Air NZ had a seat sale a few months ago, direct flights to Buenos Aires from Auckland for cheeeeeeap. My partner and I had never been to South America and were planning a holiday, so it worked out kinda perfectly. A couple months and a twelve hour direct flight later, we arrived, took an expensive taxi ride to our AirBnB and headed out to the first of many dinners to come. Buenos Aires is a really cool, vibrant city and the food is unbelievable; the restaurant scene unlike anywhere else I’ve travelled. If you try and eat before 8pm, everything is empty. Eat late, eat lots, sleep in, repeat. This is the stuff of dreams. Did I mention meat? So much meat.
We did a lot of research before we went and found some incredible places to stuff our faces, satisfy our thirst and generally just have a really good time. However as I started writing this, it became a giant TL;DR post in the making. So I’m splitting it into three posts: First (and always most importantly) FOOD. Next, drink. And lastly I will give you some tips based off of what were learned and tell you some places not to miss when you travel to Buenos Aires. Keep your eye on those Air NZ seat sales…. ¡Muy bueno, si!
Buenos Aires: Where to Eat
When taking an informal poll of all our friends who have been to BA, they said the same thing – you MUST visit Don Julio. They have the best parrilla in town. Parrilla, if you are unaware, is the glorious Argentinian BBQ. Basically, we were told, Argentinians like their meat. And they will eat every part of the animal except the “moo”. Nose to tail, offal to rump, if it’s meat, it’s thrown on a massive grill and if you’re a fan of red meat, it’s simply divine and devoured in the kilograms (sometimes in one sitting). We booked Don Julio for 8pm after arriving on our long haul flight at 5pm. Priorities. Also conveniently located only a few blocks from our AirBnB.
We ended up dining here twice. The first time was incredible but a bit blurry. I blame jet lag and a bottle of delicious Malbec. We ordered a tasting platter of sausage to start, a steak cooked medium rare that must have been 500g and some glorious sides including FOUR different kinds of chimichurri. These are my people. Sigh….
The second dining experience was on my birthday, and it was my favourite food memory from the trip. The staff were friendly and professional and the sommelier recommended some incredible wines for us. Like, blow me away delicious Malbec that is impossible to find in New Zealand and isn’t even that expensive. We ordered grilled lamb sweetbreads to start, short ribs and bife de chorizo (our favourite cut of steak) to share, and dug into three different desserts because I am an adult and it was my birthday. They even turned off all the lights in the restaurant (I’m serious ALL of them, people were looking around like there was a power outage) and sang me Happy Birthday in Spanish. And we got to sign a wine bottle that they placed front and centre at the top of the bar. (I just watched a recent Insta story of theirs and it’s still there!)
I watched Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” when he travels to BA, and his favourite place was a tiny little restaurant literally across the street from La Bombonera, the famous Boca Juniors football stadium in the gritty La Boca – called Don Carlos. La Boca is famous for it’s football, it’s tango, and it’s crime. Apparently it’s strongly frowned on to walk around the neighborhood at night, however we visited on a Saturday afternoon and four blocks down the road is a famous area called Caminito which was pumping and full of weekend markets. There was an armed guard at the ATM however. We got to Don Carlos early because we know it fills up fast and there aren’t that many seats. You have to ring the doorbell when you arrive and they unlock and open the door for you, so maybe gritty is the right adjective for this area of town.
Don Carlos greeted us, asked where we were from, explained that he chooses everything we’re going to eat (non negotiable) and sits us down. He’s definitely a hospo genius, kissing cheeks and patting shoulders and being gracious to what turned out to be the only two tourists dining that lunchtime. And boy, did we eat. Out came bread, tuna salad, steak and more steak, sausage, blood sausage, pimentos, mozzarella, candied tomatoes, potato croquettes, fries, chicken and pasta. Actually. And I’m probably missing something. No wait, I am! Dessert: bread pudding and dulce de leche ice cream cake. My goodness. It was delicious and when the bill arrived (in which Don Carlos also decides how much you’re going to pay), we knew we paid more than his regulars but it wasn’t that pricey considering we had the equivalent of a 8 course meal. I would strongly recommend checking his restaurant out, go on a weekend at lunch so you can visit the markets as well.
