While Argentina is undoubtedly famous for its barbequed steaks and robust Malbecs, the gastronomic culture of the capital owes much to our rich tradition of immigration, past and present. Buenos Aires is home to 11 of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America according to the 2014 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
What to eat
Traditional porteño cuisine is a variation on Mediterranean cooking, with an emphasis on products easily grown here. 6 local treats you can easily sample in the city include:
1. The full range of asado (BBQ) meat cuts, not forgetting the sweet meats (with lemon) and morcilla (blood sausage): to be accompanied by chimichurri (a special local sauce with parsley, garlic, olive oil, oregano, vinegar) and a hearty bottle of Malbec wine.
2. Empanadas: Crescent-shaped pastries usually baked in the oven and filled with different ingredients, such as ham and cheese, meat, chicken and all sorts of veg. Great for a quick savoury street snack.
3. Pizza: On the whole, porteño pizza has come a long way from the traditional thin-crust Neapolitan fare. In BA, our traditional pizzerias go for thick spongy dough (‘masa alta’) with a crispy edge, usually coated in layers of mozzarella and sold whole or by the slice. But you’ll also find many pizzerias serving Italian pizza ‘a la piedra’.
4. Dulce de leche: Our caramel-like answer to peanut butter or Nutella and a national favourite. Best tasted shamelessly on the end of a spoon, in an alfajor (a dulce de leche cookie) or in a fiendishly rich chocotorta dessert.
5. Churros: Throw all calorie caution to the wind and tuck into this heavenly deep-fried sugar-coated dough dog, often filled with dulce de leche and dipped into thick hot chocolate for breakfast.
6. Mate: A bit of an acquired taste for the uninitiated, mate drinking is as much about the collective experience as it is about the taste. The caffeine-rich bitter herbal drink is drunk through metal straw (‘bombilla’) from a hollow calabash gourd and is usually shared around with friends, colleagues or family.
It isn’t all ‘parrilla’ and Italian-influenced cuisine, there’s a bustling international and contemporary scene that can make a nice alternative to bife de chorizo, pizza or empanadas.
When to eat
Cafes are usually open every day for breakfast, lunch snacks and the traditional merienda, a later afternoon snack which might include a coffee and a piece of cake. Cafes tend to close at around 7pm.
Restaurants will open for lunch service and then usually close until dinner time. Dinner service is from around 8pm until after midnight. As porteños tend to eat late, don’t be surprised if you’re the only diners before 9pm! Prime dining time is from 9.30pm and later on weekends. Note that many restaurants close on Mondays, so it is worth checking ahead.
Where to eat
Palermo (mainly Hollywood and Soho) is fast becoming the city’s trendiest gastronomic centre, but you’ll find the more traditional cafes and eateries in the central neighbourhoods (Montserrat, San Nicolás and Balvanera) and San Telmo, with more upmarket and contemporary options in Recoleta and Puerto Madero, and some quirky new restaurants starting to open up in Villa Crespo. The city is also known for its puertas cerradas, closed-door restaurants with imaginative menus and a more intimate atmosphere (and generally more attentive service).
Cafes: Guidebooks will direct you to the beautifully-preserved traditional cafes such as Café Tortoni, El Faro and Confiteria las Violetas for a typical cortado (espresso with a dash of hot milk) and ‘medialuna’ (croissant).
Restaurants : With so many options in the city and new places opening up all the time, it can be daunting deciding where to eat. As well as guidebooks and online guides, it’s often worth asking locals for their recommendations, particularly if you want to go somewhere off the beaten track. It’s worth booking ahead if you know it’s a popular restaurant, especially on weekends. If you’re looking for alternative dining, food with a modern twist or international cuisine, most restaurants can be found in the neighbourhoods of Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood, Puerto Madero, Las Cañitas and San Telmo.
BA Food Guides, Tours & Dining Tips
As well as user-generated online guides like TripAdvisor, there are many good blogs on porteño eateries. Pick Up The Fork in particular is an English blog with honest and updated information on cafes, bars and restaurants in the city, and you can also try Buenos Aires Foodies.
Other guides in Spanish are:
Guia Óleo: www.guiaoleo.com.ar
Vía Restó: http://viaresto.com
Guía Joy: http://guia.planetajoy.com/
Guía La Nación: http://guia.lanacion.com.ar/restaurantes
The Great Cuisine: http://thegreatcuisine.com/
Food tours are an exciting way to sample the best of BA gastronomy, courtesy of local experts and often tailored to your tastes. Tripadvisor lists a few.
Note that tipping is expected at around 10%, even if the restaurant charges a cubierto (cover charge). For more on dining etiquette, Wander Argentina has some good tips.
You can find the source article here.