“Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.”
– Mark Kurlansky
I think I’ve written this list out over 100 times and am so happy to finally put it in one place. I still dream about exploring the myriad of restaurants that inhabit the many nooks of Buenos Aires. While Buenos Aires is famous for steak and malbec, the city’s restaurant industry is booming with eclectic, international fair. While in some neighborhoods like trendy Palermo you can wander into at least a decent, if not pricey, restaurant, there’s a real secret to food finding in B.A. – Guia Oleo at www.guiaoleo.com. For American reference, Guia Oleo is a combination of Yelp and Zagat. It’s an online restaurant guide and I found every new restaurant by religious use of this website. It is guarded by one thing only: Spanish. Find a Spanish reader – or become one yourself – to be able to use this site!
Those who know me trust my food recommendations to the death. If there’s one thing you trust me with, let it be your belly. Below I’m highlighting the few restaurants I frequented most often organized by neighborhood. These timeless establishments truly stand out and will never cease to impress.
La Cabrera is a Parrillera (Argentine Steakhouse) – but not your typical Parrillera. The meats here are oversized, perfectly cooked, and arrive at your table accompanied by an assortment of sides that range from addictive roasted garlic to sweet applesauce. Each side is meant to be eaten with a new bite of meat followed by a smooth sip of Malbec. My go-to order here was always the Provoleta to start (grilled cheese) followed by a Lomo (tenderloin). I took every last visitor to La Cabrera because I believe it truly embodies old school porteño culture while serving the absolute best meal I think you can get in Buenos Aires (and arguably, anywhere). Do not skip La Cabrera – it is a probably the best restaurant in Buenos Aires.
Last note: as you would imagine, it’s always packed. Plan to wait in line, but get excited for the chorizo and champagne you’ll be served as you wait on the packed cobblestone street corner. And make sure to put your name in both locations – La Cabrera Norte is just around the corner and is the exact same restaurant.
Address: Jose Antonio Cabrera 5099 and 5127 (La Cabrera Norte)
It’s probable that at some point during your visit you’re going to get sick of steak. Don’t feel guilty – you’d be silly not to dabble in the other culinary options around the city. Sarkis is definitely a local staple and serves some of the best Middle Eastern dishes I’ve ever had. Sarkis identifies as Armenian, but is categorized by others generally as Arabic or Mediterranean. Whatever it is, get the Moussaka. It’s delicious.
Last note: they’re cash only (or in Spanish, solo efectivo).
Address: Thames 1101
Ill Ballo del Mattone
This is a true gem. In the heart of Palermo, you’ll gorge on hand-made pastas while surrounded by a quirky art gallery. I found this late in my journey and was disappointed that I didn’t get more time here (a few of my protective guy friends refused to tell me about it because it was their “secret” spot). About 75% of porteños are of Italian descent, which is why you’ll find endless Italian restaurants in the city and why all porteños talk with their hands and sing their Spanish in an Italian accent. This was by far the best Italian I had in the city, though my porteño friends out there will argue, I’m sure.
Last Note: Ill Ballo del Mattone is absolutely one of the best restaurants in Buenos Aires.
Address: Gorriti 5950
When I lived in Buenos Aires, brunch wasn’t really a thing. If you wanted brunch, you definitely had to hit up a more ‘international’ spot. I will also say – sometimes I’m just craving something that look, feels and tastes, likes brunch! Olsen is a Scandinavian restaurant that serves brunch – late (another very important factor). It’s somewhat hidden down a side street in Palermo, but as soon as you enter the towering wooden front door, you’ll feel the absolute serenity beaming from the courtyard gardens and simplistic, modern architecture. Come for brunch and stay for the serious people watching. It’s also an easy jumping off point to Palermo shopping!
Last note: you may want to consider getting a reservation and someone typically can find an English-speaker when you call.
Address: Gorriti 5870
Cafe San Juan
The San Telmo festival on Sundays is by far the best festival in Buenos Aires (and really the only fun thing to do on a Sunday). After your long day taking loads of pictures, settle down at this quaint spot. The food is an International/Porteño hybrid and I’d say it’s progressive takes on classic dishes. Nothing too fancy, just an appreciation for seriously good food. They create their own menu daily and write it up on a blackboard that the servers swing by your table when you’re ready to make some decisions. I spend many, many an evening at this lovely eatery and will definitely say this makes the list of Best Restaurants in Buenos Aires.
Last note: this is another cash-only restaurant (solo efectivo).
Address: Avenida San Juan 450
Nikkai (Asociación Japonesa en Argentina)
South America is just not known for good sushi. Japanese in Buenos Aires typically consists of salmon nigiri or rolls that are filled with tons of cream cheese and, you guessed it, salmon. No tuna, no variety, and very little flavor. However, Nikkai was one of the only fabulous and decently-priced sushi restaurants I found in the city. I also appreciated that it was more authentically Japanese, unlike the more popular and wildly expensive, Osaka, from everything to its rolls to its decor. If you’re craving fish as much I do, stop here for a fix.
Address: Avenida Independencia 732
Cumana is a great place to stop for lunch while wandering around picturesque Recoleta. It’s typical Northern Argentine fair. I thought it was a nice place to sit down, eat some empanadas, and get some energy before heading out again for more exploring. It’s a nice taste of another region of Argentina as well.
Last note: this is also a cash-only establishment (solo efectivo).
Address: Rodríguez Peña 1149
I was in Buenos Aires in 2008, so while I’ve picked these places because I believe they are pretty timeless, please let me know if you’ve been and have found it’s changed/closed!
“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” – James Beard
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