhoods, and–by the lack of customers–seems headed toward the same fate in Palermo. I love this place!
Fill your bowl with as much meat and veggies as you can, pick your pasta and sauces, and watch it cooked in front of you in three minutes. My preferred bowl is beef, chicken, broccoli, green pepper, spinach, mushroom, pineapple, tomato, and the noodles cooked with curry with all the sauces including hot and garlic.
Your stir fry is $6 and comes with bread, which I skip. Drinks are extra, and I recommend the ginger lemonade.
Pekin; Honduras 5303, Palermo Soho; Empanadas
Everywhere in Argentina has empanadas, and every Argentine has his favorite spot.
My favorite empanadas in town are at this pizzeria and bar that stays open later than I’ve ever stayed up, located on a main drag of bars and clubs in Palermo.
Empanadas are $1 each, and I love the chicken, ground beef (carne picada), and spicy chunks of beef (carne cortada a cuchillo muy picante) empanadas. People rave about the lamb empanadas.
Grab the empanadas to eat at Pekin or to go on your way home from a night out or have them delivered for free (consider a small tip for the delivery man.) Skip the pizza.
If you’ve visited Buenos Aires, what were your favorite restaurants?