More insider guides for planning a trip to Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires used to be South America’s capital of carbs and carne: puffy pastas, stodgy pizzas and huge slabs of charred beef were the staples. These are still readily available, but since the mid-1990s a gastronomic boom has widened local appetites and raised the bar in terms of setting (if not always service). Palermo Viejo, southeast of Avenida Santa Fe, is home to many contemporary kitchens doing vegetarian, Mediterranean, sushi, fine dining, Modern Argentine and Asian-Latin fusions. Lunch is typically 12pm to 2pm/3pm; for dinner go after 9.30pm if you want atmosphere.
Aldo’s Restoran & Vinoteca (San Telmo)
The first thing that strikes you on arriving here is the walls, covered top to bottom, corner to corner, with shelves heaving with winebottles – almost 800 at the last count, available for take away or drinking in situ. The latter is highly recommended, as the menu ranges from exquisite sweetbread and burrata tapas to home-made gnocchis with brain and delicate trout from the Andes. Service is superb, the piped music bebop and big band, and the vibe at once romantic and cool. Aldo’s also has a wine bar at another address and a branch in Palermo’s Jardín Botánico area.
Contact: 00 54 11 4334 2380, aldosvinoteca.com
Opening times: Sun-Thurs, 12pm-12am; Fri, 12pm-1am; Sat, 7pm-1am
Reservations: Recommended at weekends
Best table: All nice but some lovely corner tables with soft seats mid-way down
Formerly a bar-cum-grocers, this grand old bodegón has been tastefully and tactfully refurbished. Wood panelling, an ancient tin bar and portraits of tango singers on the walls are a perfect setting for frogs’ legs, Galician-style octopus and chorizo-laced Spanish tortillas. A good selection of wines, including budget ones and new varieties from La Pampa province, is offered, as well as vermouths and liqueurs.
Contact: 00 54 11 4304 4261; Avenida San Juan, 1999
Opening times: Fri-Sat, 8am-2am; Sun-Thurs, 8am-1am
Reservations: Recommended at weekends
La Boca, the old port district, is colourful and historically important, but something of a tourist trap. Once you’ve completed the brisk walk past the multi-hued shacks along Caminito, head for lunch at El Obrero. Its high walls are plastered with football memorabilia, photos of Argentine film and music legends, shelves of wine bottles and wildly scrawled blackboards. The menu is Argentine comfort food featuring grilled meats and offal, fish dishes and mashed potatoes with milanesas (schnitzels).
Contact: 00 54 11 4362 9912
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 2pm-4pm, 8pm-1am
Reservations: Recommended for dinner any time after 9pm
Best table: Window seats (request ‘ventana’ in Spanish)
When it comes to the ideal BA parrilla (grill) it’s about mood as much as menu. Don Julio sources its prime beef, offal, chorizos, cheeses and veggies from the best pampas suppliers, grills the meats and cheeses to perfection, and boasts an impressive wine list. But you only generate this kind of buzzy, welcoming vibe by focusing on superb service, to locals as well as foreign visitors. Try the on-the-bone cuts for maximum flavour.
Contact: 00 54 11 4832 6058, parrilladonjulio.com
Opening times: Mon-Sun, 2pm-4pm, 7pm-1am
A stalwart of Palermo’s Zoo district, this cosy, colourful restaurant serves authentic Italian food (rather than the comfort food that passes for ‘comida italiana’ in many Argentine-owned joints). The chef will manage your evening, serving you according to his whim, but he is to be trusted: the antipasti is succulent and the pastas al dente; his cream-and-truffle sauce is outstanding. Good pizzas, bruschetta and coffee are also served, not always with a smile but always with flair.
Contact: 00 54 11 4802 2391
Opening times: Mon-Fri, 7.30am-11.55pm; Sat, 9am-12am
This informal, lively restaurant where people queue to sample delights such as crunchy halloumi cheese, fish with grilled beetroot and onions and Sicilian sausage with fennel pickle, is a specialist in cocina con leña (wood-fired cuisine), but without limiting itself to the steaks and chicken of most Argentine grill restaurants. Currently the city’s ‘in’ joint, it’s run by two young chefs committed to local ingredients and healthy alternatives to the starchy old favourites of BA cuisine.
Contact: 00 54 11 4831-0027; properbsas.com.ar
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 8pm-12pm
The house restaurant of the smart Fierro hotel, Uco – named after a renowned wine valley – does what is widely understood as Modern Argentine – pastas and empanadas and steaks and all the classics, but with twists in taste and presentation, plus ideas from other countries’ cuisines. Tapas include lamb empanadas, rabbit paté, pork flank and Peruvian causa croquettes. For mains, go for the UCO curried fish or shoulder of lamb.
Contact: 00 54 11 3220 6820; ucorestaurant.com
Opening times: Mon-Sun, 7.30am-11am, 12.30pm-2.30pm, 8pm-10.30pm
Reservations: Recommended for dinner
This is one of the city’s smartest empanada outlets, ideal for a tasty lunch. The semi-circular pies come oven-baked or fried, and are filled with cumin-scented meat and olives, juicy chicken or ham and cheese. Among the vegetarian options is one with molten roquefort. Regional fishes such as locro bean stew and maize wraps from the Andean north-west also feature on the menu. Enjoy with a glass of malbec reserva.
Contact: 00 54 11 4804 2909, elsanjuanino.com.ar
Opening times: Mon-Sun, 12pm-4pm, 7pm-1am
Reservations: Recommended, especially from 9pm
Best table: Ask for a table upstairs when booking
Opened in 1932, this Avenida Corrientes classic serves deep-pan Argentine-style pizzas, with lashings of mozzarella. Dozens of toppings are available, from basic anchovies and tomato slices to octopus with sweet peppers in provençale sauce. Two local specialities worth trying are Napolitana – with slices of beef tomato and garlic – and Fugazetta – a cheese-less onion pizza. Add chickpea faina slices to fill up. You can stand at the front with workers or grab a table at the rear.
Contact:00 54 11 4371 8141; pizzeriaguerrin.com
Opening times: Sun-Thurs, 11am-1am, Fri-Sat, 11am-2am
Reservations: Not required
Dating from 1864, this grand old bar oozes atmosphere. From the beautiful stained-glass arch over the main counter to the ancient adverts and plaques, it evokes old-time BA. Tourists gather alongside locals for the picadas (wooden platters of cheese, olives and meats), helped down with vermouths, beers or clericó (Argentine punch). The venue has served as a brothel, a dive bar for uprooted gauchos and a general store.
Contact: 00 54 11 4361 7328, losnotables.com.ar
Opening times: Sun-Thur, 8am-2am; Fri-Sat, 8am-4am
Reservations: Not required