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Dining in Buenos Aires

The Pizza and Empanada Scene
Dining in Buenos Aires
From traditional steak houses and classic downtown pizzerias to modern cafés and personalized dining, Buenos Aires’s rapidly evolving gourmet scene is a treat for traveling foodies.
Photo by Felix Busso
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    The Pizza and Empanada Scene
    The Pizza and Empanada Scene
    Eating in one of Buenos Aires’s downtown pizzerias is an Argentine tradition and a traveler’s rite of passage. Corrientes, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, is lined with theaters and pizzerias, particularly around its intersection with the famously wide Avenida 9 de Julio. Locals go to a show and then head out for pizza. At lunchtime, these traditional restaurants are crowded with businessmen standing up at the counters, eating empanadas and slices fresh from the oven. The pizza itself—thick, cheesy, and baked in a deep dish—isn’t to everyone’s taste, but the ambience is unbeatable. You can find great empanadas (and other traditional gaucho goodies) at the weekend Mataderos market fair.
    Photo by Felix Busso
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    Traditional Bakeries
    Traditional Bakeries
    In Buenos Aires, the locals’ breakfast is simple and generally without variation: an espresso or cortado (coffee with a splash of milk) with a couple of medialunas (sweet, flaky, croissant-like pastries). More decadent bakery offerings are stuffed with dulce de leche or sprinkled with powdered sugar. Step into any of the city’s bakeries—they’re on practically every corner—and help yourself to one of the metal bowls and a pair of tongs that you’ll use to choose your pastries for takeout. The cashier will charge you accordingly and then wrap up your treats in white paper—perfect for a picnic in the park or a sweet afternoon snack.
    Photo by Felix Busso
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    Family-Size Steaks
    Family-Size Steaks
    Parrillas, or steak houses, are everywhere in Argentina. In Buenos Aires, travelers can choose from a wide range of options. On the lower end of the spectrum are basic hole-in-the-wall joints where families share grilled steaks and sausages, towering piles of french fries, grilled provolone salads, soda, and malbec served in penguin-shaped pitchers; on the flip side are incredibly gourmet parrillas with lengthy wine lists catering to high-end diners. Most visitors land somewhere in the middle, enjoying leisurely lunches and dinners at classic parrillas like Villa Crespo’s La Cabrera or the excellent Don Julio in Palermo.
    Photo courtesy of Hierbabuena
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    Closed-Door Dining
    Closed-Door Dining
    Some of the city’s unique culinary experiences don’t happen in traditional restaurants, rather inside the homes of the chefs themselves. These dining venues are called restaurantes a las puertas cerradas, or closed-door restaurants, and typically feature specific cuisine, a relatively set menu, and the choice of a private or communal table. An added bonus is the chance to visit a real Buenos Aires home, gather with food-minded locals and travelers, and, of course, meet with the chef and sommelier. Popular options include Treintasillas and the Asian-inspired Sunae Asian Cantina in Colegiales.
    Photo by Felix Busso
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    Food Tours and Tastings
    Food Tours and Tastings
    In a city where dining and drinking options can be overwhelming, it helps to turn to the experts for advice. Several gourmet-minded outfits can help curate your culinary experience in Buenos Aires. One company called Fuudis runs food tours each week that take small groups on a progressive dining circuit, starting with an appetizer and an aperitif in one venue, moving on to another restaurant for a main course, and finishing with dessert and coffee at a third location. Travelers serious about food can also arrange tailor-made tours with the acclaimed food writer behind the blog “Pick Up the Fork.” Both of these dining tour resources are easy to find online.
    Photo by Felix Busso
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    Atmospheric Historic Cafés
    Atmospheric Historic Cafés
    The city of Buenos Aires keeps a running list of bares notables (notable bars)—historic cafés open to the public. While some are rustic and others elegant, all of these cafés offer a taste of nostalgia and times gone by in a city that’s always changing. In Buenos Aires, the bars operate in a similar way to those in Europe: Most stay open all day, with patrons ordering coffee in the morning, traditional local plates at lunchtime, cake and tea in the afternoon, and whiskey or beer in the evening. Be sure to stop by the city’s most venerable café, Café Tortoni, prominently located on Avenida de Mayo near Plaza de Mayo.
    Photo by Felix Busso
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    Food and Wine Pairings
    Food and Wine Pairings
    The only way to improve on a leisurely feast of several courses in Buenos Aires is to pair the food with wine. Sommeliers at many of the city’s finer restaurants offer wine-pairing options, typically a sparkling wine to accompany the entrada (appetizer), torrontés (a fruity, aromatic white produced in the north) with the second course, a malbec from Mendoza with the third course, and ending with a sweet or fortified wine and dessert. In addition to drawing out the flavors in the food, a pairing menu allows guests to sample wines from many of Argentina’s regions. At I Latina, the excellent Colombian closed-door restaurant in the Villa Crespo neighborhood, each of seven courses can be paired with specially chosen wines. For an intro to Argentine wines, head to Lo de Joaquín, in Palermo Soho, where 5 p.m. daily tastings can get you started on your sipping expertise.
    Photo by Felix Busso