I was thinking I should really make more posts about Buenos Aires and life here. The easiest thing to start with is food. We started going out to eat a lot more when we moved here. Of course it’s cheaper to go out to dinner here than it was in New York, but I think we also didn’t know many people or things to do when we first got here, so hunting for great restaurants was like our primary entertainment for the first few months. It still is, sometimes. Also, I’m a little homesick for the world-wide cuisine of New York. Porteño cuisine offers some of the world’s most delicious steak, malbec, empanadas, dulce de leche, etc, and i’m sure lots of people can write about porteño foods much more knowledgeably than I can, so my list reflects my fondness for variety and international flavors. And even most foreign restaurants in Buenos Aires have lots of Argentine influences, such as a focus on great beef and not much spice. We don’t go out to eat now as much as we did in our first months, but we love it when people come to visit from out-of-town so we can take them out to our favorite eats. I’m starting a short list of our favorite restaurants and I’ll keep adding on as I have time (or discover new yummy places!).
Sarkis is a huge middle-eastern restaurant on the edge of Palermo/Villa Crespo. The prices are great and the food is really delicious. The menu is huge – we always pick a half-dozen different appetizer-type things (favorites: puré de remolacha=grated beets; laban=delicious yogurt-type dip; couscous; baba ghanoush; keppe=ground meat with mint; not hummus because it tastes like peanuts), plus their tasty falafel and unbelievably delicious grilled lamb kebabs. If the menu is overwhelming you can usually ask the waiter to just bring a bunch of food to share, and they’ll bring you a great selection of good stuff. Sarkis is always crowded, always noisy, and usually has a long line to get in. Show up early, put your name on the waiting list, maybe bring a beer to drink while you wait in line. They’re good at accommodating big groups since the place is so huge.
Bangalore is a British-style pub serving tasty curries and pub food downstairs, and more formal Indian dinners upstairs. Since it’s right around the corner from our new apartment, we have been eating and drinking there a lot. It’s homey, comfy, delicious and relatively cheap. Maybe not a spectacular highlight if you’re just visiting BA for a week, but if you’re here for a while, you’re feeling homesick for some decent beer and spicy curries, Bangalore is so perfect. The pumpkin curry and jalafrezi are so delicious. The prices for the daily curry specials are pretty good (as of 2/10, $28 for lots of curry, jasmine rice, and soft warm indian bread) and there’s a curry sampler that’s even cheaper! ($16 for four different curries in little dishes, with pita slices which are usually a little dried-out but hey it’s cheap!) though the quality can be a little inconsistent, especially for the bargain curry sampler. We also love the Thali dinners for two, both vegetarian and non-veg options that include four different curries, rice, bread, good salad and these tasty sweet-corn fritters. If you order the spicy curries here, they are actually spicy!!! unlike most other restaurants in Argentina. The beer selection is better than average – they have tasty Antares Scotch on tap, and the pitchers of gin & tonic are delicious and also a great deal. There’s also other pub food like nachos, burgers, wraps, etc. Bangalore gets mad crowded on the weekends and basically every night after 9:00, so if you want to eat in the pub downstairs, show up early, like 7:00, or else expect to wait an hour or two at the bar and drink a few pints standing at the crowded bar while you wait to pounce on a table. Upstairs they have a different menu, a bit pricier. You can’t get the cheaper pub-food items upstairs. Best to make a reservation if you want to sit upstairs on the weekend.
