Argentina – a country famed for tango and most importantly steak and wine. The Argentinian culture is one filled with energy, patriotism and sensuous experiences. You literally cannot leave the country without tasting plenty of wine and steak and dancing a step or two of tango.
The capital Buenos Aires is a steamy melting pot of culture, energy and food from the winding streets of La Boca to the opulent tree-lined boulevards of Recoleta and Palermo. This is a city with something for everyone’s taste both in terms of food and sight-seeing. You might imagine that a country renowned for its charcuterie would be a place vegetarians should avoid but fear not, I am a lover of all food and tasted some of the best vegetarian friendly food during my visit.
So let me take you on a whirlwind trip of my favourite places to eat in Buenos Aires and elsewhere around Argentina.
A typical breakfast in Argentina consists of coffee (to keep your eyes open after the late night party or tango club, the night doesn’t really come alive until 3am at the earliest!) and white bread rolls slathered in dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is something you will see and hear a lot of in Argentina. It originated in Patagonia from combining sugar with milk and features in many forms including drinks, spreads, ice-cream flavours and every imaginable pastry.
My favourite place for a relaxing brunch is Mooi restaurant. They have three outlets throughout Buenos Aires but my pick is in The Rose Garden – perfect for a wholesome feast after a morning spent exploring the local area on bike or foot. Mooi takes its inspiration from middle-eastern cuisine and this influence is also evident in its décor. I would highly recommend the yoghurt pots – natural un-sweetened yoghurt is nearly impossible to find in Argentina. So if you love yoghurt to start your day then this is the place for you.
Rapanui Ice-cream is an institution in Argentina. With only two outlets in the whole country, one being in the Recoleta neighbourhood of Buenos Aires and the other further south in Bariloche, you don’t want to miss out. Just mention the name to any local and you will be rewarded with a gasp and a smile. The flavour list is countless and you won’t be disappointed with any choice. You can even bring home a 1kg tub if you want to tuck into more in your hotel room. The perfect antidote to a hot day sight-seeing. If ice-cream isn’t your thing, they also do chocolate; the chocolate dipped freeze-dried raspberries shouldn’t be missed.
Alfajores, the national pastry or biscuit of Argentina is available in every street corner kiosk and bakery. These little delights are two shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with dulce de leche and then rolled in desiccated coconut. There are countless varieties with some coated in chocolate or rolled in nuts. As always quality varies with mass production so I would recommend choosing those produced in the bakery closest to you as they will more than likely be handmade and fresh from the oven. Beware they are highly addictive!
As mentioned previously bakeries are plentiful in Argentina. Most are small family run businesses that really care about their products. Here you will be able to purchase freshly baked breads and baguettes alongside every conceivable pastry and many filled with the national favourite – dulce de leche.
Most restaurants aren’t famed for their desserts as the mains and in particular the meat is front and centre. However, the neighbourhood of Palermo is a laidback chill zone and has food for all tastes. La Rose Panaderia is a café which focuses on delectable sweet treats from sweet and savoury filled crepes to freshly baked cakes – the choice is yours. Be prepared to stand in a queue for a table as this is a very popular café, particularly at weekends when Palermo is thronged with locals.
Empanadas are a popular savoury treat that can be baked or deep-fried but either way finger-licking good. There are countless filling combinations with the traditional being seasoned minced beef with half a boiled egg. My favourite is Caprese, filled with mozzarella, herbs and roasted tomatoes.
Lunch in Buenos Aires depends largely on the area that you are in. If you are touring the sights of the central region – San Nicholas which features the main government buildings, business districts and listed architectural buildings then you are more than likely going to see lines of local working people standing outside nondescript eateries better known as kilo buffets.
These are great places for veggie lovers as they usually feature a large variety of salads alongside hot and cold main dishes. Many places offer you a place to sit down and eat just don’t expect luxury, otherwise fill your container, weigh, pay and find a nice park to enjoy your choices. As always, quality and standard of food varies dramatically so pick a place where there is a queue of office clad workers and you are sure to not go too far wrong.
