What to Eat in Buenos Aires

Pizza, Jewish food, seafood, bars hidden in flower shops—if you came to Buenos Aires expecting nothing but coffee houses and steak, you may be surprised by the inventive food scene that’s erupted in this sophisticated city.

Av. Pueyrredón 1508, C1118AAS CABA, Argentina
It would be easy to walk past this tiny, unassuming joint in the Recoleta neighborhood. But those in the know flock to La Cocina, which is still run by the Catamarca Province family that opened it 40 years ago (the owners’ grandson answers the phone and wraps up lunch orders nonstop). La Cocina’s famous empanadas are oven-baked (as opposed to fried), and this lighter take on the Argentine staple feels like something you could eat every day. Go early for lunch or dinner, as the tiny place fills up at peak hours; don’t miss the picachu, a spicy cheese-and-onion empanada. Open Monday through Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Gorriti 5132, C1414BJT CABA, Argentina
With a smart and simple chalkboard menu of cheese plates, salads, sandwiches made with homemade bread, good coffee, and Argentinian wines by the glass, Pain et Vin is a lovely venue for lunch or an afternoon glass of Malbec rosado. The Palermo Soho eatery doubles as a tasting space and shop: look for Friday evening events open to the public, or stop by to choose from the excellent selection of boutique wines to take on a picnic to the park.
José A. Cabrera 5099, C1414 BGQ, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Beef is everywhere in Buenos Aires, but there are a few parrillas in town that stand above the rest for quality. Within that category, La Cabrera offers a unique experience. Yes, the focus is on the meat, but the sides almost steal the show—surprising vegetable dishes accompany each entrée, and in sharable portions. It’s typically packed with locals and tourists alike, so expect long waits any night of the week. That said, for those who can live with dinner earlier than Argentina’s customary 9 p.m. or later, La Cabrera offers an early seating they call “happy hour” that’s wait-free and includes a 40 percent discount on all menu items.
302 Estados Unidos
Behind a massive bougainvillea vine that covers a century-old mansion on the corner of a quiet, cobbled street, San Telmo’s Café Rivas evinces an elegant, 1920s vibe—but the food is decidedly contemporary. The menu is short and to the point. Three prix-fixe options are posted for lunch and change daily to delight a claque of assiduous regulars. Standout items at dinner include a nightly ceviche special and the dry-aged beef. There’s also a Sunday brunch with traditional favorites like eggs Benedict. In the evening, a bartender arrives to serve up cocktails, and there’s live piano on weekends.
806-900 Arroyo
An observer from the sidewalk might puzzle as groups of people march into this pretty flower store—and don’t emerge shortly with bouquets. The customers are not here for the blossoms but for what lies below. A door at the rear of the shop leads downstairs to a long speakeasy bar and an adjacent line of hard-to-snag tables. Sea monsters and fish scales emerge from the walls, and as the name Atlántico suggests, the seafood and old-school-aperitif recipes that European immigrants brought to Argentina when they crossed the eponymous pond are the inspiration behind cuisine and cocktails alike. The Spanish-style pulpo (octopus) or the jumbo prawns draw raves; reserve for dinner to avoid a likely wait. Or wedge into the bar to enjoy the innovative, much-ballyhooed mixology.
Chile 502, C1098 AAL, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Founded in 1982 by local poet Rubén Derlis, this café once served as a meeting place for writers, artists, and left-leaning thinkers anxious to speak freely after years of fear and oppression under Argentina’s late-’70s military dictatorships. Order the picada, a charcuterie and cheese sampler; lubricate with a traditional local-favorite drink like a Fernet-and-Coke or a Cynar, the tangy artichoke liqueur mixed with pomelo, a sour, grapefruit-flavored soda. Wood paneling and exposed brick, walls covered in photographs, and shelves packed with antique objets make La Poesía an inviting space to linger over a book from the lending library or listen to the live tango music played on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Many Buenos Aires visitors don’t realize the city is home to one of the world’s largest Jewish communities; most of the families arrived from Russia and Poland at the turn of the twentieth century. Proudly touting its immigrant cuisine, Mishiguene pays homage to the legacy with a modern take on traditional Jewish comfort foods like meorav yerushalmi (a Jerusalem-style mixed grill), bagels, pastrami, and Ashkenazi fish cakes. To try more than one item, order half-portions of dishes, or opt for the six-course tasting menu that starts off with a cocktail and includes a wine-pairing with each arrival. For a special treat, reserve the chef’s table in the restaurant’s sparkling kitchen.
Brandsen 699, C1161AAM CABA, Argentina
La Boca’s Don Carlos is heaven for the indecisive. Since there is no menu, the restaurant’s namesake owner sizes you up and intuits what you need. The idea is to feel like you’re at home, where the whims of whoever’s cooking determine what comes out of the kitchen. Everything is made from scratch, in-house, and reflects what you’d get in a typical Argentine household: pastas, Spanish tortillas, vegetable croquettes, juicy grilled meats. Plates come out in quick succession until you say uncle. Wash them down with a bottle from their impressive wine list; you’ll leave with a full belly and a smile. Closed Sundays and Boca soccer match days.
Sarmiento 1334, C1001 CABA, Argentina
It was 1852 and Argentine society was so polarized, the country’s very existence was threatened. Thus, Club del Progreso was born as a gentlemen’s retreat whose noble goal was to unite the nation’s political factions through thoughtful discussion and cooperation, thereby ensuring Argentina’s progress. The club still hosts academic debates on issues of national interest, and its stately, wood-paneled dining room, hung with dazzling chandeliers, frames an elegant, historical setting for trying classic Argentine fare like roast suckling pig or revuelto gramajo (scrambled eggs with potato and vegetables).
Armenia 1322, C1414DKD CABA, Argentina
In 1910, Argentina received a wave of Armenian immigrants fleeing genocide. Many of the new residents settled in Palermo Soho, and several good restaurants emerged. For something a little special on Friday and Saturday nights, the community hosts a cultural and culinary experience that includes dinner and a show, the proceeds of which allow Armenian teens to visit their historical homeland. Food is served in the school cafeteria, and students wait tables as moms and grandmothers send out delicious, authentic delights. Music and dance, courtesy of the young waitstaff, also lend a lively, festive atmosphere to the entire proceedings.
C1428DUB, Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre 664, C1428DUB CABA, Argentina
Ranked as one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants on the 2018 eponymous list, Chef Narda Lepes’s Narda Comedor serves healthy, seasonal meals and adds excitement through an ongoing new-flavor rotation. Vegetables play a key role but this isn’t rabbit food; the kitchen turns out succulent meats from top providers committed to wholesomeness and sustainability. Sharing dishes with your dining companions is a winning strategy.
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