Cusic is a cute, quiet, homey cafe with some lovely outdoor spaces. It’s on a deserted block in Palermo Hollywood, and you have to ring a big old metal bell to be let in. You enter through the front patio, passing under the boughs of a beautiful willow tree (when the weather is warm you can eat at one of the tables under this tree) and inside is a nice big open space with plenty of tables, the menu is hand-written on giant chalk-boards and there is also a pair of comfy couches around a coffee-table with magazines, an upstairs loft with larger tables, and a sweet little backyard with an herb garden and another table where you can eat outside. I think the drinks are the best thing here – they have great fruit juices and smoothies, ginger lemonade, iced tea, a great big frappuchino, hot teas, submarinos, coffees, etc. The food is pretty simple cafe / comfort food, not amazing but decent. I usually like their vegetarian food better than their meat options. I mostly get the Frida Wrap, which is cream cheese, american cheese slices, tomato, cilantro and avocado, inside of a homemade flour tortilla, with a generous green salad or delicious potato wedges. They have great breakfasts with eggs and smoked salmon and the potatoes are always great. They have nice cinnamon rolls (uncommon in argentina!) and bagel-like things. The prices are okay, if not very cheap… like $8 or 10 pesos for a big smoothie, $20 for a sandwich with salad, or $20 for an enormous breakfast with eggs, salmon, tea, juice, etc. If the price isn’t rock-bottom cheap and the food isn’t always spectacular, they hit a good sweet spot where the food is generally satisfying, the prices aren’t too bad and it’s totally worth it just to sit there drinking tea and enjoying the beautiful space and friendly staff. I come here a lot to work, just to have a cup of coffee and a muffin and sit quietly working for hours on end.
Arevalito is our other neighborhood super-favorite spot. It is literally just a spot, not much bigger! Basic little vegetarian hippie bistro kind of place, they only have about 8 chairs and it feels a bit cramped inside – since we live around the corner we often do take-out. But on warm days they put tables out on the sidewalk which is actually pretty fantastic and comfortable. The food is home-cooked vegetarian, almost always quite delicious. They do great, filling casseroles, stews and pasta dishes, good salads and sandwiches, and a tasty ginger-mint lemonade. They have good coffees and breakfast options, awesome desserts and baked goods, great lunches and dinners too. The prices are excellent!! Very affordable. The menu is smallish, they hand-write the menu each day with different (whimsically named) items every day. Any variation on a moroccan stew is usually great. The “DF” meal is not authentic mexican by any stretch, but is usually a tasty, fun assortment of good fresh stuff. Their pastas are always excellent, especially the creamy mushroom pasta. The kitchen is open so you see your food being cooked next to you, and while the service can be “argentine style” (that means occasionally slow and forgetful), the folks are generally friendly and lovable. The chef used to run a vegetarian cafe in Holland in the seventies! Added bonus: unlike most places, Arevalito is open during the afternoon, they may not have a full menu during the afternoon but they can always come up with a sandwich or something delicious and filling.
Bi Won: a Korean restaurant in Once (Junin 548, 4372-1146, cash only, closed sundays). I think it’s pretty authentic Korean but i’m not an expert. The star of the show is Korean barbecue, unbelievably tender and delicious marinated strips of beef or pork. They’ll bring you a grill to cook it yourself on your table, or they will cook it for you in the kitchen. There’s also tasty noodle soups, dumplings, bi-bim-bap, soju, and lots of other stuff I’ve never ordered. As soon as you sit down they will bring you a delicious array of 10 or 12 little dishes, like Korean tapas, ranging from pickled spicy cabbage kim-chi to potato salad to seaweed and sometimes a dish of tiny crispy whole fishes. It’s a little expensive but totally totally worth it. The ambience and decor are a bit weird, but the waiters are always really nice. ::EDIT: since posting this, we’ve discovered WAY more exciting Korean food in Flores. Bi-Won is still good though if you’re in the neighborhood and don’t have time/energy to go all the way out to Flores::
Green Bamboo: a fancy spot in Palermo Hollywood that serves an Argentine version of Vietnamese food. They have lots of special cocktails; try the Green Velvet, a basil-ginger-saki-vodka cocktail. The entrees are huge and very tasty, though they are more “vietnamese-inspired” than authentic. Mike has gotten excellent beef dishes, such as “Bo Luc Lac, sauteed tenderloin beef cubes marinated with lemongrass, honey and sweet chilli,” and I’ve tried a few seafood and vegetable dishes which are all delicious. There is a dessert, ripe bananas wrapped in thin super-crispy warm fried flaky dough, involving chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream, and an awkward cloud of hair-thin spun-caramel perched on top, which is unbelievably delicious! I am drooling just thinking about it. The prices are a bit expensive ($35-$50 pesos per entree as of 2/08, which I’m sure will continue to rise) and the kitchen is VERY VERY VERY slow and it’s painful having to wait an hour for the food to arrive, but it’s always really tasty when it does turn up. We really only go to this place when we need a place to bring guests, since it’s too expensive (and slow) to eat here all the time. It’s a comfy place with kind of cute and kitschy decor, a few fake bamboo plants and beaded curtains and pretty paper lanterns.