Another great inexpensive place to taste a perfectly cooked steak for next to nothing is Santos Manjares. Tucked away amongst shops and offices, you would most likely walk on past only for the numerous awards and accolade stickers arranged at the door. This is a cheap and cheerful venue but don’t be mistaken that the food is the same. Care and attention is awarded to the cooking of each cut of meat which is both generous and comes with a free side. For less than €10 you can expect to enjoy a sirloin steak and a side of your choice. Honestly one of the best steaks I had in Argentina. The only hitch is they finish service at 4pm so make sure you get there for lunch.
My first vegetarian meal in Buenos Aires was in Sattva . The restaurant is located in the central region of San Nicholas. Every day they offer four different set plates – typically a tart, a casserole, a vegetable bake and a curry. All are freshly made and served alongside a salad and a juice. The portions are very generous and the entire plate will dazzle you with colour. This place is a firm favourite amongst locals so all you have to do is enter, find an empty table and a server will come to take your order; if you stand around, the next people in will steal a table and get served ahead of you.
Buenos Aires Verde is possibly the best vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever been too. BA Verde is located on the outskirts of trendy Palermo and is closed Sundays so make sure to plan your visit wisely. The menu groans with options from all homemade raw dishes, soups, salads, curries to smoothies and desserts. Prices are mid-range but portions are not skimpy so sharing a large plate is the wisest option. My recommendation is the Crepe Relleno de Mijo – filled with marinated tofu and quinoa, sunblush tomatoes, corn, mushrooms and onion all topped in the most delicious sauce of avocado and nuts. You will also receive some of their freshly baked breads and fresh hummus to taste while you wait.
Obviously you have to experience steak….but where? The list is endless with steakhouses (parillas) in Buenos Aires. You literally could eat steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day of your stay and not dine in the same place twice. With a large tourist industry in Buenos Aires, parillas are cashing in on this so make sure your chosen cut of meat and cooking preference are adhered to as sometimes mistakes can be made. Sharing cuts of meat is typical so you can try a few different cuts of meat. A few of my favourites are:
Don Julios is a firm favourite amongst locals and tourists for many years. A nightly queue forms for non-reserved tables shortly after opening but the wait is typically less than 30 minutes for what was easily the highest quality steak I had in Buenos Aires.
With 40% off every night between 7-8pm, La Cabrera this is a popular place. Word of caution, only order your preferred cut and one side to share as your table will be heaving with complementary starters and tasters throughout your meal.
Parilla Pena is off the beaten track in San Nicholas but again a firm favourite among locals. Expect to share your table with older generations of Buenos Aires folk. They also stock an impressive selection of wines. The garlic and parsley chips are a very tasty addition to your steak.
With two locations in both Buenos Aires and Iguazú, The Argentine Experience is a great option to tie in when exploring the magnificent Iguazú waterfalls in Northern Argentina. The Argentine Experience is a dining style I had never experienced before as it combines a cookery class, an empanada styling contest and of course some divine wines and food all in the one night. This is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion, round off your trip in style or meet plenty of other tourists and locals whilst enjoying some of the best Argentinian food.
If venturing outside of Buenos Aires and visiting Bariloche. You must experience the parilla of El Boliche de Alberto. This was my first parilla experience and possibly the best. There are a number of venues throughout the city with a mix of Italian pasta and parillas. The parilla is a must but arrive early as within an hour of opening the tables are all full with a queue down the street. Chefs personally take your order before preparing and cooking your preferred cut of meat to perfection on the open parilla that sits proudly in the middle of the room. Not only are the cuts of meat generous but also the sides so choose wisely from the menu and go with an appetite.
When you are not enjoying the culinary highlights of Buenos Aires, be sure to visit these spots during your trip:
– La Bomba de Tiempo
– Sunday vintage street market in San Telmo
– La Boca street markets and traditional tango displays
After work and the football field, the kitchen is generally where you will find chartered physiotherapist and ladies footballer, Sinéad Delahunty. A passionate lover of all food, she shares her kitchen creations through her food blog – Delalicious. She focuses on inspiring others to fuel their lives through healthy, wholesome and natural food with quick and easy recipes for all. She is currently on a year out from work and football, eating and adventuring her way around the world.
Check out her blog, www.delalicious.com for more recipe inspiration or follow her on social media for more Delalicious delights.