We read about Tegui, got a booking and about a week later, the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards were announced, and named them number 49 in the world. So I guess it was good timing having reserved before this. Already it was lauded as the best restaurant in Argentina, and the chef German Martiteguiso has put contemporary Argentinian dining on the food map. I was super excited to check it out, and wasn’t disappointed. However, I’m having to use Tegui’s own photos as they have quite clearly written on the menu that they frown upon photos being taken during the meal. SIGH. WHAT IF YOU ARE A FOOD BLOGGER. I didn’t want to risk being a dick so you are unfortunately going to have to use your imagination and also look at these photos I grabbed from their Facebook page. I did get a sneaky photo of the menu so I can tell you we ate: Beetroot & Plums, Smoked Oyster, Nandu, Mushroom & Sweetbreads, Red Mullet, Beef Cheek, Quince and Carob dessert. There were also about 5 other little bits thrown in. Would definitely recommend Tegui for a special occasion, initially I thought the courses were coming out too fast for a degustation (I love slow dining) but we were there for 3.5hours so it couldn’t have been that rushed, I think it was just a lot of food!
Hands down one of the most memorable nights of the trip. Buenos Aires has a history of “closed door” restaurants, meaning people can essentially organise pop up dining in their own homes, and invite strangers over to eat it. This was what I was most looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint! We arrived at Casa Felix a bit late (we had gone to the football earlier that evening) and everyone was enjoying a cocktail in the courtyard. We discovered pretty quickly that there were a lot of English speakers and met some fabulous people from all over the world. From the ease of making a reservation, to greeting us at the door, providing beautiful wine matched pairing to the incredible five course meal, chef Diego Felix and his wife Sanra were so kind and friendly and incredibly talented. The food was so so good.
I wish New Zealand had more relaxed council laws about stuff like this because I could see this as a really popular thing here. I would love to do it! Anyway, we ate and drank the evening away and I left with new friends. A perfect evening.
Located in the heart of San Telmo, this was the best Italian I ate on the trip. BA has a huge Italian population and the pasta and risotto dishes served here were delicious, authentic and generous. I had the below, a squid ink tortellini stuffed with potato and prawn in a lemon sauce. We ate early (8pm) as we were going around the corner to Tango later on. It was perfect and warmed our bellies on a particularly chilly evening.
This probably sounds quite touristy and if it wasn’t for a local’s recommendation, we probably wouldn’t have even thought of it, but the Evita Museum has a wonderful garden area perfect for an afternoon brunch. (And set up with heaters and blankets if it’s a colder day) I had seafood pasta which was lovely, and made friends with a little girl at the table next to us whose father was telling her English phrases to repeat to me. ARGH SO CUTE. Plus, even though it got pretty busy, it seemed to be mostly locals. Score.
These markets are located about 45 minutes South East of Palermo so we weren’t sure if we would have time to visit, especially since they only run on Sundays. We ended up going on our last day in BA and if we have one regret, it’s that we didn’t find this place earlier on. It was truly, the coolest Argentine gaucho experience and was a wonderful food market. I will go into details about the other parts of the market in a later post, but for now – the food! They had an entire market section set up for food, cheese, sausage, dulce de leche, chimichurri, churros, the list goes on. And then near the back of the market we found the parrilla (actually you can always smell the parrilla before you see it) where we ate one of many Choropan (bbq’d sausage on bread with chimichurri) and a delicious grilled lamb sandwich which I forget the name of.
We also found this stall full of ladies in white bonnets handmaking empanadas and tamales and I have to say street food wise, this was my favourite meal of the trip. Make sure this is a stop on your trip, such an amazing place.
San Telmo Markets
Although not as food heavy as the Feria de Mataderos, San Telmo had plenty of Dulce de Leche samplings, crepes and this great outdoor space to listen to live music and dig into choropan, which we happily did.
Pizza Pizza Pizza!
Everywhere in Buenos Aires
Lots of different places to grab a slice or entire pie. We ended up ducking into Pizzeria Kentucky for early first dinner snacks on one or more occasion. The pies are quite thick crusted and the toppings pretty basic (except for one with bechamel which I couldn’t really get into) but for $3/slice and a beer it was an easy choice while deciding where we wanted to eat second dinner.
La Cabrera is also famous for it’s parrilla. So much so that the people ahead of us in the queue to get in said they had booked two months in advance. So our day before booking was either lucky or they are far too organised. This restaurant wins the award for most free stuff given before a meal. Look. Ridiculous.
Also delicious. I ordered a skirt steak here and it was the tastiest and most tender experience with this cut I’ve had. Skirt steak does not photograph well though. We dined outside and watched the world of Palermo locals walk by. It was wonderful. And we got lollies for dessert.
All the food stalls
Bosques De Palermo
Almost everywhere that there was a large public space also had food stalls/trucks set up. Most serving some type of parrilla, and with cabinets full of sauces, toppings and you guessed it – chimichurri.
Have you visited Argentina? Let me know where to eat in Buenos Aires!
… And stay tuned for my next blog post which features The Best Places to Drink in Buenos Aires. Olé!