Antigua Querencia: our favorite basic Argentine neighborhood parrilla. It’s right around the corner from our house in Almagro, and delicious and cheap. We can share one bife de lomo, a punto, with sweet potato fries and a lettuce-tomato-onion salad. They serve ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert. Everything’s perfect, the only sad thing is that (like almost every other restaurant in BA) they don’t have ketchup for the fries. We usually make a reservation because it’s pretty popular.
Artemisia is a vegetarian-and-fish restaurant on Cabrera in Palermo Soho. It’s great to visit an oasis of flavorful, fresh, healthy, veggie-centric food in a city of steak and pizza. The best part is before dinner you get a plate with different kinds of warm, freshly-baked homemade bread! and some tasty white bean spread to put on top. The ginger lemonade is really really delicious, sweet and tart and spicy! We’ve loved the salmon raviolis (no dough – each ravioli is made of two thin slices of salmon, stuck together, with a little packet of mushrooms and veggies inside) and had a few delicious polenta dishes, one of them included sauteed greens, tomatoes and brown-sugar-candied garlic. The salads are always great. The only mediocre thing was an “indian rice” or “hindu rice” or something like that which was salty, boring and bland. But everything else is always great. They have a nice list of organic wines and an impressive selection of herbal teas. The menus are cute but a little hard to read; they are handwritten on a stack of small brown paper bags. ::EDIT: as of 2010 there is a SECOND location of Artemisia opening up in Palermo Hollywood, at the corner of Gorriti and Arevalo, conveniently located two blocks from our current apartment!! can’t wait to go check it out::
Olsen is a “nordic” restaurant in Palermo Hollywood, one of the few places here that we’ve found a satisfyingly huge and tasty weekend brunch. (They offer a long list of imported vodkas, but I’m not such a vodka person, so I’ve stuck to the food.) My favorite favorite dish here (i think it’s only available on the dinner menu) is smoked pork neck with cranberry sauce (or maybe it’s lingonberry sauce, to go with the Ikea theme?) which is more flavorful and tender than any pork I have ever tried before. If you like bacon, you will be very happy with their pork neck. It’s not all chewy and greasy like bacon though. It’s just purely awesome. For brunch, they have a cute and tricky menu/placemat which offers different-sized combinations of tasty brunch options. Their crispy golden chunky potatoes are my favorites, although (of course) i wish they could give me ketchup with that. They have a pork option for breakfast which is basically as delicious as the pork neck dinner entree. I have good luck ordering the daily special for brunch, it’s always been super tasty and very very big. Last time we ordered waffles but were a little disappointed with small, hard, waffles and of course no maple syrup (why am i so obsessed with sauces?). They have nice fresh green salads, and a cute “smorgasbord” which is 5 little nibbles, small bits of bread with spreads and toppings, it’s expensive and not filling at all but it’s cute. Olsen is kind of pricey in general but it’s always really satisfying! The scandinavian-modern design of the space seems kind of overly dramatic, but I do like the feeling of walking in off the street into their front garden, which has some tables and seats in it, and usually if the weather is OK they open up the front wall of the restaurant so that the front of the restaurant feels kind of like it’s in the garden too.
