Eating out in Buenos Aires
Eating out in Buenos Aires is a chapter for itself. Often referred to as the carnivore capital of the world Buenos Aires is not just a haven for meat lovers, but also a good way to sample food from all corners of Europe spiced up with an Argentinian twist. It’s no secret that most of the dining experiences Buenos Aires has to offer comes from the traditions and recipes that the immigrants brought with them. It is exactly this mix of traditional food mixed with the influence of the Argentinian Pampa and the Portenos love for a good bottle of wine that has catapulted Buenos Aires into the global dining elite. As we had been starved on rice and beans all through central america it was time for a change of diet and it was time for me to get thoroughly introduced to the best steaks in the world, period!
Typical Argentinian food is centered around the barbeque with El Asado and Parrillada being the most popular dishes. A traditional parrillada includes meat, sausages, chulines (small intestines), riñones(kidneys) and morcilla(blood sausage) that is prepared over a charcoal grill and seasoned with chimichurry, a tasty marinade often served with meat. Being used to the European and especially Norwegian eating traditions we always ended up with having the bigger meals later at night, typically at a steak house. The Portenos on the other hand had huge steaks, asado’s or parrillada’s at lunchtime like it was nothing. Although I am a big fan of meat in general I couldn’t get myself to devour two big steak meals per day, maybe it was just the economical student in me that said that one steak meal per day was adequate..
Argentinian fast food is also definently worth a try as it is quick and not as unhealthy as the American kind. The Argentinian fast food dishes are often called minutas and can consist of the well known Empanadas which is a tasty snack if you’re in a hurry. Empanadas are tasty pastry turnovers that can be stuffed with any number of ingrediants. The most common of these are pollo (chicken), carne (beef), ham, cheese, boiled eggs, olives or just plain old vegetables. Another dish is the Milanesa which is also found in other SA countries like Peru. Milanesa is plain breaded chicken with fried potatoes on the side and is usually dirt cheap and quite tasty, recommended!
To get your mouth watering here’s what a perfect day of eating out in BA would be. Breakfast is not really that important in Argentina and the standard breakfast you get at your hotel or hostel is more than adequate to start of for the day. After a tiresome couple of hours of shopping or sightseeing it’s time for some snacks and what place is better than one of BA’s many charming old style cafes? Lots of dark wood, leather,let an old-style café take you back to another era. My recommendation would be Cafe Tortini which is located on Avenida de Mayo 825 which is one of the streets that branch off from the Plaza de Mayo. It’s the oldest coffeshop in Argentina and was founded all the way back in 1858! It’s a charming place to have a break from the outside world and they also have a tango show at night if you’re interested. I would definently recommend getting a cup of good coffe and a serving of their best Medialunas! Medialunas is a small, sweet, flaky croissants that go amazingly well with the excellent SA coffee.
After this it’s time for another session of sightseeing or shopping untill you once again find yourself starving for something to eat. I would now definently go for some Argentinian fast food or minutas, which you can find anywhere. Fill yourself up and save some money before we do what I wish was a tradition along the lines of breakfast and brushing your teeth before going to bed, namely having ice cream after lunch! You probably wouldn’t think of it, but BA is not just famous for it’s meat but also for its ice cream! A gift from the Italian immigrants the italian style Gelato ice cream that you can get at one of the many heladerías around the city is simply a gastronomical gift of epic proportions. The heladerias are usually designed like a bar with numerous round containers lowered into the counter.
Here you can pick from a staggering amount of tastes ranging from chocolate fudge brownie to fruity mango delight. The ice cream man has no problem locating the taste you pick from the many unmarked ice cream containers and I often found myself wishing for an hour or so alone in one of them with enough time to sample all of the cold goodness!
The two most famous chains of heladerías are Freddo’s and Volta. In my opinion the fight issn’t even fair, Volta reigns supreme as the ice cream king of BA and a visit to this magnificent city without paying Volta a visit would in my eyes be a crime. Stop by Volta after lunch, dinner or just to get another scoop of ice cream any time of day, you won’t be dissapointed! Their dark chocolate fudge is to die for..
As it’s now getting dark outside and most Argentinians are still another few hours away from eating dinner it is time for the Europeans to eat. Sorry portenos, I just can’t wait untill 11.30pm with dinner! It’s just not normal! Being the carnivore that I am dinner has to be eaten at one of the steak house that Argentina is world famous for. We tried out a range of restaurants during our 10 day stay, but it was one restaurant that we kept coming back to. Desnivel has in my eyes captured the essence of good food and the meat there has to be some of the best in the world. Desnivel is located in the old area of San Telmo which is often the main hub of tourists as its cobbelstone streets are both charming and beautiful. The address is Defensa 858 which is a few blocs north of Plaza Dorrego where the weekend market is held.
I tried out a few different steaks, but the Biff de Lomo is practically unbeatable. Their chorizo (sausage) is legendary! i cannot praise this restaurant enough and although their interior is spartan and rather bland I felt at ease there. Combine that with their amazing food and you will most likely fall in love with the restaurant like I did. We spent one of our nights there talking to a Tango couple in half spanish, half english and was impressed by this man who looked like he was the womans grandfather, but turned out to be both the lover and tango partner of the woman half his age. Here it was not the money, but rather the tango skills that mattered.
Argentina and their selection of wine deserves a whole post to itself, but sadly my skills as a wine connosour are lacking to say the least. I do however enjoy a good bottle of wine, especially along with a good steak. The Malbec grape that Argentina is famous for is mostly grown in the area arund Mendoza and you can get a decent bottle at any parilla for much less than 10 USD.
I hope I have intrigued you into the world of Argentinian food, it’s definently one of the main reasons why I will be coming back as soon as my bank account will allow it.