Buenos Aires may be famous for tango, steaks, football, Evita and that incredible cemetery but there’s a whole lot more to this huge Argentinian city. From the incredible number of green spaces to the diverse neighbourhoods, the beautiful architecture (we’ve never visited a city with so many impressive buildings) to the award-winning restaurants and bars, the ice-cream (oh man the ice-cream!) to the rather good natural wine scene, here’s our top food and drink tips, with a couple of tricks thrown in – including how to get 50% OFF quite literally everything – to ensure you get the most out of your visit.
El Preferido de Palermo
Having originally opened in 1952, El Preferido de Palermo was one of the neighbourhood’s oldest restaurants though it recently re-opened in 2019 from the team behind Don Julio. Located in a bright pink corner building, the restaurant is also one of the neighbourhood’s most popular and it’s not hard to see why. The building itself is charming whilst the menu reads like a bistro menu with an Argentinian twist – lots of familiar dishes done their own way, and then there’s the ingredients, which include silky smooth house-made charcuterie and bounties of tomatoes from the owner’s farm just outside of BA. All served beautifully presented on modern pink plates. All killer, no filler.
Perhaps the most famous restaurant in the city, if not the country, Don Julio is a parrilla with steak so good it’s earned itself the number 2 spot in Fiddy B’s 2022 Latin American list and 14th place on the global list. Regardless of its status, the restaurant still offers a local experience – it’s where the well-heeled of the city come to eat, drink, and celebrate. Owner Pablo Rivero is quite the guy: since opening Don Julio in 1992 he went on to take over El Preferido in 2019, he has a farm just an hour out of the city where he grows a bounty of fruit and veg, a butchers shop down the street, and more recently, he took over a sketchy plot of land near Don Julio and turned it into a community garden that locals can use both to grow and learn from. Alongside the world class meat (don’t miss the sweetbreads) he probably has the most interesting wine collection in the country too. If you’re going do one plush parrilla in the city, make it this.
One of the most famous cocktail bars in BA given its long list of accolades, including 18th place on World’s 50 Best Bars, Floreria Atlántico is well worth a visit. Enter the raucous basement drinking den via a flower and wine shop and enjoy some killer mixed drinks with Amazonian ingredients and delish snacks too. If you’re still hungry afterwards, the guys also have a brassiere location within rolling distance, just next door.
There’s over 130km of bike lanes in Buenos Aires and it’s a great way to get around the city. You can rent bikes daily from certain shops or sign up for the public bicycle scheme Ecobici (look for the orange bikes!). Sign up online for an account and then choose “a package”, which range from a 30-minute ride to a 3-day pass. Everyone told us tourists couldn’t sign up but you can, you just don’t get them for free like the locals, but they are still pretty cheap.
We didn’t have a single bad ice-cream in Buenos Aires, it really is one of the best places in the world for the stuff. The one we returned to most though was Sui Gele, which claims to be 100% natural and have no added nasties. The chocolate with dulce de leche and the dulche de leche with honeycomb were our favourite flavours – in fact anything with dulce de leche is a winner.
Pain et Vin
This rustic looking wine bar and shop in the very cool Palermo neighbourhood, a short walk from Home Hotel, has been around over 10 years. It has a great selection of Argentinian wines – both classic and low intervention with the biggest selection by the glass we found in any bar, meaning you get to try more labels. We sampled a very good orange Torrontes and chilled rose blend. Plus, there’s a sh*t ton of Argentinian Pet-Nats by the bottle too and most restaurants in the city do a reasonably priced corkage. Grab a table outside in the pretty streets of Palermo and wine away the day.
This wine bar and shop wouldn’t be out of place in East London. Super hipster with a menu of modern small plates to boot, it’s quite refreshing after a couple of days eating huge portions of food across the city and great if you’ve overdone it on lunch. Wines are mostly natural and dishes like the local cheese plate, sweet potato hummus, house-made fermented seed breads and tomato salad are well executed.