Carlito’s: Corrientes 3100, close to Abasto Shopping (there’s a whole strip of Peruvian restaurants here, but we were told this is the best one and we are willing to believe it). A very popular Peruvian greasy-spoon serving amazingly delicious and cheap rotisserie chicken with spicy sauces on the side. They also serve aji de gallina (shredded chicken in sauce that’s actually spicy), ceviche, jalea (an enormous mountain of fried seafood), lots of seafood, fried-rice dishes, and even salchipapa, a giant platter of french-fries mixed with hot dog slices. Really, though, it’s all about the rotisserie chicken. I think it’s around $18 pesos to get a half-chicken with salad and french fries, which can easily feed 2 people and probably three. How do they make that chicken so juicy and tender and flavorful?! Everything is served with two different creamy sauces on the side, a sweet tangy watery one, and a hot spicy exciting one that tastes like green jalapeños. Mike is so obsessed with Carlito’s that he actually wants to eat there every day. Really. Every day. My favorite thing is chicha, a thin sweet dark purple clove-flavored drink which is supposedly corn-based. It reminds me of Christmas-flavored kool-aid, plus little sweet fruity chunks in the bottom. Only $1 a cup. The eating experience at Carlito’s is usually a little intense, it’s one big room, brightly lit, plastic tables and chairs, always completely packed, lots of kids running around, loud cumbia playing on the jukebox, guys squeezing between tables selling bootleg DVD’s and the waiters somehow scurrying through it all, bringing your tasty chicken very quickly.
Sudestada is an uber-minimal, clean, modern place in Palermo Hollywood that serves slightly-more-authentic Southeast Asian food. It’s one of my favorite places to eat, although on a few occasions we’ve had serious disappointments there. Dinner is pretty expensive so we mostly stick to the reasonable lunch special. $28 pesos gets you a drink (choose the tangy Thai lemonade!) and a salad or dumplings, plus your choice from a limited menu of entrees. We always always always go with Bo Xao which is a smoky lemongrass stir-fried beef with potatoes and peppers over rice, and the noodle dish, I forgot the name but I think it’s the only noodle dish on the lunch menu. Sometimes I get the battered, deep-fried sweet & sour fish, which is actually REALLY delicious despite its alarming raspberry-kool-aid color. The waiters here are so serious and the decor is so serious, the whole package initially came off as cold and inhospitable, but after many many many happy lunch-hours spent here, I have grown to love almost everything about this place. Except for the vegetable fried rice, do not order that unless you are a fan of the cubed-carrots-corn-and-peas veggie mix from the freezer section, plus rice and no flavor. Go with the noodles or beef!
La Cabrera: favorite place for niiiiiice Argentine beef. It’s a fancy parrilla, prices are way higher than the average neighborhood parrilla but the meat is SO. GOOD. And they’re accustomed to foreigners so they ask how you want your steak – “a punto” means medium-rare. (traditionally argentine beef is cooked aggressively, leaving no trace of pink whatsoever, and leaving the meet too tough for my taste.) La Cabrera’s bife de lomo (i believe in English that is tenderloin) serves two people easily. The bife de chorizo could probably serve three. Usually we order only two or three steaks for four people, and expect to have leftovers. Bife de Lomo con Tomillo (thyme-rubbed beef) is fantastic. On top of the great beef, every steak comes with a half-dozen little side dishes, you never know what you’ll get – they’re often delicious, sometimes a little odd. Common sides are roasted garlic in a brown sugar glaze; pickled quail eggs; homemade warm applesauce; garlicky mashed potatoes; black and green olive tapenades; some of the weirder ones involve mystery vegetables with too much mayo. The service is usually friendly and many of the waiters speak some English. They only take reservations for an 8:00 seating, so if you have no reservation, or want to eat later, you show up and wait in line, usually a long wait but with a little luck they will give you a glass of champagne while you wait.
ok, got to get back to work. coming soon:
Casa Felix amazing vegetarian, closed-door restaurant in the chef’s private home. interesting indigenous ingredients. expensive.
