El Desnivel

Defensa 855, C1065 AAO, Buenos Aires, Argentina

It’s slightly unnerving when you’re seated too close to the next table in a jam-packed parrilla (steakhouse), the clatter of dishes and voices and the televised futbol game in the background, and your stoic waiter, a giant of a man in a stained white apron, approaches your table. As you tell him what you’d like to eat - steak, naturally, and papas fritas (french fries) and a pinguino (penguin-shaped pitcher) of the house Malbec, you notice that he’s not writing anything down - in fact, he’s not looking at you at all. He saunters off and you wonder if your dinner will ever arrive. A few minutes later, he’s back, plonking a basket of bread on the table, splashing the wine on the paper tablecloth as he pours your drink. And then, course by course, all the dishes you ask for arrive, simply presented on white plates, and the roar of the game and the conversation around you rises to a pitch.

This is Desnivel, a bare-bones San Telmo parrilla that’s nearly turned into a caricature of itself. Some days you’ll find more tourists than Argentinians. Other days, it’s a bunch of local guys sitting around digging into the restaurant’s famous deep-fried beef empanadas. Love it or hate it, it’s a Buenos Aires icon.

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