Located in the pretty residential neighbourhood of Colegiales, which is fast becoming a food hotspot, Anafe is a modern restaurant serving a globally influenced menu of seasonal small plates and brilliant snacks, which pair perfectly with the interesting low-intervention wines (though note there are only a couple by the glass). Inside the space has a stripped-back industrial feel with a big open kitchen, whilst outside there’s a cute terrace packed with
tables. If it’s fully booked don’t worry, they leave half the tables for walk-ins, though there tends to be a small queue of people just before opening.
La Fuerza, the Argentinian vermouth brand, has recently opened up a bar in another of the neighbourhoods next to Palermo, Chacarita. The corner bar serves up their three own-brand vermouths, which come either on the rocks with orange or with soda, plus a couple of local beers and cocktails. There are some interesting snacks too, but we suggest a pre- or post-dinner drink is the way to go.
Recommended to us by many chefs in the city, Gran Dabbang is a restaurant that fuses both Indian and Latin American cuisines. There’s no reservations and it’s first-come, first-served for tables. The menu changes almost daily and whilst some of our smaller plates were a bit hit and miss, the bigger fish dish was brilliant as were the 250ml bottles of Argentinian orange wine and fresh Indian breads.
The famous street food snack of Choripan, essentially a chorizo sausage and chimichurri in a bun, is something that must be sampled at least once. We hit up the trendy Chori, which has both the classic staple as well as a ton of other combos and even monthly specials with big name chefs.
La Flor de Asturias
We love going a little off-piste when we travel and usually it’s somewhere we’ll happen upon, notice a queue and decide we have to join it. This super old school Italian shop and deli had a queue of office workers both times we passed, so we got involved and cobbled together some Spanish to order a Milanese sandwich with everything and badda bing, badda boom, we had a whopper of a chicken Milanese sandwich in crunchy white bread with salad, mayonnaise, mustard, cheese and ham in.
You can’t move for empanadas in this city – these small, filled pastry parcels are in every other shop window and whilst we didn’t go down a rabbit hole trying to find the best ones, we did sample a fair few whilst pounding the pavements. Our favourite? The cheeseburger empanada at the small local chain Brozziano. Of course, it was the server who recommended we order it…. we’re not complete animals!
Buenos Aires and Argentina on the whole has a huge Italian population; over 62% of the population have at least one Italian ancestor, and thanks to this there’s a ton of Italian food in the city, including some staple dishes like the Fugazetta pizza, AKA the ultimate artery clogger. If you’re going to try it, then one of the best places to do so is at the old school pizza shop Le Mezzetta. Grab a can of Quilmes and get ready for the cheesiest ride of your life. We’re talking a slab of squeaky cheese with an underneath coating of crispy base, sprinkle of onions and oregano. Wipe out.
The old school cafés and bars of Buenos Aires are well worth exploring. These small neighbourhood spots are stuck in a time warp with décor and menus that look like they haven’t been touched in decades. The city used to be littered with them and whilst some have faded away, thanks to a 1998 law by the government to protect them, there are still a fair few that exist. Be sure to pop into one for beers, coffee, flan with crème and dulce, fresh orange or some of the best value one-plate meals in BA.
Like a scene from a Wes Anderson movie, this old school parrilla has an army of staff who run around the space serving the local businessmen during the rush hour lunch periods. Every meal starts with one of their deep fried empanadas, then we’d recommend checking out their juicy steaks, maybe one of the sausages, the local cheese cooked on the coals, a huge bowl of creamy, salty mash potato, and maybe a salad to balance things out.
With a very unstable economy, the Argentine Peso value can fluctuate day-to-day. We were told to take USD to change as they have more value in the city. In fact, due to the unofficial “Blue Rate” you can double the amount of pesos you’d get when changing dollars versus using an ATM. Our mind is still blown about how and why this works but it did. We changed these at hotels, Western Unions, Cambios and even with local street sellers. Apparently, it’s
because USD are viewed as a more stable currency than pesos and thus the demand for them is strong. Whatever the reason, cash is king, and you can basically get 50% off most of your spending.