Oui Oui french-style cafe & bakery. great breakfast & lunch, crowded on weekends. good for sitting and working on weekdays – they have wifi.
Thymus expensive, indulgent, incredibly delicious prix-fixe dinner. argentine / european food.
milion beautiful, cool bar and restaurant in an old mansion in Recoleta. I think it’s best to come here for cocktails, the bar is great. Dinner in the back yard can be awesome, it’s a gorgeous building, but the service can be weird and the food isn’t cheap.
status peruvian food, nicer than carlito’s (they have tablecloths!) really good prices.
osaka asian-peruvian fusion. kind of pretentious and super-modern, expensive, but delicious!
ocho 7 ocho “speakeasy” bar, really fancy whiskey selection, all kinds of interesting cocktails, and pretty good dinners – great lamb burger. kind of expensive.
Home boutique hotel with a cute little bar/cafe that caters to foreigners. very cute garden, gorgeous place to sit for a cocktail or a cup of tea. they also have amazing wallpapers, and a spa where you can get a little massage. cafe prices are OK (massages are pricey)
Olivas i Lustres really fun and weird and interesting place with a fixed-price tasting menu for two. The place is really cozy and cute, the tiny little dishes on the tasting menu are all about unusual presentation and some of them are excellent, though not all.The food is sometimes delicious and sometimes a bit odd, but it’s as much about the aesthetics and the experience.
Bereber moroccan food. beautiful place, indulgent food and atmosphere, kind of expensive
La Reina Kunti super-hippie place with vegetarian “indian” food that’s not consistently indian-like nor all that great. But some things are tasty, the atmosphere is lovely, it’s in a beautiful old house, it’s a cozy and fun place to hang out with friends.
Spring weird vegetarian buffet place.
bio famous vegetarian cafe in Palermo. food is good but more expensive and not as good as arevalito!
la dorita good Argentine steak place. Less expensive – but not as good as – La Cabrera.
casa china “health food” store in Chinatown (Belgrano) that serves hot, tasty, asian-style vegetarian takeout food from a window, only on weekends at lunchtime. tasty dumplings, rice buns, excellent soup, other good stuff. there are a few other places around chinatown that have similar tasty street food/takeout stuff.
chungo = BEST ice cream in a city full of amazing ice cream. crocatta de mani = crunchy peanut brittle ice cream. SO GOOD. ask to sample flavors – it’s free and you can try as many as you want!
if anybody’s coming to visit Buenos Aires, it’s good to know a few things about restaurants here. Few restaurants accept credit cards, so bring cash. Try to make reservations, as lots of the best places will be booked up if you just wander in at dinnertime. A dinner reservation usually gets the table for the entire night. Prices go up all the time because of inflation. Service is generally slower than it is in the usa, waiters in the less fancy restaurants aren’t used to a lot of tips and therefore don’t kiss ass or hustle too much. and people usually spend a long time over a meal, drinking coffee and chatting afterwards. Waiters will never bring your check until you ask for it, and you should hand money to the waiter rather than leaving it on the table. Sometimes a place can have great service and food one day, and poor service and bad-quality food another day! I think these things are not as consistent here as they are in the usa. Most restaurants close after lunch, around 2:30 or 3, and stay closed until dinner-time, around 8:00 or 8:30. If you’re hungry between 3:00 and 8:00 it can be hard to find a place to eat! Mostly only the standard-issue corner cafe-type places are open. www.guiaoleo.com is a great resource to help you find almost any restaurant (or type of food) you’re looking for. And this blog can be an interesting resource too.
Hi Eliza – I just finished reading your latest blogs – sounds like you had a great week-end – I also enjoyed your restaurant critiques – you & Michael’s sister Sarah seem to have knack about writing about food – I’m looking forward to meeting you when you & Michael come to visit us for his father’s wedding
Michael’s Bubi (Grandmother)